7 Horrible Phrases to Avoid Saying During Your Interview

This post focuses on phrases you absolutely need to drop from your vocabulary when it comes to both phone interviews and onsite interviews. If you have read my blog or My eBook then odds are you know the value I place on preparation. Those of you who go into your interviews prepared to field a variety on behavioral interview questions as well as properly vocalize your skills are giving yourself the best chance to do the one thing this blog is all about, get the job! However, some of us do so much preparation on the things we need to say and the topics that we want to touch on that we sometimes kind of forget that there are those topics we absolutely need to avoid. Now I know I am probably going to get a couple of comments where people are saying “well duh Ben, obviously I wouldn’t say that.” Well if that is your response to every single one of these great job! However I am writing this because I have conducted interviews every single week for the last six years and I can tell you that I actually hear most of these weekly. Some of them seem innocent and perhaps you thought nothing of it but let me be clear in saying that in a competitive market where the attractive jobs are few and far between, sometimes it’s the little things that can be the deciding factor. In the words of Confucius, “A single grain of rice cab tip the scale”. I know this to be true. I have seen it over and over again where we end up with two great candidates, with similar everything and the decision comes down to a single thing said by one of the candidates that didn’t quite sit well with someone on the interview panel. That fact of that matter is, if you can only hire one candidate and the two you have are great, you have to find a way to differentiate them. Don’t be the person on the wrong end of that decision. Let’s get into it!


So what does your company do? (or any question available online)


I wanted to start with this one because it happens to be a pretty big pet peeve of mine. When people ask me what my company or what my client does it feels as if you thought to yourself “Hey, instead of preparing for this interview…why don’t I just not?” Or “Oh my god!!! Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt season 2 just came out on Netflix! Instead of preparing for my interview, I think I am going to binge watch that!!!” And while I totally get your enthusiasm for a pretty entertaining show, it’s the wrong choice. You can re-watch an episode, you can’t redo an interview. My rule of thumb is this, if information is available on the internet, then I’d avoid asking it during an interview. The more easily assessable it is or more essential it is to the company, the worse you asking about it will be perceived. Be prepared, don’t shine a spot light on the fact that you aren’t by asking a question you shouldn’t need to ask.


Any phrase containing an expletive


So let’s chalk this one up as an obvious one. If you are interviewing, don’t use expletives or offensive words. Here is a nice rule of thumb. If you wouldn’t say it in front a classroom of the second graders, avoid saying it in your interview. Now look, some of you might think “Come one Ben, you are being old school. People are more relaxed nowadays”. I would counter by saying, perhaps you are right. In fact, let’s say for the sake of argument that you are right 50% of the time. 50% percent, hypothetically, of the people who will interview you won’t care. Now under the assumption that’s correct, which I think is generous, are you able to tell which are which? Let’s look at it from another angle. Do you ever think it is to your benefit to swear during an interview? I can’t ever imagine a hiring manager saying to me “Ben, she was great. Everything we are looking for in fact….but…there’s just this one thing…she didn’t use any vulgarity during the interview.”  Ridiculous right? I say err on the side of caution and avoid it altogether.


Any phrase that expresses political views


This one should be another no brainer but it’s not. This one baffles me more than most actually. The thing I think is most puzzling about this is that I think people just make the assumption your views are similar to theirs. Let me be as clear as possible on this avoid, don’t talk politics during an interview. First of all, it’s probably 50/50 that they have the same political beliefs as you, maybe worse. But, even if they agree with you, they might think to themselves “wow, that is some poor judgement bringing that up during an interview”. If someone had an identical political opinion as me and brought it up during the interview I wouldn’t be thinking, “wow, now that’s a candidate with a fantastic grasp regarding the interworking of our government and the political landscape”. Rather I would be thinking “Wow, bringing that up was unnecessary and showcased very poor judgement. I wonder what else they think is appropriate to bring up during an interview”. Bottom line is this, even if you don’t offend them with your opposing views, you might be giving them pause regarding your judgement. It’s better to avoid it.


