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Do you think one wrong answer during an interview is enough to discard your entire application?

Office Hours #3: All About Interviews: The STAR Method with Judy Park

This question was posed by a question during one of our most recent "CareerVillage Office Hours" sessions. During Office Hours sessions, we invite students to pose questions related to a specific topic. In this case, the topic was job interviews. If you answer this question, we will reach out to the students who attended this office hours session to inform them of your response, and all students on CareerVillage will benefit. If you would be interested in hosting an office hours session on a particular topic, please reach out to our staff!

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Judy Park's answer: The number one reason people don't get a job at my company is because they have too many vague answers and they don't elaborate. If you have a continued theme of vagueness, that won't give me confidence that you know what you're talking about. It may not be one question, but continued negativity, vagueness, or uncertainty can be disqualifiers for sure. One way to quickly disqualify yourself is to not be truthful on your resume. That's an integrity issue that could get you red-flagged right away. CV Office Hours .
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Kim’s Answer

Sadly, yes.
But, it depends on the question, and how well your competitors did on the interview.

I once described myself as "persistent," when applying for a position that required me to do research. The interviewer said, "yes, but that could be a bad thing too." I didn't respond. At all. I should have said something like "but I know when to let things go." But, I didn't. The rest of the interview went very well. I wasn't selected.

Interviews are learning experiences. I ALWAYS recommend that you interview for a job you DON'T want before interviewing for "The big one." I call this the practice interview. Practicing on your own, with a friend, etc will never replace the amount of stress you feel at a real interview, the dry mouth, sweaty palms, etc.

You can also have several good interviews, and then a bad one. Don't think that one bad one means you will have more bad ones. Sometimes the chemistry isn't right. Sometimes the person doing the interviews has never done interviews before! This has happened more than once. So, don't beat yourself up over it. Learn from it and move on!
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Dawnyale’s Answer

The shortest answer is that it depends on the answer and how well other applicants may have answered the same question.

In general, one answer is typically not enough for an interviewer to determine that you are not a fit. However, if the answer contains untruths (it's best practice not to lie as interviewers can usually tell when this is happening and will consider this to be an integrity concern), profanity (it's never a good idea to swear in your responses) or too vague about important details (don't make the interviewer have to work too hard to determine how you would handle issues on the job that are similar to issues you've encountered in the past).

Interviewers want you to try your best to answer the the question and I'd say not providing an answer at all is possibly the worst thing you can do. If you're nervous or unsure of how to respond, ask for a moment to think about the question and then respond as best as you can. If you don't understand, feel free to ask them to clarify the parts that are unclear to you.

Ultimately, don't beat yourself up over one wrong answer. Just try your best to represent your experience and skills the best way you can and trust that if you're the right fit at the right time, you'll get the job.

Good luck to you!
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Eric’s Answer

It depends on your field. As a structural engineer I have interviewed a number of applicants straight out of college for job positions that I was looking to fill. I always ask a broad range of questions and I usually ask several questions that I don't necessarily expect the college graduate (or student) to be able to answer. But, I do want to see how that individual thinks and works through the question. My recommendation for individuals who are asked interview questions for which they do not immediately have an answer is to simply share that this is something that you have not encountered before. But, go ahead and convey how you might figure out how to answer that question and share any knowledge you have that is related to the subject of the question. Seeing your thought process may be more valuable to some interviewers than a correct answer. Take your time to answer questions during the oral interview. If after, several seconds you are not able to arrive at a satisfactory answer, go ahead and reveal so. Be confident in saying so. It is important for the interviewer to know that, while you were not able to fully answer a particular question, you have the confidence that your satisfactory answers to other questions will qualify you for the job.

All the best,

Eric
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Atul’s Answer

One wrong answer in the context of the job being interviewed applies if you are going to be rejected.

If you put in your resume and the interviewer asked the question about it - should you give the wrong answer. You are out.

If they ask you a question about something that is not pertinent to an area of your skills and you wing it that results in a wrong answer, it is highly unlikely you pay the price. Honesty is the best policy - if you do not know the answer, say it so.

In a nutshell, always know what is in your resume and be prepared to address it. There are some boundaries within your resume where an interviewer may ask a question that is pertinent and it is expected that you should know. It may hurt you. However, the reality is that it is never one person who makes the call to hire a candidate - this is a rule of thumb.
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Gabby’s Answer

Good question!

The short answer is yes, it can affect the outcome. As others have mentioned, it depends on how the rest of the interview went and how other candidates answered the same question.

If you answered a question with a poor response, one way to overcome this is at the end of the interview, circle back to that question. Say "I want to address your previous question and provide more clarity..." then proceed to try re-answering the question in a calm and confident manner. This doesn't always work but it is does show the interviewer you realize you may have not answered their question to the best of your ability. It also shows self-awareness and confidence to circle back with a better answer.

The most important aspect to remember, is to be honest and be yourself. If you felt you answered a question wrong, don't beat yourself up. Practice self-compassion and learn from the experience so you'll be better prepared next time. Remember, you are interviewing the company as much as they are interviewing you. It has to be a good fit for you as well!

Gabby recommends the following next steps:

Practice behavioral based questions so you feel comfortable answering in a detailed yet concise manner
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