What Not to Say in a Job Interview

Businesswomen in meeting
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Unless you’re a CEO, celebrity, or head of state, you’re probably not used to having your every word weighed by others. Even if you’re somewhat anxious in social situations, you likely understand that occasionally misspeaking is unlikely to have major consequences.

One exception to this rule: job interviews. Why are interviews so prone to conversational pitfalls? In part, it’s because you’re aware of being judged. Also, you only have so much time to make a good first impression, and you’re trying to do so while also conveying your qualifications for the job and determining whether the role is a good fit for you.

Finally, there’s the fact that you’re competing with all the other people who are trying to land the job. With so many candidates for just about every job opening, saying the wrong thing just makes it easier for the hiring manager to reject your candidacy.

You usually won't get a second chance once you have made a mistake and said something inappropriate or something that will make the interviewer think twice about hiring you.

With that in mind, avoid the following:


Watch Now: Never Say These Things in a Job Interview

Top 10 Things Not to Say in a Job Interview

  1. “How Much Does This Job Pay?” Don't be the first to bring up salary, if you can help it. Mentioning pay can send the message that all you are after is money, an especially grave sin at the first meeting. There’s plenty of time to talk numbers later, when you’ve learned more about the role and can determine an appropriate salary range.
  2. “My Boss Was Incompetent” (Or a Jerk, an Idiot or Anything Else Disparaging). Prospective employers will likely side with your current or previous supervisor and assume you will be difficult to manage. They may even worry that you’ll badmouth them at some future job interview.
  3. Saying, “I'll Have Your Job,” When Asked Where You See Yourself Five Years From Now. Displaying confidence is a good thing, but overly cocky statements will not endear you to interviewers. Remember that part of what hiring managers are assessing is whether you’ll fit well with the team; in other words, you want to come off like someone who’s pleasant to work with.
  4. I Hate My Job,” perhaps in response to a question like why are you applying for a new position. A better approach is to emphasize why the new position is appealing and, when reflecting on your current job, to emphasize what you have learned and skills you have developed.
  5. “You Look Great.” Avoid any comments that could be interpreted as flirtatious, no matter how stunning your interviewer appears.
  6. “I'm Not Aware of Any Weaknesses,” When Asked to Share Some Shortcomings. Always be prepared to communicate some weaknesses; just make sure the quality is not central to the job. Sharing a historical weakness that you have worked toward improving can be an effective strategy.
  7. “Why Have Earnings Slumped at Your Company During the Past Two Quarters?” A better angle would be to stay clear of anything sounding negative. Rather, frame your question more neutrally. For example: "In your view, what are some of the biggest challenges that your company faces at this juncture"?
  8. “Can I Work From Home” or “How Much Vacation Would I Get?” Save these types of questions until after you have been offered a position or the employer might question your motivation or work ethic.
  9. “You'll Regret It If You Don't Hire Me. I'm the Most Qualified.” You can't possibly know this unless you have met and evaluated all the other candidates. Overconfidence is a real turnoff to employers.
  10. “I Don't Have Any Questions for You.” Prepare some questions to ask that build upon your company research or something which your interviewer has shared with you. Another approach is to ask the interviewer a question about their experience with the organization, such as: “What do you enjoy most about working at ABC company?”