If you’re looking for a new job, it’s just as important to know what things not to say during a job interview as it is to study best practices. Saying the wrong thing can ruin your chances before you even have a chance to get down to business.
When it comes to job interviews, a good rule of thumb is to keep it positive, stick to the topic(s) at hand, and keep it professional. Avoid trying to be too funny, too familiar, or too laid back. If you’re confident, your personality will shine through anyway. While you want to stand out, it should be for the right reasons. You want to present your skills as an asset to the company, and not in a way that’s cocky or off-putting. Moreover, you want it to be clear the job is the most important thing – not money or vacation time.
What follows are some scenarios to avoid while talking to a potential employer. The phrasing below might seem a little too colloquial for a job interview (and hopefully you’re not talking like this in a professional setting), but it should give you a good indication of things not to say during a job interview.
12 Things Not to Say During a Job Interview
1. “What kind of company is this, again?”
A potential employer wants to feel as if you took the time to learn about the business. They don’t want to feel as if you’re just there to do a job and go home (even if that’s the case). You should go into an interview knowing who you’re working for, what they do, and how you can benefit them with your skills and knowledge. There’s no reason in this day and age to not have at least some knowledge of what the hiring company does and what you can do for them.
2. “Sorry, I’m a little nervous”
Almost everyone has a case of the nerves before a job interview, and the hiring agent knows this and makes allowances for it. However, being nervous is not a good enough reason for not putting your best foot forward. Potential employers want to see confidence, and they don’t want you to fall back on excuses for not being at the top of your game.
3. “I’m going to need to take a month off in July”
If you made vacation plans prior to being called in for an interview, keep it to yourself for a while. If you bring it up at the beginning of the interview it tells the hiring agent your vacation time is more important than landing a job. Even if your downtime is a priority, an interview isn’t the right time to share. Wait until at least the end of a second interview to share this information – if not when they make an offer.
4. “How long will this take?”
Always treat an interview like it’s the most important thing in the world at that moment in time. Asking how long an interview might take can give the impression that you either don’t want to be there or that you’re rushing off to other plans – or other interviews. Always leave several hours in between interviews if you’re going to double up.
5. “I prefer to work alone”
Plenty of us enjoy working in solitude. However, a potential employer wants to know you’re a team player. Making it clear you don’t like to be around others when you work gives the impression that you’ll be difficult to work with, and won’t take direction, guidance, or willingly participate in team discussions and tasks.
6. “I want to work at home”
Even if you’re specifically looking for a telecommuting job, it’s never a good idea to make the idea of working from home more important than the idea of having a job. If a company offers a telecommute option, it will come up at the right place and time, probably not during the first interview. Wait for your interviewer to bring it up. Chances are, it will come up when your interviewer is sharing some of the perks of the job.
7. “My last boss was a jerk”
A job interview should always focus on the positive. Regardless of how you left things at your last job, focusing on negative events overshadows your achievements and leaves a potential employer wondering as to whether or not you’ll get along.
8. “I was fired”
“Fired” is never a good word to use during an interview because it only conjures up negative scenarios. There are ways of saying why you’re leaving or left your current place of employment without letting on that you were let go. Instead, try finding positive and professional ways to say you weren’t the right fit.
9. “How often do we get paid?”
Your interviewer will bring up payment, vacation time, and other perks at the right time. When it’s time to ask questions and the only thing on your mind is pay or how many weeks you get for sick or vacation time, it tells a potential employer there are more important things on your mind than doing a job well or learning more about the job itself.
10. “I can’t,” “I don’t know how,” “I never have,” “I hate to do…”
Avoid using negative terminology in job interviews as it can set the wrong tone. If you don’t have experience with a particular aspect of the job, find ways to use the skills and experience you do have to show how you can get the job done. Always stay focused on the positive without pointing out your weaknesses.
11. “No, I don’t have any questions for you”
Before you go to a job interview, it’s a good rule of thumb to take some time out the night before and research the company and your intended role, so you have a list of questions to ask your interviewer. When you don’t ask or have questions, it gives the impression that you don’t care. Not having questions can also indicate you’re not willing to go the extra mile for a task.
12. “Sorry I’m late”
On time is the new late. To be considered on time, try to arrive at your interview destination 10 to 15 minutes in advance. Nothing makes a poor impression than arriving at an interview after the agreed-upon time. If you find yourself stuck in traffic or your subway train breaks down, call your interviewer to let them know what’s happened. Arriving late tells the interviewer the job just isn’t important to you.
First impressions matter
The old saying “you never get a second chance to make a good first impression” holds true. If you’re late, take phone calls during your interview, talk smack about your last place of employment, or show a lack of interest, you won’t get the job. Make a good first impression by researching the company and showing enthusiasm for the interview and the job. In today’s competitive job market, it won’t do to be lackluster.
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