When job changes come to me to prepare for an interview, fear is written on many of them. How much honesty is required in the job interview, what are the desired answers to the typical HR questions and when is it okay to keep something secret with a clear conscience? Many applicants fear that too much honesty will be thrown out of the running and the dream of a new job will end again with one of these standard rejections. If you’ve followed me for a long time, you’ll know that I’m a big fan of clarity in the application process. Here are five facts you should better be honest about when talking to potential employers.
Why “Better not to reveal too much” is misleading
Sometimes I have the feeling that job changers are the more “spoiled” for my approach to more clarity and honesty in the application process, the more conversations they have already been able to experience. They have trained hard, again and again, to really get their memorized self-presentation authentically onto the chain the next time, to fire the perfectly desired answer to the question of weaknesses like a shot from the pistol, and to routinely all body language tips and rules of behavior to be able to heed.
Even a bad experience from a job interview as a perceived interrogation with sucked-off standard questions or the unsympathetic-looking manager who made a mixture of buddy-type and big boss are enough to give up your own honesty in the job interview. I am always amazed at how quickly applicants switch from a supposedly negative experience to irrevocably all future job interviews.
But the more they complain about all of this and the HR managers see more as an enemy of applicants than as a philanthropist, the more they shut themselves off in the discussions and the more a relaxed dialogue becomes a stiff question-and-answer game on the applicant side as well. So unsettled and intimidated, her realization triumphs that every word has to be weighed on the gold scales and that every individual request about the job will be the fatally decisive reason for a rejection.
“Better not to give too much away” is the firm belief of most unsettled applicants I meet in coaching. Honesty in the job interview is declared a surefire reason for rejection and is from now on taboo for all time. A mistake in reasoning that leads deeper astray with each new rejection.
Those who make themselves tangible make it easier for recruiters
Because if you do not reveal anything about yourself in the interview, you will literally remain incomprehensible for employers. How can recruiters, executives and maybe also potential colleagues in the team make a good decision if they hardly find out anything personally personal about you as an applicant as a person in a joint conversation?
Many job changes complain loudly at me that today’s employers are only looking for egg-laying woolly milk sows as work machines, but at the same time, they are also who consider it far too dangerous to honestly present the people behind their résumés.
Therefore, here today I would like to encourage you once again to put the fear of wrong answers or too much information about yourself aside in the next conversation. My experiences from working with applications are clear: the more clarity you create in the interview through honesty, the more literally you are self-confident in the conversation and the more curious and open you meet your interlocutors on an equal footing, the stronger and more personable you appear and the easier it is to be Recruiters and executives do their job and make a good decision as to whether you fit the advertised position, the existing team and the corporate culture.
Interview honesty: 5 things your new employer should know about you
Here are the five topics that most applicants do not dare to speak openly and honestly in job interviews. All of this information is extremely important for a good fit and successful cooperation in the future:
1. Why you really want to switch
“Can I honestly reveal what annoys me about my current employer or what was the real reason for my termination?” that applicants often ask me. You are stuck between the golden rule of not being allowed to speak badly about an (ex) employer and the fear of being given notice, being released from work or being labeled “unemployed” in the market. Even such harmless and humanly understandable motivation to change, such as a lack of development opportunities, chronic underchallenge or simply the desire to find an employer in the old home again, are critically analyzed in terms of their potential dangers in the conversation – and, if in doubt, prefer to remain silent.
Of course, you shouldn’t complain about your stupid ex-boss or, as the poor victim, explain in detail how sick the team was last.
My tip: stay with yourself and talk about what was recently missing in your job or in the team and what is important for the future, or – if you have been fired, what the reasons were. Both the operational dismissal – especially now in the crisis – or “It was no longer suitable for me in the team” or “I could no longer identify with the new strategic direction” are honest truths that not only every new employer understands above all, you give your interlocutors the opportunity to find out more about yourself and what is important to you beyond your résumé.
2. What you expect from your future manager
“Isn’t it too daring to openly express my expectations of a new boss so early on? – After all, I want something from them ”is possibly the first thought that pops through your head. In many cases, it is precisely the relationship with one’s own manager or the management culture in a company that at some point drives particularly good employees to flight. Wouldn’t it then be extremely useful to also talk about your own ideas about good leadership during the interview? Use the opportunity in conversation to speak openly with your future boss about everything that you expect and need from him or her in this role in order to do a good job there and stay healthy.
You may not be aware of it, but something else is important to all of us for good cooperation: Some need solid guard rails and the secure hold of a manager, for others the leash cannot be long and the adventure at work cannot be wild enough. Some would like managers to be professional sparring partners at eye level, others need clear instructions from above in order to do their job correctly and in a relaxed manner. Some employees are happy if they don’t see their boss for weeks and can just do their job in peace, others want a short daily update to know where their turn is.
What is important to you when you think about your future manager at a new employer and the good form of cooperation? My examples show that there is no universally correct answer to what leadership should be like and what employees expect from their managers, but rather it is always a matter of individual opinion, depending on personality and personal strengths.
Is there really something that speaks against telling your counterpart and possible boss in the interview that you would like to learn something from him or her, that you value the professional exchange and that you also want to be given a clear direction in day-to-day business? As the boss, I would be impressed by how reflective you are and could immediately develop a feeling for whether we will work well together.
3. What you are really weak at
Phew, yes, I know this weakness question annoys you. But honestly, I understand every HR manager who is more than annoyed by your answers “I am perfectionist, impatient and I often do too much work”.