I am looking for a new role because I want more money


You can find this mentioned in one of my most popular posts about how not to answer why you are looking for a new to here 3 Terrible Ways to Answer the Interview Question “Why Are You Looking For a New Role?”. That link will give you more complete answers but I’ll give you the quick reasoning here. One of the things recruiters look for is your motivation. What is the reason you are looking? The answer we come away with makes a significant impact on how you are both viewed as well as pursued as a candidate. Finding out that your principle motivator is financial is never a good thing. And you know what, money is important and maybe it is your biggest motivator, we still hate hearing that, Here are some things to say instead of that 3 Excellent Ways to Answer the Interview Question “Why are you looking for a new role?”.


I am not really looking for a new job, I just thought I would do the call to see what’s up


This one another one I get now and then that I find kind of funny. The thing is, I get what most of the people who say this are trying to do. They are trying to gain leverage by positioning themselves as a passive candidate. By appearing as if they aren’t in the market they are hoping to gain leverage for negotiations down the road. However saying it like this is just kind of poor execution. Let me draw a real life example. Imagine you are on a date and you say “I am really glad you let me take you out to dinner tonight, I am having a great time” and in response they say “Well I wasn’t really interested in going but I had nothing in my fridge and had never been to this restaurant.” How incredibly deflating would that be? And while no, you sating this won’t hurt my feelings, it will make me feel like I may be wasting my time. If you want to position yourself as a passive candidate you might want to say something along the lines of “While I am very happy in my current role and wasn’t actually looking, I have always admired your company and the role seemed to be such a great fit for my skills etc.”  This accomplishes the goal of positioning you with leverage but also showcases your interest in the role.


I didn’t get along with my boss at that job


I have mentioned this in the past but it’s worth mentioning again. You have nothing to gain by saying you didn’t get along with an ex-employer. While to some this is obvious I hear this frequently. Again, you have nothing to gain by saying this and in addition to that certain interviewers will hear this and think, this candidate must be difficult. You never want that to be the takeaway. We have all had bosses we didn’t get along with or bosses we thought weren’t good at their job. I know I have however I have never once said it in an interview. You know why? Because it can never help you but it can certainly paint you in a light that won’t work in your favor. Regardless of how terrible your boss is/was, shy away from mentioning.


Any mis-truths…especially involving your past employment


I have a pretty strong stance on lying during the interview process. Companies invest a lot in making a hire, so if there is a stone they are able to turn, you better believe they are going to turn it over. Not only that but if you have spent any amount of time in the same geographic area, odds are someone you are interviewing with knows someone you have cross paths with. It can be as simple as a text. “Hey Bill, did Jim leave on his own or was he fired from ABC Company.” Stories don’t match? Well then you are still looking for a job. You are much better off telling the truth, even if it’s a truth that doesn’t make you look so great. You know the question will come, prepare and present it in the best possible light. The fact is that a lot of people actually lie about things that wouldn’t keep them from getting the job in the first place. Then when the employer finds out, they decide they can’t hire you, not because of what you lied about but rather because you lied. Employers are much more likely to look the past that you were let go from a role then they are to look past the fact that you lied about it. Skills can be taught, integrity cant.


Well there you have it. Those are the 7 Horrible Phrases to Avoid Saying During Your Interview. If you can avoid saying these seven things you will be putting yourself in a much better position to nail the interview and get the job. Recently I have gotten a lot of great comments, especially in the LinkedIn groups regarding additional points. Can any of you think of things I missed that people say? I would love to hear any of the others. As always, thanks for reading and I hope this helped!

7 Crucial Factors That Are More Important Than Salary When Considering a New Role

When most consider whether or not they should accept a new role the first thing that they look at is compensation. What is the salary? While I understand that, we all work for a paycheck, it isn’t the only thing you need to consider. In fact, in the long run, the other factors listed below will probably have a much greater impact on your day to day happiness and your career. So while yes, please make sure every move you make is a move that makes sense from a compensation standpoint, don’t make that move without considering the other factors listed in this post.  Some of these will be pieces of information available to anyone with a computer and other factors will be things you can only know if you have had the chance to interview. Either way they are all crucial in your attempt to make sure you are making the right move.


Is this a resume builder?


