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Practical English Usage
Grammar terms and writing
Cliches to avoid
There are certain things which are said in interviews time and time again, which make interviewers cringe. Avoid saying that you are good with people. Most people who really are wouldn’t dream of saying it. Don’t talk about the challenge of a job without showing that you are really enthusiastic about a particular aspect and that you mean it. If you are saying only that you are interested in this post because it is a challenge without any explanation of what that challenge is, forget it.
Namedropping is another common irritant to interviewers. Do avoid this. Namedropping usually has the opposite effect as the interviewer sees it as arrogance, particularly if you intimate that this person will ‘put in a word for you’ – this deprives the interviewer of the right to make their own decisions and sounds as if you will ask someone else to persuade them. Have confidence in yourself. Worse still is the practice of pretending contacts you don’t have; this is very easily found out, so don’t do it.
Other statements that must be avoided are:
‘I am looking for a new challenge.’
Turning the question around
There may be occasions when the honest and most basic answer to a question is ‘No, I haven’t done that,’ but you realize that saying that won’t help your case, and there is another side to it. Turn the question round to your advantage if you can. There may be occasions when you can say, still honestly, ‘No, I haven’t done X, but I have done Y.’ Then go on to prove why these are similar and show the same basic skill.
If you think that you have been misunderstood, don’t accuse the interviewer of getting it wrong, but say gently and firmly, ‘No, that wasn’t quite what I meant,’ and then go on to repeat clearly what you had intended to say.
How to talk about your successes and failures
With both of these, you must strike a balance. Avoid boasting. Don’t be over-modest about your successes either. When talking about past failures, be honest about your mistakes but show that you have learned from them. When asked about past weaknesses, don’t just say that you have ‘none that will affect this job. Thinking about a weakness, that you can talk about will be necessary; don’t skip this thinking that the question won’t come up.
Do not lie about your qualifications as many organizations check on these. If you think that you may be overqualified, you do not have to mention everything (though you may need to account for the time spent during that period. If you are under qualified, show a willingness to return to study to obtain the qualifications you have not gained so far.
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