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The words you never want to hear at a job interview

A job interview's most-dreaded catchphrases. (Thinkstock)

A job interview's most-dreaded catchphrases. (Thinkstock)

When it comes to finding a job, there are few questions candidates dread more than this: ‘what was your salary in your last position?’. Or maybe instead of a question, you hear this seemingly insurmountable phrase: ‘you’re overqualified’.

Impressing in a job interview — or around the office day to day — can be tough without facing questions whose answers seem to only invite more dread.

Several LinkedIn Influencers weighed in on these topics — and how to impress the boss once you land the job — this week. Here’s what some of them had to day.

 Liz Ryan, chief executive and founder at Human Workplace

Many job-seekers look for new positions not just for a challenge, but also to earn more money. That’s especially true as “real wages have dropped like a stone” and “annual salary increases at most large and medium-sized employers have plummeted or disappeared altogether,” wrote Ryan in her post How to Answer the Question “What Was Your Last Salary?”

But answering can be fraught. “The less you earned, the smaller your new job offer is going to be, she wrote. “If you were earning $52,000, your new job offer might come in at $53,500… That’s discouraging.”

So, how do you answer the question? Maybe you shouldn’t, suggested Ryan.  “For some reason nearly all of us have come to believe that the most intrusive personal questions are perfectly fine when they're asked in the context of a recruiting process,” she wrote. “That's ridiculous.”

Instead of telling the recruiter you earned $52,000, “give your prospective next boss the information s/he really needs to make the Go/No Go decision, which is your target salary level. With that number, your boss or recruiter can quickly determine whether it makes sense to keep talking with you or not,” Ryan wrote. “They don’t need your past salaries to make that call.”

Worried you won’t get the job if you aren’t forthcoming? Don’t fret, Ryan insisted. “You'll be happy when a recruiter or hiring manager says one day ‘What, you won't share your past salary information? Well, you're out of the running here, in that case!’ You'll be elated to hear that,” she wrote, “because you'll know that you would have hated working for people who value your privacy so little and whose gauging-a-candidate's-market-value skills are so weak.”

JT O’Donnell, chief executive and founder at Careerealism.com

What happens when you have a promising interview, yet at the end, the recruiter tells you that you’re overqualified and therefore not a good fit for the job?

First, know that ‘overqualified is often code for something else, wrote O’Donnell. “Many times, getting called overqualified is a general explanation employers use to avoid telling you the real reason they don't want to hire you,” she wrote in her post If Called ‘Overqualified’ Try This.

But, she suggested, don’t let the opportunity — or the recruiter — go that quickly. There are ways to counter this blanket dismissal. “The secret to handling any objection about your candidacy is to ask some polite clarifying questions so you can better understand what's really bothering the hiring manager” she wrote.

Among the probing questions a job candidate can ask:

  • "I can appreciate your concern. Can you share with me what makes you feel that way?"
  • "Thank you for your honestly. May I ask, are you worried that my qualifications will work against me in this job? If so, how?"

The idea is to “take into account the hiring manager’s feelings related to hiring you. You must acknowledge and validate his feelings. Perception is reality,” O’Donnell wrote. After that, don’t give in to the urge to “defend your experience. Instead, you need to give the hiring manager the opportunity to process his concerns and share them openly with you.”

While this won’t work in every instance, wrote O’Donnell, “you really have nothing to lose by trying this technique because you're already being told you won't get the job. So, as long as you are polite and positive when you try it, you just may be able to shift the hiring manager's perception.”

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Overqualified is often code for something else. — JT O’Donnell

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