So the first thing consider before applying for a job is how this job will impact the story I am able to tell with my resume. Imagine you are in your next big interview and you really want the job. The hiring manager is looking at your resume, looks up at you and asks “Why did you leave ABC Company to go to XYZ Company?”.  Will you be able to articulate an answer that makes sense and positions you as the type of person this manager wants on their team? If no, then you might have a problem. Many of the other things I put on this list might be no brainers to many of you however this is often overlooked. If you go from a people manager to an individual contributor role, you had better be able to give a great reason as to why that made sense for you. Jumps like that can often be considered red flags and if someone considers it a red flag you can rest assured that they are going to ask you about it. If they ask you about it and you want to continue in the interview process then you better have a pretty good reason as to why you made the decision you made.


What are the duties of the job?


How many of you have looked at a posting with the title of the job you are interested in and applied without reading the entire description? I know I have. You figure, I know this is the type of role that I am interested in, I know what this type of person does in their role, what is the point of reading the description  right? Wrong. What a Manufacturing Engineer does for one company can greatly differ from what they might do for another. What if a company you are interested in applying at has you responsible for a task you don’t do in your current role and absolutely hate? It might impact your interest in that new role right? You can get a lot of this information from the job description but a ton of this information can  be obtained during the interviews as well. For example, when you are meeting with your potential new boss and it’s time for you to ask questions, you can say something like this “I have read over the job description and it sounds like something I would be a great fit for. However I wanted to ask you, what are the most important tasks that will be performed by the person who takes this role?” That right there will give you a great idea of your day to day but also the inflection, enthusiasm and order of the tasks can give you information on what will monopolize your time and in what arenas your performance will shape your boss’s view of you as an employee. Another great question to ask is “For the first six months, what projects or tasks are a priority for the person who ultimately takes this role?” This question will let you see what you are walking into more clearly than most job descriptions out there. Don’t like the answer to this question? Maybe you should consider pulling out of the process.


What kind of financial state is the company in?


If you do any kind of research I have to imagine you will come across this information. That being said, I simply could not leave it off this list. It is simply to important not to mention. A simple google search should give you everything you need in terms of information here. Look for headlines, perhaps check out their stock if they are public. What has their last 52 weeks looked like? If you are doing research and you see that the company is having a really tough time financially it is certainly something that needs to factor into your decision. I have spoken with many candidates who made a change just to find themselves looking for a job again when the company they recently joined had a layoff. What makes this even more important is that if you get hired by a company and they decide to do a layoff, who do you think they let go first, the new hire or someone who has been there for five years. While a lot of factors go into that, personally I don’t like my odds much in that situation. That being said, there are times when it makes sense to go to a company who doesn’t have the rosiest outlook financially. Maybe it is a huge promotion for you. Perhaps they have seen the worst of it and should soon be on the way up. Perhaps you are being hired into a role so niche and critical that by its very nature it affords you stability. So while yes, sometimes it is worth the gamble, it is something you should be very aware of either way before you decide to make a move.


What kind of expectations are you walking into?


Just as important as everything else we have already covered is the expectations you will be expected to meet. This is especially true in roles that are performance based like sales. That being said, almost every role in existence has measurables. It behooves you to know what these expectations are. It is important that you set yourself up for success. It is almost an ironclad rule in recruiting that it is far easier to find a job when you have one then when you don’t. So if you accept that as fact, which you should, it really helps illustrate why this point is so crucial. The last thing you want to do is leave a role you are comfortable in, only to find yourself in a situation where you are unable to meet the goals set forth or doing so makes you miserable. A good way to find this out is use the interview to ask your future boss “What are the expectations or goals this person is responsible for meeting?” This answer should give you a pretty clear understanding of what you need to do and the emphasis placed on meeting these goals. Changing your place of employment is stressful enough without walking into a situation you feel you aren’t capable in succeeding in.


What is the culture like?


It is has been said that culture eats strategy for breakfast. In my opinion that’s true, the best culture is going to attract the best talent and at the end of the day talent is king. The best talent gives you the best chance of winning at whatever it is that you are doing. In my opinion you are doing yourself a disservice if you don’t so everything in your possibility to find out as much about the culture as you can before you accept a role. When you are onsite, how do the people look? Do they look happy? Ask the receptionist what their favorite part about working there is. You also want to ask the hiring manager about the culture on their team. They may not tell you 100% of the truth but their answer should shed some light on it. You also want to go to sites like Glassdoor. They have reviews from employees and former employees. If you do that make sure you look at several. You don’t want one disgruntled review to incorrectly shift your perspective of the company. Rather look at a bunch, are you noticing a trend? Is it a trend you are comfortable with? Lastly, check out LinkedIn. Are you connected with anyone who works there or has work there? You can do a search on LinkedIn using the Advanced tab. See the images below, click the advanced tab in pic one and it will take you to search screen in pic 2. Simply put in the company name and click 1st connections and search. You will be able to see every connection who works there or has in the past. Shoot them a message. Ask them how they like working there. That should help you get a clear picture of the culture.


