Aside from submitting a resume full of typos, the quickest way to be eliminated from consideration for a new job is making an avoidable interview blunder — like putting your foot in your mouth.
“Every year we see more surveys and polls come out listing some of the crazy things that candidates do or say in job interviews,” says Michael Kerr, an international business speaker and author of “You Can’t Be Serious! Putting Humour to Work.” “So, it’s very clear that some people still haven’t received the memo: What you say in an interview matters immensely. It’s your audition!”
Hiring managers use the interview to gauge your fit for the job, your creativity, your ability to think on your feet, your emotional intelligence, and your attitude — so it’s important to remember that it’s not just what you say that counts, it’s also how you say it. “Your tone of voice and body language will be watched closely as yet another indicator as to your overall fitness for the job at hand,” says Kerr.
Here are 13 things you should never say in a job interview:
“I’m really nervous.”
Even if you’re more nervous than you’ve ever been, no company wants to hire someone who lacks confidence. “So, in this case, honesty is not the best policy,” says Amy Hoover, president of the job board TalentZoo. “Fake it ’til you make it!”
“Let’s talk money.”
Never discuss salary in the early stages of the interview process, Kerr says. “Focusing on the salary can raise a red flag with potential employers that you are only there for the money and not for any deeper reasons,” he explains. “More and more, employers are looking for people who align with their mission and values.” Negotiations can and should be done after (or at the very end of) the interview phase.
“My weakness is I care too much/work too hard.”
Of course, you should “never voluntarily talk about your weaknesses unless they ask you with the standard interview question, ‘What’s your biggest weakness?'” says Kerr.
And if you are asked this question, stay away from these answers. Everyone knows they are masked strengths, and they are largely a turn-off to any interviewer who has been around the block, says Hoover. “You should spend time thinking about what your true weaknesses are and admit to them.”
“I really need this job!”
Don’t give any indication of desperation. “And definitely do not say that you really need this job due to your current circumstances,” Kerr says. “Employers may view desperation as a sign of weakness, and, again, they want employees who are seeking a long-term career, not merely a job.”
“My current boss/employer is horrible.”
Never, ever criticise a former boss or company. “Even if the interviewer invites you to, don’t,” Hoover says. It’s not classy, and it will make you sound bitter, negative, and petty. “It also shows that you could badmouth any boss or company in the future — and it could even be a test to see if you will say anything disparaging.”
Don’t make the conversation all about your needs. “This is the time to talk about their needs and what you can do to help fulfil them,” Kerr says. “Talking about your needs will flag you as someone who is potentially going to be high maintenance and challenging to work with.”
“Do you know when we’ll be finished here?”
You should never give the impression that you’re in a hurry or have somewhere else to be. “What could be a 30-minute interview might turn into a 90-minute interview if all goes well, and if you seem like you have somewhere more important to be, the interviewer will definitely be turned off,” Hoover explains.
“I love the perks you offer.”
“Don’t bring up how much you love some of the company’s perks, such as their policy of having every third Friday off or their free snacks,” says Kerr. “Again, this will create the image you care more about the benefits than you do about contributing to the employer’s success.”
“I’d rather not say.”
Unless the interviewer asks you an inappropriate or illegal question, or something that makes you feel extremely uncomfortable, you should always answer their queries.
“A job interview is never the time to play the ‘no comment’ card,” says Kerr. “It will make you look like you have something to hide or are unprepared.”
“How much paid time off do I get in the first year?”
“You don’t want to give the impression that you intend to take all your sick days and miss as much work as possible while still getting paid,” Hoover says. Leave that type of question until follow-up interviews or conversations with HR about benefits, she suggests.
“S—, d—, f—, etc.”
“As obvious as this may be, don’t use curse words or slang terms in an effort to come across as ‘authentic,'” Kerr says. “You’ll only give the impression that you have poor communication skills.”
Hoover agrees. “Never swear. Ever. Even if the interview is over drinks after work and everyone around you is swearing. If it’s a very laid-back scenario like happy hour, find PG words to use, and use inflection and body language to make your points.”
“I’m getting divorced/pregnant/going through a tough time.”
Kerr advises against bringing up any personal issues or problems. “This can be viewed as a major red flag for a whole host of reasons, not the least of which being the question as to whether your personal challenges are going to affect your job performance.”
“I don’t have any questions for you.”
When asked if you have any questions for them, don’t say “no.” “This makes you look unprepared for the interview, or worse, disinterested in the job or company,” Kerr says.
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