10 Things You Should Never Say in a Job Interview
Updated June 20, 2022
Published February 4, 2020
Jennifer Herrity is a seasoned career services professional with 12+ years of experience in career coaching, recruiting and leadership roles with the purpose of helping others to find their best-fit jobs. She helps people navigate the job search process through one-on-one career coaching, webinars, workshops, articles and career advice videos on Indeed's YouTube channel.
During an interview, what you say and how you say can help an interviewer determine if you are a strong candidate and a good fit for their company and culture. You can prepare for an interview by thinking carefully about the things you want to make sure are covered—and what you don't want to say.
In this article, we discuss things you should try to avoid saying or asking during a job interview with tips and examples of things you can say instead.
Why what you say in an interview is important
Everything you say during a job interview has the potential to help the interviewer understand your motivations for applying for the position and how your skills and experience would make you the most qualified candidate for the position. Maintaining a positive and professional attitude throughout the interview can give the hiring manager confidence in your ability to fit into the company's culture and to add value to the company.
Things you should never say in a job interview
Here are 10 things you should avoid saying during an interview, along with suggestions on what to say instead:
1. Anything negative about a previous employer or job
The interviewer may ask you questions like "Why are you looking for a new job?" or "What didn't you like about your previous positions?" Answering in a manner that avoids saying anything negative about your previous employer or job can show your ability to remain professional and positive regardless of the situation.
Positive answers can also give the interviewer confidence that you will be a good addition to their company's culture and that you probably wouldn't say anything negative about them in the future either. When answering questions about your previous employer, try to focus on things the position you are applying for offers that your previous employer wasn't able to do.
Example: "While I have enjoyed my time in my current position, I am really looking to apply the skills and experience I have gained in my role over the last five years to a supervisory position where I can help others grow in their success. Unfortunately, my current employer does not have any supervisory positions available and doesn't expect any to become available soon."
2. "I don't know."
The interviewer may ask you a question that you didn't prepare for or that you don't have the answer to. This can be a great opportunity for you to prove your critical thinking and problem-solving skills. You can try telling the interviewer you need a minute to think about your response or ask them for the additional information you need to put together an accurate response.
Example: "That's a great question. If you don't mind, I would like to take a minute to think about it."
3. Discussions about benefits, vacation and pay
An interview is when you want to focus on portraying why you are the best candidate for the position and motivate the interviewer or employer to make you a job offer. You should try to avoid asking about benefits, vacation time and pay unless these topics are first brought up by the interviewer. Instead, try to wait until they give you a job offer before you begin negotiations.
Instead of explicitly asking about benefits, vacation or pay, you can mention this conversation toward the end of the interview. This politely lets the interviewer know you still have questions about the benefits the position has to offer but doesn't pressure them to answer those questions right away.
Example: "I look forward to hearing more about the benefits and compensation during our next conversation."
Related: 25 Types of Employee Benefits
4. "It's on my resume."
While the answer to the interviewer's question may very well be written on your resume, you should always try to answer in your own words and provide them with more details. When your answer to a question is on your resume, it is likely the interviewer is simply looking for further information. Try to answer these questions by using specific examples that prove your experience or skills or explaining how your qualifications are relevant to the position.
Example: "I have a bachelor's degree in legal studies from the University of Tampa. All of my major courses required extensive legal research and brief writing to be successful in the class. I proudly maintained high honors in all of my courses. The extensive research and writing work I did in these courses prepared me for a career in content marketing by teaching me the appropriate research methods to use to find credible sources and how to write quality pieces. The knowledge learned from my major also prepared me for a specialty industry that has strict marketing standards."
5. Unprofessional language
It is very important to display your professionalism during the interview. One of the best ways you can do this is to use professional language. This doesn't mean you need to use industry jargon, but rather that you should try to avoid unprofessional language, including slang, profanity and filler words ("like" or "um").
You are less likely to use unprofessional language during an interview when you slow down, take your time to think about your response and focus on speaking clearly. You can also avoid using filler words by practicing replacing them with a brief pause or deep breath.
6. "I don't have any questions."
Most interviewers will ask if you have any questions near the end of the interview. An important part of preparing for an interview is to think about meaningful questions you can ask the employer that will show your interest in the company or the position.
Example: "I know from the company's mission statement that you want to be the leader in motor vehicle sales. I am curious how you define being a leader and the ways you aim to achieve this mission."
7. Asking what the company does
While you want to make sure you have questions for the interviewer, you should try to avoid questions about what the company does. Answers to this question can usually be found easily by researching the company and the position you are applying to. Try to have a clear understanding of the company's mission, vision statement and what they do to achieve them before your interview. Doing this will allow you to ask more detailed questions about the company.
Example: "I did a lot of research about your company, and I was particularly interested in how the company allows employees to use a certain amount of time during their workday to volunteer and give back to the community. I also love using my skills and experience to give back to the community and was wondering what specific volunteer organizations and opportunities the company has supported in the past."
8. Overly prepared answers or cliches
One of the best ways to prepare for an interview is to research questions you expect the interviewer to ask and put together answers. However, when using prepared answers during an interview, you want to make sure the answer sounds genuine. Many candidates will use cliches when answering common interview questions. During your interview, try to choose an answer that is honest and will make you stand out as a candidate. Instead of saying "My greatest weakness is that I'm a perfectionist," which interviewers often hear, try to identify an experience you were able to learn from in your previous position.
Example: "In my last role, I would sometimes struggle with taking on too many responsibilities and then find myself overburdened. While I don't like to say no to a task or project, I was able to learn that it is ok to ask for help and to delegate tasks so our entire team could accomplish our goals together and on time."
9. Discussions about your lack of experience
If you are a recent graduate or changing careers, try to focus on the strengths you will bring to the position and how the experience and skills you do have will add value to the company rather than focusing on any weaknesses or lack of experience. When answering questions about relevant experience, make sure you mention transferable skills that will be beneficial to the role, such as strong communication, organization, problem-solving and time management skills.
Example: "While most of my experience is in customer service, my manager in my last position asked me to act as a new hire coach in which I was able to listen to recorded calls and sit with new customer service associates. In that role, I was able to provide them feedback or tips on how to perform their job duties more efficiently. I am excited to apply this experience to help me be a motivational leader in this customer service supervisor position."
10. Irrelevant personal information
When answering interview questions, using specific examples and anecdotes can help you prove your qualifications and stand out to the interviewer. However, it is important to ensure the impression you are leaving with the interviewer is memorable for the right reasons. You should try to avoid using details about your personal life, such as information about your family or hobbies, unless the information is directly relevant to the position.
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