Aside from submitting a résumé 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 “The Humour Advantage.” “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 29 words you should never say in a job interview:
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 Talent Zoo. Don’t tell your interviewer how nervous you are or were before the interview. “Just fake it till you make it,” she says.
‘Money,’ ‘salary,’ ‘pay,’ ‘compensation,’ etc.
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 says. “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 end of — the interview phase.
‘Weaknesses’ or ‘mistakes’
“Never voluntarily talk about your weaknesses unless they ask you with the standard interview question, ‘What’s your biggest weakness?'” says Kerr.
And don’t bring up mistakes you’ve made at work, unless you’re talking about them to show how you’ve made significant improvements.
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 fulfill 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.”
And definitely do not say that you really need this job due to your current circumstances, he adds.
“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,” he says.
‘Perks’ or ‘benefits’
“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.”
‘Terrible,’ ‘horrible,’ ‘awful,’ ‘hate,’ etc.
You shouldn’t use negative language during your interview — especially when you’re talking about your current or previous boss or employer.
“Even if the interviewer invites you to, don’t,” Hoover says. It’s not classy, and it will make you sound bitter and petty. “It also shows that you could bad-mouth any boss or company in the future — and it could even be a test to see if you will say anything disparaging.”
Choose another word if you’re answering questions such as, “How are you?” says Darlene Price, president of Well Said and author of “Well Said! Presentations and Conversations That Get Results.”
“In any situation where you’re describing a state of being or your emotions, the word ‘fine’ is vague, overused, and colloquial — the word may even be perceived by others as dishonest and dismissive,” warns Price.
“To be credible and convincing as a professional, choose another word to honestly communicate the true state of affairs,” she suggests.
‘S—,’ ‘b—-,’ ‘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.”
“Some people just use ‘I’m sorry’ as a filler phrase, like ‘so’ or ‘um,’ or they may use it because they think it makes them seem more polite,” says Kerr. “Others say ‘I’m sorry’ to convey a sense of deference to their superiors — and many use a well-placed ‘I’m sorry’ as a preemptive strike to avoid taking responsibility for their actions (‘I’m really sorry but there’s just no way I can answer that question’).”
Whatever the reason, the biggest danger of severely overusing the word, he says, “is that it can make you look too passive or indecisive — and might eventually create the sense that you lack confidence.”
‘Um,’ ‘so,’ ‘like’
Filler words can get annoying and are usually used when you’re not sure what to say next. In an interview, this can make you look like you lack confidence or you’re unsure of yourself — or, worst of all, like you’re not being honest.
‘Divorced,’ ‘pregnant,’ ‘sick,’ etc.
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 of whether your personal challenges are going to affect your job performance.”
Business Insider’s Emmie Martin writes: “Prefacing sentences with this word, as in, ‘Actually, I didn’t work on that account,’ or ‘Actually, you can do it this way,’ puts distance between you and the listener by hinting that they were somehow wrong, according to Carolyn Kopprasch, chief happiness officer at Buffer. Rephrase to create a more positive sentiment.”
Martin says that adding “just” as a filler word in sentences — as in, “I just think that …” — may seem harmless, “but it can detract from what you’re saying.”
She quotes career coach Tara Sophia Mohr, who told Refinery 29 that we “insert justs because we’re worried about coming on too strong, but they make the speaker sound defensive, a little whiny, and tentative.”
‘Vacation’ or ‘PTO’
“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 human resources about benefits, she suggests.
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