Interview basics, part 3: 10 things you should never say at a job interview

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When it comes to interviews, there are a number of red flags that you don’t want to raise if you want to keep the ball in your court. Avoiding basic mistakes like not smoking during the interview or turning your mobile off can be easy to consider and prepare for, however sometimes the amount of stress and the occasional moments when you suddenly want to share everything with your interviewers can ruin your chances of getting the desired offer.

While we cannot map out the expectations and reactions of all interviewers and hiring managers, we can however point out an emerging pattern of things that definitely create a bad first impression during a job interview - and give you tips on how to avoid them!

1. Don't ask about holidays or sick leaves

Making you happy will be important for the company if and when they decide to bring you into the team; until that moment comes, it is best to avoid what’s-in-it-for-me questions, keep your list of demands to yourself and bring forward your best professional features - what you can do for the company and why they should choose you instead of someone else!

2. Don't ask about the salary unless they ask you

You don’t want to make money the focal point of the conversation and show that it is your main motivator, but you also don't want to be blindsided by a less-than-desirable offer. So what do you do? The goal in an interview is to convince the company that you are the best person for the job – and when you do that, the interviewer will come to you and ask you about your salary expectations. Letting the interviewer do the asking gives you a chance to negotiate a higher salary, so it’s important to do your homework prior to the interview and respond to their question with a salary range (your walk-away rate followed by your ideal rate), saying “My range is __ to __, depending upon the benefits and opportunities for growth.”.

3. Don't overly criticize past or present employers and companies

No matter how bad your previous working experience was, you never want to badmouth a former employer in an interview. When the question “why did you leave your previous job” pops, take a few seconds to beautify your answer: keep your tone somewhere between neutral and positive, and focus on what you learned in your previous position and what you’re hoping to achieve in the future!

4. Don’t appear clueless over the position and the company you’re interviewing for

You should know all the basic information regarding the job you’re applying for and the receiving company prior to the interview, so do your research and avoid asking simplistic questions like what the company does or what their market is. Show your interviewers that you’ve done some homework and that you have already thought about how you’d fit in the company.

5. Don’t appear willing to just take up any role in the company

Coming forward as a person who’s willing to take up any kind of job available is a big red flag for most hiring managers. Instead, target your search to a specific role and during the interview explain why this job is exactly what you’re looking for.

6. Do not apologize – especially for your lack of experience

When you apologize for your lack of experience on a specific subject, you’re essentially undervaluing yourself as someone who’s not a great hire and not fit for the role.  

And you know that’s just not the case! Instead of drawing attention to your weaknesses, focus on your strengths, stay positive and present your transferable skills and infectious enthusiasm for the position.

7. “It’s on my resume”

If your interviewer is asking you about a particular job or experience, it’s because they want you to tell them more beyond a written word. Use this moment to your advantage as an opportunity to shine, and demonstrate how articulate you are by proving your communication and social skills!

8. “Um, I don’t know…”

No matter how well you practice, there’s always a chance that you get one of those question that stump you - but saying “I don’t know” is rarely the right approach. Two tricks that work well are 1) taking some time and repeating the question thoughtfully before answering and 2) slowly saying, “Now, that is a good question. I think I would have to say…” You can also ask for a quick minute to think.

9.  Stay away from holy monkeys and oh ducks

You’d think not swearing is Interviewing 101, but that’s not the case for everyone! Even if your interviewer drops a few F-bombs, you’re better off keeping your language appropriate for the occasion.

10.  Avoid using resume “buzzwords”

Clichés like “I think outside the box” will only make your interviewer’s eyes glaze over and won’t get you very far. Skip the overused business phrases and describe your skills using facts about things you’ve actually done!

And you’re good to go! Make sure that your awesome abilities and accomplishments will be what your interviewer remembers, and don’t forget to check out our interview basics parts 1 & 2 for more tips on putting together an amazing interview performance!