What Not to Say During an Interview

06 November 17

Interviews can be tough. They’re stressful, anxiety provoking and call for extra-strength deodorant.

In an interview, your goal is to get across to the interviewer why you—above all the other applicants—are the right person for the job. The hiring manager is looking for the candidate with just the right set of skills, the ideal personality, and the drive to make things happen.

A wrong move or two, and it won’t matter how great you performed at your last job. There are some questions, topics, etc., that aren’t appropriate and can really make the employer think twice about your character.

This is Jaime Marie, and here are some phrases that come off as red flags during interviews:

“So, tell me what you do around here.”

 Do your research. You never want to walk into an interview knowing too little about the position or company. Companies want to hire candidates who have thought about how they will fit in with this company.

Try finding a current or former employee to chat with before your interview to get more of a background on the company. Find out how the company is representing itself on social media, and make sure that you spend some time on their website to find out about their business and their culture.

“Ugh, my last company…”

Never ever badmouth a former employer, company, or fellow employee during an interview (or anytime, if you can help it). Employers know that if you are critical of your current or former employer, you are likely to someday speak badly about your employment with them too. This makes you sound like a challenge to work with.

Stay positive and focus on what you’ve learned from tough experiences and how you plan on improving in the future.

“Sorry I’m late.”

BE. ON. TIME. Even if you have to leave ridiculously early, find a way to be punctual. Being late is a sign of disrespect – indicating to your potential employer that you don’t value their time or are not truly interested in the position. It also suggests that lateness is a habit – if you are late for an interview, this suggests that you would be late to work most days.

If the commuting gods really do throw a wrench in your best laid plans – a derailed train on a major commuter line, for example – you should call the employer well in advance of your scheduled interview time to see if they would prefer to reschedule or accommodate your late arrival.

“What are my benefits?”

Your first interview is never the time to discuss salary and benefits. The interviewer is trying to get to know you, to see how your personality and your skills might fit in with their company’s needs and culture.  They are hoping to discover whether you will fit into their organization, solve a problem for them, or contribute in a way that is better than any other candidate for the job.

Your goal in an interview is to make the company want to hire you.  Don’t make your prospective employer think that the only thing you care about is the salary by making a list of demands too early – get the job first, then negotiate salary and benefits to your needs.

“No, I don’t have any questions.”

Have some questions prepared to ask your interviewer. You want to sound eager to learn more about the company.

Some questions you may want to ask are…

  • What does a typical day look like?
  • What are the skills and experiences you’re looking for in an ideal candidate?
  • What training programs are available?
  • Can you tell me about the team I’ll be working with?
  • What is the company culture like?
  • Is there anything else I can provide you with that would be helpful?

Whether you intend it or not, each question you ask has the potential to reflect your knowledge of the company, your interest in the position, and your work ethic.

That’s why it’s important to take the time to come up with thoughtful questions for each interview.


 Words like “um,” “like,” and “hmm,” are a big no-no. Your interview time is limited, and to make a good impression you should speak thoughtfully.

Of course, sometimes you might need to buy yourself some time to come up with an answer.  Use a phrase like “That’s a great question…” to gather your thoughts.

“Can I work from home?”

If this is a telecommuting job, it would have said so in the job description.

Asking to work from home implies that you dislike working with others, you don’t work well under direct supervision, or you have a difficult schedule to work around. It also might make an employer question your work ethic.  Working from home may be a luxury given to seasoned employees, but asking for this accommodation during a job interview might be a red flag for the employer.

“Did I get the job?”

This question REALLY puts employers on the spot and makes you appear impatient. Instead of asking this directly, you could ask for more information on the next step in the hiring process.   If they’re interested in you, most employers will tell you the next steps moving forward before the end of the interview.

Looking interested is good, but looking too interested makes you less desirable. You may think you’re showing your future company that you’re ready to hit the ground running, but if you come on too strong post-interview you look less like a candidate they’d be lucky to hire and more like someone who’s anxious for a job. Keep your cool, and wait for the process to play out.

Finally, don’t ask the interviewer how you did in the interview.  Good candidates can tell how they are doing in an interview by considering body language and assessing the feel of the room.  After the interview is over, reflect on the experience and evaluate how you felt about the match between your skills and the company’s needs. Your thoughtful assessment of the interview will tell you a great deal about your likelihood of landing the job.

It is easy to undervalue yourself and consequently undermine your job search efforts. Be on guard. The employers you want to work for are looking for people who know their own value. Make sure you are one of those people!

For More Information about interviewing for your next job, call HR Strategy Group at 410.505.8723 or find us on the web at http://www.hrstrategygroup.com.