Advanced 2


What kind of career development is offered?


While all of these are important pieces of information for you to have, for me this is one I absolute must have a clear answer on. I am the type of person who has a need to constantly develop, get better and expand. Some companies will enable you to do and that some wont. Some companies will have the resources to help you develop, some wont. So companies are going to have the programs in place to facilitate this development and some wont. You need to know what kind of company you are joining when it comes to employee development if this is in any way valuable to you. For me its huge so I need to know. This is another one where you can research it in multiple ways. While you are on glassdoor researching culture, look for employees talking about the development being part of the company afforded them. Reach out to people via LinkedIn and see what if anything they took advantage of as employees. Lastly and most importantly, ask in your interview. Not only does it look good to most employers that you are interested in continuing to develop as a professional (if it doesn’t look good to them do you really want to work there anyway) it’s also a great way to get the answer you need. If the manager can tell you what is available to you and perhaps even gives you examples of the programs their staff has taken advantage of that is gold. If they struggle to give you examples it means one of three things. The first possibility is they don’t really have anything in terms of development. The second is that the boss isn’t aware because there staff hasn’t taken advantage of it, which probably means it isn’t that important to them. The third possibility is they have severe short term memory loss. All joking aside its either example one or example two and quite frankly neither would sit great with me.


What is your new boss like?


Of all the factors this is the one that carries the most weight. I have had bad bosses and have a couple bosses that were great. In my experience nothing impacts your day to day more than the quality of and your relationship with your boss. If you meet with the boss and it doesn’t go really well or you don’t particularly care for the boss, you need to very strongly consider your options. For me if I don’t like the boss, have some kind of chemistry and feel like they will invest in me, none of the rest of this matters. Google or Apple could call me tomorrow and if I don’t mesh with the person who will be my new boss they are going to get a thanks but no thanks.  A boss who believes in you will invest in you. Think about career development. Do you think a boss you don’t get along with is likely to encourage you to take development opportunities? Speak highly regarding your potential to others in the organization? Get the best out of you? Push you forward when it comes time to potentially interviewing for advancement opportunities? I’ve heard the saying “Don’t choose a position or a company, choose a boss” and while I believe in pragmatically looking at every component and then making a decision, if you are looking for a criteria to assign a higher value, pick this one. A good boss can not only make your next job great but it can make your career. It can lead you to be promoted to the next role or perhaps you could even get taken to your next company if your boss leaves and is able to take staff with them. It can lead to you being given opportunity that diversifies your skillset to make you invaluable.


So there you have it, those are my 7 Crucial Factors That Are More Important Than Salary When Considering a New Role. Again, I don’t mean to downplay finances in the decision making process. That has always been important to me. However if you don’t take a look an examine these other factors as well you might end up regretting the move. So what did you think? Did I miss any factors that are just as important? Please feel free to comment on my blog or in the groups you find this in, whether it be Google+ or LinkedIn. If you like this post please feel free to use the icons to share with your social networks. If you have time, head on over to my most recent articles on automating your job search, 3 Essential Tactics to Automating Your Job Search. Thanks and have a great day!

3 Essential Tactics to Automating Your Job Search

We have all been there.  The day has come that you have decided you are no longer satisfied where you currently are and it’s time to pursue other employment options. Maybe you have another rough day in a string of too many rough days or perhaps you have just come to the realization that your current employer can’t offer you what it is you are looking for. So what do you do? You go home, flip open the laptop and you update your resume.  Since you probably haven’t touched it since you got your most recent position you have to add this role, mention any updates to educations or certifications and make sure address and phone number are correct. Once you have done, that, then it’s time to get yourself out there. You pull up your internet browser of choice and you start looking for jobs that might interest. You find them and you apply one by one. It’s a painstaking process but there is no other way, right? Wrong! There is a better way and this post is all about the 3 essential job search automation tactics that are going to make your life so much easier when it comes to finding a job. Also, stay reading to the very end, I have a question I want to ask and get your feedback on after I show you these steps that are going to simplify your search.


