You’re dressed in an incredibly professional and stylish outfit, have copies of your resume neatly tucked in a folder, and have done enough research on the company to feel confident about your interview. But then something you didn’t expect happens: The interviewer decides to throw you a curveball and ask you a question you weren’t prepared for. Your pulse quickens, your palms become sweaty, and you think about all the ways you can bolt out of the room.
Well, not this time. As you plan ahead for your next interview, you want to be prepared to tackle anything that comes your way. One of the simple questions that job seekers tend to slip up on is, “How did you come across this job opportunity.” Seems like a no-brainer, right?
But, when you’re sitting in the hot seat, sometimes the easiest questions are the ones people are unprepared for. And rightfully so. You’ve prepared answers for the most insane questions, like “If you could be an animal what would you be?” yet you totally failed to put together some responses for the questions hiring managers typically use to break the ice.
Here are three common ways people botch this question and the right way to respond next time you're in an interview.
Your Answer Sounds like a State of the Union Address
One person monologues are great for on the stage, but for your interview, this question doesn’t require a dramatic rendition of why this is the only job you’ve ever dreamed of. Keep your answer short and sweet. I promise this is not a trick question; the hiring manager sincerely just wants to know how you stumbled upon this position. Where candidates often go wrong is dishing out a long-winded rant about why this is the holy grail of job opportunities and there’s no place else they’d rather work. While you want to communicate interest in the role, this is not a question to waste twenty minutes blabbing on and on about, because the hiring manager certainly wants to delve into some deeper, more hard-hitting questions.
So, what should you do instead? Here’s an example of what you could say: “I came across this position on Indeed. I was excited to see the opportunity was available as I’ve been interested in working for the company for quite some time.”
You’re Afraid to Admit a Friend Passed Along Your Resume
Networking makes the business world go round. Having strong professional relationships, even if it’s a friend you grew up with, is literally gold. Don’t underestimate the power of referrals or ever feel uneasy about name dropping the individual who got you in the door. Your friend is clearly confident in your skills and abilities as an employee or they wouldn’t have felt comfortable sticking their neck out for you. In this instance, all you need to say is something along the lines of, “My friend, [give their first and last name], who works in your IT department, told me about the opening and was kind enough to pass along my resume.”
You’re Drawing a Blank
If you’ve been actively on the hunt for a new gig, you’ve likely submitted an application for a number of different openings. It’s not uncommon to feel like the job boards, networking events, and career sites all begin to swirl together into one big blur. However, responding with “I don’t know, I’ve been applying everywhere,” is definitely not going to impress the hiring manager.
As a best practice, you should always keep a folder or Excel spreadsheet handy that tracks where you applied, the date you submitted your resume, the specific job title, where you found the posting, and what stage of the application or interview process you’re currently in for each position. You can either save a copy of the job description or include a link to the original posting so you can always reference what the duties and responsibilities of the role entail, which is important to leverage during an interview.
Simple questions like, “How did you come across this job opportunity?” are often asked at the beginning of an interview and set the tone for the rest of your interview. When you’re prepared and confident in your delivery, it’ll set you up for success as you continue through your conversation with the hiring manager. This is certainly one of those questions that you don’t want to get caught rambling on and on about. Keep your response concise and to the point, so you can continue on to the more enticing part of your dialogue where you discuss your strengths and why your skills align perfectly with the needs of the role.