7 Things You Should Never Say In A Job Interview

Let’s play Would You Rather for a second: go on a job interview, or have dental work with no novocaine? I know, it’s a tough question.

Job interviews can feel like you’re walking this strange tightrope: be confident, but not cocky. Excited, but not frantic. Professional, but not stuffy. You want to impress your interviewer: express your qualifications, ask good questions, and follow up flawlessly. And then there are those landmines you need to avoid. As someone who has gone through their fair share of interviews (and is actually kinda starting to like them *gasp*), I’ve got your back.

1. “I know I don’t have the experience.”

Cue your hiring manager saying, “Well, okay then! Bye!” This statement immediately makes you seem inexperienced and unqualified (despite whether or not you are). The last thing you want to do in a job interview is make the recruiter’s “no” an easy answer. Here’s how to land the job, even without the necessary experience (and yes, it’s actually doable).

2. “I really need this job.”

Don’t beg. Even if you haven’t worked in months, have exhausted that emergency fund, and are feeling seriously worn out, telling the interviewer you really REALLY need this opportunity comes off as desperate and unprofessional. Leave the opening number of A Chorus Line for your bathroom mirror.

3. “I don’t have any weaknesses.” OR “My weakness is working too hard and caring too much.”

I don’t know about you, but I just groaned OUT LOUD. If your potential employer asks you, “What is your biggest weakness?”, you cannot answer by saying you don’t have any. You just can’t. Now, that doesn’t mean you answer, “Sometimes I have to just eat the whole bag of potato chips, I’m possessive and clingy in a relationship, I bite my fingernails…” But you need to have an honest answer that shows you’re constantly striving to improve. Here’s my actual answer: “I have the tendency to take feedback personally, because I put a lot of myself into my projects, but it’s something I’m actively improving.” You always want to showcase that you’re not perfect, but it’s something you’re conscious of and excited to work on.

4. “I hated my last boss/job.”

No matter how much of a disaster your last job situation was, you shouldn’t mention it in an interview. Keep things professional, and never bad-mouth the company or people you were employed with before. If you’re asked, “Why are you leaving?” or “Why are you looking for work?” don’t lie, but highlight something that contributed to your negative feelings. For example, if you’re leaving because your boss wasn’t mentoring you and committed to your success (in other words, a sucky boss), say: “I didn’t see a clear path for growth and development at my job, and both of those are very important to me.”

5. “Who’s this?”

When the recruiter has introduced themselves via phone, you should recognize the company’s name. I can’t tell you how many times the recruiting team at my work has complained about candidates being confused and then asking, “What, who are you?” There’s nothing worse than getting a call from the company, and you having NO recollection of even applying. It makes you look unorganized and foolish. If you’re applying for a bunch of jobs, keep a spreadsheet — and any time you get a call from an unknown number, consult the sheet before picking up to save you major embarrassment. (And if you want a better solution, only apply to positions you’re actually interested in; those are the ones that will stick in your mind.)

6. “I’m the best one for this job.”

News flash: EVERYONE thinks they’re the best one for the job. You wouldn’t be applying if you didn’t think you had a shot at landing the position. I’ve read a few blog posts lately that advise you to go in and say something like this. But what may sound confident to your ears can sound cocky to the hiring manager, so I would avoid phrases like this altogether. Let your incredible interviewing skills, experience, and resume do the talking, and say, “I’m excited to have the opportunity to show you what I can do,” instead.

7. “This isn’t my first choice.”

Ouch. Well then, you’re not OUR first choice. Why anyone would say that in a job interview, I don’t know, but it happens. Even if the job isn’t on the top of your radar, that’s the last thing a recruiter wants to hear. Don’t ever be THIS ambivalent — totally unprofessional and rude.

Any other no-no phrases you can think of? Let me know in the comments below!

Tori Dunlap is an award-winning social media marketer and entrepreneur. Founder of victori media, helping 20-somethings live life victoriously. Obsessed with finding cheap flights, reading a good book in the bathtub, and you. Follow her on Instagram here.

Image via Unsplash

  • #5 – You must think this is 1999 when people applied for one or two jobs and waited to hear. I probably applied for 10 jobs a day in the last two months of grad school. While I took out the time to make sure I had the experience and tailored my resume to each job, it would be ridiculous for a recruiter to feel they should not provide an introduction and confirm the position for which they are calling. It’s simpler than consulting a spreadsheet when I’m not at home. Take for example a company with a Process Engineer I/ Project Engineer I/ Design Engineer I position for a chemical engineering graduate with no required experience. In this case a candidate is well within his/her rights to apply for all three with a tweaked resume to match each one. I always ask for details when I get a call. This method has worked very well for me. Better to upset one petty recruiter than to slim my chances of landing a job. Also, you should confirm to make sure you are not sharing your information with a scammer.

    • Nom

      I agree totally. You should definitely know who you’ve applied to, but I’ve definitely had recruiters call me and give so little information I didn’t know what they were talking about, even if I did remember applying. Especially when they CALL instead of EMAIL and I am outside or something and they are hard to hear. Additionally, I’ve often applied to multiple positions at the same company and I’ve had recruiters not tell me what position I am interviewing for or not be clear (which internship? I applied to 3!).

      In my job searches I have applied to over 60 jobs in 3 weeks — meaning it would be impossible for me to keep the details of everything in my mind. Additionally, recruiters often call with no warning – am I supposed to not pick up the phone just because an unknown number is calling? Unknown numbers who are not recruiters call me all the time. My recommendation to recruiters would be to send an email first and then schedule phone interview instead of expecting job searchers not to have lives.