  1. Have a great, optimized LinkedIn profile

Now to some of you this is going to be an obvious suggestion, “well of course Ben” you are thinking. I would counter with two points. The first being if you feel this way then you have no idea how many people tell me they don’t have one or they have one but they set it up forever ago and never use it. The second point I would make it that there is a significant difference between having a LinkedIn profile and having a full optimized LinkedIn profile. So why is it important to have a LinkedIn profile or better yet, an optimized LinkedIn profile? The answer is that because there are over 600,000 recruiters on LinkedIn and if you add in HR Professionals you are looking at over 1.5 million. Like me, many of them creating a LinkedIn profile for the sole reason of finding candidates like you! As a recruiter, there are many tools we can use to find candidates but from my experience, the most commonly used tool is LinkedIn Recruiter. LinkedIn Recruiter is basically a membership level that adds functionality to help HR Professionals or Recruiters search for and contact candidates. From my experience, it is an absolute favorite among those in search. So with that being said, the point of having a great LinkedIn profile is that it becomes a tool to help people find you. Having a great LinkedIn profile does the leg work for you. Once you have a great LinkedIn profile recruiters will find you and pitch jobs to you. How great is that? You set it up, they come and find you and pitch you on opportunities. That way you can do your research on a company and decide which ones you want to pursue. So how do you make sure that you get found?  Well let me show you what we see and what we do to find you. Below is a screenshot of my screen when performing a search.

Sample Search

So in the above picture I am doing a search for a Software Engineer. In the search bar I put together a search strong using LinkedIn’s Boolean logic (which differs slightly from google). Basically it’s just the way you conduct a search within LinkedIn. So the first thing you do is you add in the potential titles. Now normally I might add in more titles based on my knowledge of the role or the conversation with the manager but I kept this search simple because I wanted you to be able to see the entire search bar. By typing it in like (“software engineer” OR “programmer”) LinkedIn will bring up everyone within 25 miles of the zip code I put in who has one of those two terms in the profile. In addition to that I added in (“C#” OR “C++”) to my search. Finally, I clicked the choice below stating that I was looking for someone with 3 to 5 years’ experience. With those criteria entered it narrowed my search down to 790 potential candidates. Now, most of these people won’t be candidates. Some of these candidates would have been a fit in the past but now are in managerial roles and wouldn’t be interested in an individual contributor role. Now, as I start to look at these potential candidates LinkedIn will push forward the candidates who most closely match the search strong I have put together. As a potential job seeker, you want to be on that first page, or as close to it as possible. How do you guarantee that happens as often as possible? The answer to that question is optimizing your LinkedIn profile. Many people make the mistakes of having some of their roles on their page, but excluding some of the other positions they have held. People also don’t take advantage of the opportunity to load up the descriptions of previous roles with the keywords that will get them found. The sad part is there are probably plenty of software engineers who live within 25 miles of the zip code 60061 who have experience with C# but they didn’t include C# in their profile. It’s important to write a summary of every role you have held in your career and it is equally important to use those summaries as a medium to load up your LinkedIn profile with keywords that will get the job opportunities to come to you. (If you are looking for help optimizing your LinkedIn, my Resource Page has links to several great services that specialize in doing that.


  1. Make sure your resume is uploaded to Indeed.com


So first and foremost, what is indeed? So most people know that Indeed.com is a job search engine, which aggregates job postings from thousands of sources and posts them on one site. So in terms of looking for a role, Indeed is a great place to start. However, in this post we aren’t talking about where you should go to find a job, we want the jobs to come to you. Now there are a ton of places you can choose to upload your resume. You could go to local job boards or perhaps one of the other big names in the game like CareerBuilder or Monster. Now while these aren’t bad ideas, the best bang for your buck for uploading your resume would be Indeed. Why is that? Well for me, Indeed is where I recommend putting your resume if you want to be found because of how friendly the site is in terms of functionality to recruiters. I like using Indeed because the searching is easy, the outreach functionality is great and the daily resume update feature is seamless. So let’s talk about that last part. When I do a search on Indeed for a type of candidate, Indeed actually prompts me to receive daily emails of candidate who meet my criteria. So if you upload your resume and you meet the criteria of a recruiters saved search, that recruiter will actually be notified that day of your uploaded resume. For us recruiters it means we have a system basically doing some of our job for us but for you it means recruiters looking for people just like you will be notified you just uploaded your resume and in all likelihood are looking for a new role. So if you have interest in automating your job search I strongly recommend making sure you have your resume fully updated and optimized (similarly to how I suggested with your LinkedIn profile in terms of keywords) and upload it to Indeed’s resume database.


