Have you ever said something you later wished you hadn’t? Chances are if you’re human (which I hope you are!) the answer is a resounding yes. Unfortunately, it’s likely that we have all said something we later regretted and perhaps even wanted to take back.
But equally (if not even more!) important are things you “shouldn’t” say.
1. No, I don’t have any questions.
Candidates with no questions are seriously one of my pet peeves! So much, in fact I recently wrote a post entirely dedicated to this topic,”How to Nail the Interview and Find Your Pot of Gold”
Implications: Hiring managers are looking for folks that are passionate, inquisitive and capable of great decision making skills. Going to an interview without some great prepared questions demonstrates none of the above.
Another Angle: Plan ahead and have 3-4 questions prepared which allows the interviewer a chance to talk about themselves (who doesn’t love that!) and offer you some insight.
2. I would really prefer a position without overtime.
Wouldn’t we all?!? The person interviewing you included!
Implication: Little screams more about your true incentives that this statement. Sure job interviews are a great time to share your goals but hiring managers are much more impressed with goals that provide value to both you and the company. Statements like this highlight your unwillingness to be a great team member and go above and beyond when necessary to accomplish the task at hand.
Another Angle: “Being successful is really important to me. How many hours will I need to work to be a top performer for you?” And of course if the number is too high for you, then you know the job isn’t for you.
3. I don’t make mistakes.
I’ve literally passed on an otherwise top candidate due to their perceived perfection.
Implication: A belief that you are perfect (and news flash no one is!) is a sure sign of future problems with team members and management. And for the record, replying that perfectionism is your biggest weakness falls in this same category.
Another Angle: “Oh yes, I make mistakes. Don’t we all? But I am really passionate about making sure that I learn from them and don’t repeat the same one again.”
4. My last boss was crazy.
Even if your former supervisor was certifiable (and yes I know it’s possible!) no potential employer wants to hear this.
Implication: Hiring managers want to believe that the two of you will mesh and produce great work together. And for all they know the problem might have been with you instead of your boss.
Another Angle: “I’ve learned that I can work well with all different types of personalities. For example, my last boss came at things from completely different angles than me, but we worked together well.”
5. They would have been lost without me.
Even if you have been the entire backbone and the only employee that ever accomplished anything (which isn’t likely!), avoid this one too.
Implication: Phrases like this show an elevated sense of self-importance. Which hello, spell high maintenance to a new boss! They also show an inability to work successfully in teams..so it’s a double downer.
Another Angle: “Whether a team or solo environment, I’m a resource my current manager counts on. So, I’ve been lucky to have some great contribution opportunities.”
6. What do you do here?
While this might have been a great interview question a few decades ago, it’s a horrible one now.
Implication: This screams a lack of preparation and initiative on your part. Neither of which are good.
Another Angle: It’s critical to do your homework prior to the interview. Research the company, review their website, talk to friends and family who work there and connect with employees on LinkedIn.
7. I’ve never done that before.
Even if you have absolutely no experience with the subject matter at hand, avoid this response at all costs.
Implication: Interviews are all about proving you’re the best candidate and there’s simply no way this phrase exudes confidence in you or your abilities.
Another Angle: “I haven’t used that same program before, but I have done xyz. I would love to learn the system you use here.”
8. Hmm. I’m not sure about that.
Today’ managers are pulled in too many directions. Consequently, it’s more important than ever that team members are confident, great communicators and solid problem-solvers.
Implication: Sure it’s possible that you may be asked a question you can’t answer, but saying a phrase like this simply doesn’t make you look like the confident communicator they need on their team.
Another Angle: “Great question. Can I give that some thought and get back to you?”
9. How much vacation time do I get?
While asking about benefits before accepting a job offer is important, it’s never appropriate in an initial interview.
Implication: You are more worried about getting time off from work than you are learning how you can add value to the team. Never…never a good move!
Another Angle: Just keep that all important question to yourself until it’s time to negotiate the job offer! And then read, “10 Things to Consider Before Accepting a New Job!”
10. The @#%& we did at my last job was so cool!
Profanity (even positive profanity) has absolutely no place in an interview.
Implications: If it doesn’t offend the hiring manager, there’s a good chance it's a problem for a potential co-worker. And at the very least it spells out a future “coaching moment” the manager will need to address. Pass please….
Another Angle: Just do go there! Profanity is not professional nor appropriate in the work place.
11. Sorry I’m late.
It’s really pretty simple. In my 25 years of employee selection, I have never hired a candidate that uttered these words.
Implication: Tardiness, preparation and logical decision making (like planning ahead!) will be a problem if you are offered the job.
Another Angle: Plan ahead! Take a test run during similar traffic conditions before the interview. Have your clothes picked out (and pressed!) in advance and allow 20-30 minutes flex in your schedule.
12. I’m having some personal issues right now.
It’s not that the hiring manager doesn’t care about you personally but the reality is they need someone fully engaged and focused on the tasks at hand.
Implication: Saying this phrase indicates you will not be “at your best” and require some special treatment right of the gate.
Another Angle: While not always easy, keep your work and personal lives separate. Phrases like this just don’t belong in an interview.