The 7 Worst Things to Say in a Job Interview

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The 7 Worst Things to Say in a Job Interview
The 7 Worst Things to Say in a Job Interview


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Most of us know what it’s like to come away from an interview and agonize over it, combining over every comment we made and cringing at the conversational clangers.

Nerves make everything feel that much worse. But it’s important not to spiral into despair during the process; one blunder will probably not ruin your chances of securing the role.

You can mitigate post-interview stress by avoiding this list of the worst things to say in a job interview and having a few tricks in your back pocket for how to recover if you do say the wrong thing.

1. “I hate my boss.”

You may well detest your current job or your colleagues, and with good reason. Perhaps your former supervisor is undeniably a terrible leader and making your life miserable. But under no circumstances should you bring that up in a job interview.

Future employers are looking for professionalism and a positive attitude – they want to know that you’re going to fit in at their workplace, not bad mouth them to the next company you apply to work for. Plus, your current and prospective employers may well have a working relationship you don’t know about; criticizing an important client is a sure-fire route to rejection.

To recover? If you do find yourself slipping into negativity around your current workplace, switch your focus to what you have learned in the role – and what you are especially looking forward to in the new position you want to take on. Include anecdotes that demonstrate how flexible, approachable, and collaborative you can be.

2. “I am interviewing elsewhere, so“ ”

Feigned disinterest is not a good look. Alongside “I’m definitely the best person for the job,” and “My greatest weakness is that I’m a perfectionist,” these are the types of comments that could easily make you seem overconfident. It may work if your hiring manager is desperate to fill the position, but more likely you will come across as disingenuous.

To recover? Stress how much this job appeals to you. Let your skills and experience speak for themselves by providing plenty of concrete examples that show your suitability for the role. And make sure you demonstrate self-awareness and willingness to improve. If you are asked to describe a weakness, you can use it as an opportunity to show you are self-reflective and have worked to overcome your shortcomings in the past.

3. “I want your job.”

It can be tempting to aim high if you’re asked where you want to be in five years. But this can convey arrogance, and, in this case, may even feel slightly threatening to your interviewer. Certainly, ambition and drive are important qualities to get across, but you don’t want to give off the impression of superiority.

To recover? You must demonstrate a commitment to the role you’re actually applying for, instead of making it look like you’re just using it as a stepping-stone for better things. Use your answer to explore what you’d like to learn and achieve in your first few years in the post. Perhaps you could ask about common routes of progression through the organization (other than your boss’s job).

If you are concerned your hiring manager thinks you are overly boastful, end the interview by expressing earnest gratitude; thanking the interviewer for their time and attention can help offset any mistakes you made throughout.

4. “I don’t know.”

This one is a real conversation killer. You are unlikely to know exactly how to answer every question thrown at you on interview day, but admitting that, with no further elaboration, will suggest that you lack initiative and make your interviewer’s job harder. It is especially unforgivable to be vague on why you applied for the position; prospective employers are looking for a clear rationale for why you’d be a good match for their organization.

To recover? You can say, “I don’t know” – and it’s best not to pretend to have knowledge you don’t possess – but don’t stop there. Follow it up with something related that you do know, or explain how you would go about finding out, or how you’ve handled similar issues in the past. Perhaps you can answer part of the question, or reframe it, politician-style, to suit key messages about your skills and qualities that you want to get across in the interview.

You can buy yourself some thinking time by asking your interviewer to rephrase or clarify the question, especially if it has confused you; no one will begrudge you a pause while you formulate an answer. You could also counter a mediocre reply with a related question of your own, showing the interviewer you can be curious and resourceful, and potentially distracting them from your poor response.

Ultimately though, there’s no real substitute for preparation ahead of time: research the company and the industry it fits into thoroughly and you’ll be much better equipped to take on those trickier questions.

5. “How much do you pay?”

It may well be a burning question, and of course, you deserve to know how you’ll be renumerated for your work at the company – as well as the perks, schedule, work-from-home policy, and vacation allowance. However, these kinds of queries can paint a picture of self-interest and are best kept until you’ve been offered the job. That’s when negotiations can be initiated.

To recover? If you slip up and ask a slightly presumptuous question, you can recover by reiterating your enthusiasm for the role. State that you understand details can be hashed over later, and guide the conversation back to the skills and qualities you can offer.

6. “I don’t have any questions.”

You may well want the interview over and done with but not having any questions for your prospective employer suggests a lack of interest or a lack of confidence.

To recover? Don’t leave the interview room without showing curiosity about how the company works, what you’ll be expected to do day-to-day, or what the culture of the organization is like. If you are feeling nervous, don’t draw attention to it – interviewers will expect a few nerves but will appreciate any effort you make to overcome them.

7. “I love to party.”

When asked to tell the hiring manager about yourself, it’s a mistake to assume they mean the full package. They don’t really want to know all about you; they want to know how you’ll fit in as an employee, so keep the sharing professional.

To recover? Once again, steer the conversation back to the experiences and qualifications you’ve gained that relate to the role. If you do want to add color to your resume, keep it light, and uncontroversial.

If you do have something to hide – why you were fired from a previous position, for example – and you are asked a direct question about it, keep your answers honest but brief. Always come back to something positive, like how you’ve been able to learn and grow since leaving your former employment.

Remember, all mistakes are a chance to reflect, dust yourself off, and get ready for the next opportunity armed with more understanding of how to put forward your best self.

Image Credit: antoniodiaz /

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