15 things you should never say in a job interview

Career Advice
JC Cornell

By JC Cornell
May 28, 2018

December 1, 2023

0 min read

Interviews are hard because every word you say is being scrutinised. You know a wrong answer could cost you the position you want, which is why it is so important to be prepared.

Any Google search on “How to interview” will provide a wealth of knowledge and advice. Yet people still don’t know what not to say when in a job interview. You won’t get a second chance, so avoid the following phrases in your next interview.

1. “Sorry I’m late”

Very easy fix. Just don’t be late. Leave earlier than you need to, and kill time at a coffee shop around the corner. Then arrive 10 minutes early looking calm, cool, and collected.

2. “What does your company do?”

If you aren’t interested enough in the role to research the company, why are you wasting everyone’s time with an interview?

Candidates who are passionate about a role will find out everything they can before an interview with that company. We recommend scouring websites and social media feeds.

If you know who you interviewer will be, look up their experience on LinkedIn. Walk into that interview informed enough to ask relevant and valuable questions about your new role.

3. “I’m really nervous”

Avoid saying you are nervous; instead, say you are excited. They tend to look the same – unless you have a worried expression on your face.

Saying you are excited not only sends a better message. It changes the inner dialogue you have with yourself. You start to believe in the excitement and ignore the nerves.

Excitement is contagious and will excite the recruiter about you too.

Just don’t be Tom Cruise on Oprah’s couch level excited.

4. “My boss was an absolute idiot” (or anything else disparaging)

What will you say about your new one if you are berating your previous boss so freely? It does not matter if it is ‘public knowledge’ that the person you worked for is a known menace.

There is a better way of discussing this kind of situation. Talk about the challenges you faced and what you learned from it as a result. If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.

5. “I just need to take this call”

Big no! Phones on silent, without vibrating, hidden in the depth of your coat. There is a time and a place for everything.

Talking with your landlord about plumbing issues in an interview is not the right time.

6. “I increased our sales by like a lot”

If you don’t have specific numbers, get them before making sweeping statements about your ability.

Those numbers help back up what you are saying. They give value to your work. Don’t underestimate the impact they can have.

7. “In 5 years time I will have your job”

You may have ambitions of climbing the corporate ladder, but this is not the time to be aggressive about it.

Talk about your goals, but tone it down a little if they may cause unnecessary stress on your interviewer’s job security. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being driven. Just watch how it makes you come across.

8. “Let me show you the photo album of my waterskiing cats”

We all have odd aspects of our personality which make us special. But an interview is no time to bring them out.

It can make an interviewer feel extremely awkward and will detract from your ability. After an interview, you want your them to talk about your skills, not your strange quirks. Save the slide shows or unique interests for another time.

9. “You look amazing”

Compliments about appearance can come off as creepy, no matter if you are male or female. Keep any compliments you do make to professional ability.

10. “I speak nine languages” (or anything else untrue)

It may not come out in the interview, but it will come out eventually. Your experience on paper was enough to get you an interview, don’t feel like you need to lie to win anyone over.

Impress with the skills you actually have, not the ones you think they want you to have.

11. “It’s on my resume”

Your interviewer will most likely have read your resume.  You are being asked for a reason.

Feel free to use this kind of question to elaborate and to provide specifics.  Make sure you answer the questions you are asked as well as you can, no matter how banal you may think they are.

12. “I really need this job, and I am willing to do anything!”

Desperation doesn’t suit anyone. It leaves a lasting impression and taints everything impressive you have already said.

You want to ensure your interviewer knows you want the job and are excited about it. That’s where that conversation should stop.

13. “My biggest weakness is perfectionism”

No one believes that. Don’t make your weakness your strength. Talk about the areas you struggle with but how you work on those areas and how you improve. That’s really the part they are interested in – how you overcome challenges.

14. “I don’t know…”

When you don’t know, never just say you don’t know. Stop and think for a moment. If you can get the information they need, let them know you don’t have the exact details but can send them by the end of the day.

If it is a situation you have never encountered, talk about how you would react if it happened.

15. “I don’t have any questions for you”

You should always have questions to ask after interviewing. If it helps, write them all down when you are doing your research.

A lot of the questions you have may be answered during the interview. If that is the case, you can refer to your list of questions and any that are remaining.

Final thoughts

Don’t ruin an amazing interview and job prospect with ill-chosen words. Be confident in your abilities and think before you speak. Leave a good impression on your interviewer. Keep calm. You’ve got this.

And if you are still searching for the perfect role, check out our current vacancies and see if they match your skills.

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