Nevertheless, I find this topic extremely important, because apart from the answer phrases that have to be learned by heart from the conservative application guides, it would be super helpful to talk about what you are not yet able to do so well in a position and its tasks and where before starting a job you have to get used to it first. Open about your true strengths and everything that is easy for you to talk about as well as what you have to invest a lot of energy on to make it good. Also, talk about what’s not yours and what it would be terrible if it turned out to be a big part of your future job.
In coaching I experience so many people who are stuck in jobs that are difficult for them and do not make them happy. Because someone who happened to slip into controlling after completing his studies is not good at numbers, but is more of a creative person. Because the strategic-conceptual thinker has been stuck in a job for years in which her success is measured against the daily smooth routine monotony.
If you do not openly talk to potential employers about your real strengths and weaknesses in the role of applicant, you should not be surprised when you arrive at the job, not good at being excessively over- or under-challenged and so little successful.
4. How you feel in normal life
Many people try to cover up the real self in their role as applicants. Not that HR managers use their nasty trick questions or psychological games to find out who is really hiding behind the professional facade of an applicant – that’s how I feel when I find out from clients the attitude with which they approach job interviews. They train their acting and hope not to be seen through.
How exhausting and also counterproductive when you as an applicant sit across from people who are genuinely interested in getting to know you as a person – and that’s what I always assume when recruiters issue invitations to an interview. There is no question that there is always a lot of acting involved on their side, but doing the same is not the solution for you as an applicant, but becomes part of your problem of continuing to systematically receive rejections.
We cannot please everyone and we cannot please everyone. Some people are sympathetic to us, with others we have a dull gut feeling or even feel aversion. It’s crazy to assume that you can play the perfect candidate in an interview. You do not know which “type” (f / m / d) is being sought for this position, task and role. Is it the secret boss in the team who can also tell her colleagues where to go, or is it more the harmony that moderates the team? Is it the chaotic creative who brings new ideas to the team or is it the tidy one who loves structures and creates order? Is it the extroverted communicative who needs attention in the spotlight or the calm observer who is strong from the second row?
As an applicant, you do not know who you are looking for and so in a joint conversation it can only be about finding out exactly this and discussing whether you are the one who brings a large proportion of these strengths and personality with you . Be yourself in the job interview and in your role there. Because it is precisely she or it that your interlocutors want to discover as a new colleague.
5. What are your real professional goals
“Where do you see yourself in five years?” Is the trite question that is hated by many applicants. After all, as an ambitiously motivated candidate, you should have ambitious goals in life and be interested in career, advancement and development – on the other hand, you shouldn’t be overly ambitious about sawing the future manager on your own chair – at least you are always warned against this. It is a question for which every answer seems to be either a dangerous faux pas or, as expected, undesirable.
But as with all other topics here, from my experience, this aspect is also crucial for a good cooperation in the next few years. If you start as a new employee in order to do a good job with satisfaction and to earn the money that you need to pay off the house or the well-being of your family, then this is just as important for a new employer as knowing your ambitions, to develop internally as quickly as possible and to take on leadership responsibility. Every employer wants to retain good employees and keep them for a long time. Knowing what your personal expectations and goals are for the future is important information.
Many of my clients do not have development prospects at their current employer and are therefore specifically looking for a change. It would be stupid not to talk to a new employer about exactly what constitutes a healthy future at work and good development within an organization for you.
With honesty in the interview, even rejections are a good result
Today, in my role as a career coach, I go so far as to tell job changers that every rejection after getting to know each other honestly is also a good result. Of course, every rejection can destroy dreams, disappoint and gnaw at self-confidence. And of course you are also very disappointed to realize after a conversation that it is not the job that you had imagined. But isn’t this exactly the purpose of a good conversation as getting to know each other and a potential employer? To find out if the two of you will be a good match for the next few years. And if it doesn’t fit, then this is also an extremely valuable insight – for both sides.
So talk about mutual expectations when it comes to good cooperation and healthy leadership. Discuss together whether the tasks and role are suitable for you or what is still missing so that you are strong in them and create added value for the company. Talk openly and honestly about your personal values and everything that is important to you in your job today and in the future. Ask your future manager how he or she will specifically determine that you are doing a good job there, because you should know what exactly you are being bought for.
The more honestly you talk about all these and other topics, the better you can not only protect yourself from the lousy and unhealthy job for the next few years or a termination during the probationary period, but the clearer, more reflective and thus more self-confident you will be in the process Talk over. And in the end, you make it easier for the people you are talking to in their job to make a good decision for the team and the company – whatever it turns out to be.
Honesty has limits: Inadmissible questions in the job interview
Even though I am promoting a high level of honesty in this article, as the boss of your own life you of course remain responsible and decide which personal topics or background to your resume have space for you in the conversation.
No question about it, there are questions in the job interview that are prohibited by the General Equal Treatment Act. These include, among others. Questions about your marital status, your sexual orientation, your current state of health or illnesses in the family, your family planning or pregnancy, questions about your religious affiliation as well as party and trade union membership. Of course, questions about private life or your financial situation are also taboo. As is so often the case, however, there is no rule without exception, because if the respective position requires it, certain questions are allowed – such as about previous convictions with a lawyer who is applying to a law firm.
Honesty in the job interview also has its limits. Create clarity where you can feel for an employer and make a difference in comparison to other applicants. Clarity creates security – also for your self-protection as an applicant, to make a targeted decision for a job and a work environment that really suits you. However, speak openly and honestly about your feelings and refuse to answer if you do not want to answer questions that are too personal or even inadmissible. You decide for yourself and at any point in time what dose of honesty you feel comfortable within an interview.