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!

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