  1. Building Recruiter Relationships


So out of my three recommendations this one is probably my favorite to talk about. While unfortunately this is the one that will take you the most time it is also the one that could have the biggest impact on your search. I am willing to bet that every single person reading this has at some point been called or emailed by a recruiter (or been the one emailing or calling). Now some of those of those calls/emails might have been from corporate recruiters asking about your interest on a specific opening and some of those roles might have been from an agency recruiter who might have been asking about a single role or perhaps a variety of roles (I have made too many to count of both). I am also willing to bet that many of you responded by saying “I am not interested, thanks anyway”. I can’t fault you for that, I have done that myself. However let me tell you why you and I were both wrong to have done that. Let’s just say you have a great job that you love and you would never consider leaving. You receive the call and you think to yourself “there is nothing this person could tell me that would make me consider leaving my wonderful job”. First, if that is you congrats, not everyone is to have a job they love that much. Secondly, unfortunately, many times we are not the one who makes the decision of when our employment will come to an end. Downsizing happens all the time, entire teams and locations even are eliminated due to market conditions or a change in company strategy. Just because you would never willingly leave your role doesn’t mean you won’t one day, very abruptly, be put into the position of finding another role. So, as I always advise people, take the call. Now let’s circle back, how does building relationships with recruiters help you automate your job search? It’s quite simple really. The first step is every time a recruiter calls you, take the call. Every time you get an email from a recruiter, reply and ask for a time to talk (I understand every time is a lot, so if it makes sense for you do it less frequently but do make an effort to have several of these calls). Now, good recruiters won’t just pitch a job to you. The good ones will make it about you first, ask you what you are interested in and see what they might be able to offer you in terms of a fit. But for the sake of argument let’s just say they call you, you take the call and they pitch you a job that absolutely isn’t a fit. Does that mean the call was a waste? Well yes, if nothing else happens, then that was most likely a waste of your time. But it won’t end there, you are going to maximize the benefit of this call. You will listen to the pitch and then you will say something this effect “I appreciate you letting me know about this opportunity, I don’t think that it’s a fit for me at this time. However…” At this point you can tell them the type of role that would pique your interest. You can tell them why you are an excellent for for the role and then you will encourage them to reach out to you should they happen to get a role like that. If the recruiter is impressed with you as a candidate, guess what, when they get a role that meets your requirements they are going to call you. Now a few tips, the first thing is that this has to be a phone call. If you just respond via email, the likelihood of them remembering you and contacting you with the opportunities that fit your specific requests is very low. You need to have a good conversation and you want them ending the call thinking “well this candidate doesn’t want this role, but I could definitely place them somewhere”. The other thing I want to mention is you want to get their email and send them a copy of your resume (which should hopefully look great) perhaps a paragraph selling your skillset, a reminder of the type of roles you would be interested in hearing about and finally a reminder that they can feel free to contact you should they get something that fits your interests. Bonus points if you happen to give them a referral for the role they initially contacted you about. If you can do this effectively then you have done a big part of automating your job search. Good recruiters will come back to you with opportunities and perhaps even present you your next role (I know because I have done it). If you can do this several times then you have done a great deal towards automating your job search.


If you read to the end this great job! I know that was a long post but if you can implement these 3 essential tactics to automating your job search you are well on your way. Now I mentioned earlier I would have a question to ask you all at the end of this post. My question is, if you were able to ask a recruiter any one question, what would it be? Please feel free to comment on my site or if you find this in a LinkedIn or Google+ group, feel free to comment there and I will try and answer. If you liked this post please feel free to share it with your network or give it a “like”. I appreciate it a ton. If these posts help you get an interview, head on over to 7 Critical Phone Interview Mistakes Candidates Make to get yourself prepped. Thanks again and have a great day!