Whether you are coming straight out of school, changing careers or re-entering the workforce, job interviews can be stressful. While nearly impossibly to predict what you should say in an interview situation, there are some things you should definitely never say.
1. “I don’t have any experience at this job/position/field.”
Even if you don’t have any experience, there’s a better way to say it. Try something like, “I’m ready to take the next step in my career.” Or equate experience you’ve had in a different field to the prospective job.
2. “Read my résumé, it speaks for itself.”
Now, that’s just arrogant. Your prospective employer wants to hear it from you. Nobody hires a person simply because of a résumé and you should practice a thoughtful pitch for yourself and your qualifications. Exhibit the ability to work to get a job, not to let a piece of paper do your work for you.
3. “I think outside the box.”
Firstly, this is one cliché of many that need to be retired. As much as you may be tempted to say you’ll “hit the ground running,” “move the goalpost” and “touch base at the end of the day,” just keep it short and to the point. And don’t “circle back.” Avoid buzzwords and phrases in general.
4. “I’m looking to create a synergistic strategic alliance.”
This kind of vague office-speak will likely make your prospective employer’s eyes glaze over. Just say what you mean. If you want to build a team by bringing the company’s employees together, create that image rather than using abstract words. Take advantage of the fact that the brain processes concrete images and specific words much better than vagaries.
5. “Um, I don’t know.”
Even if you actually don’t know, that is not the answer. Ask for a glass of water or a tissue and try to formulate a better way to say it. If it’s about the business of your prospective employer, you might say you’d have to do some research to give a proper answer. If it’s about you, just take a deep breath and answer honestly.
6. “When I was in the casino in Vegas…”
Too much information is always a bad idea in a job interview. Nobody wants to hear about what should stay in Vegas or that time when you popped chow out the window of a Ferrari. Or anything starting with “that time when” for that matter.
7. “How much vacation time will I get?”
Asking how much time off you’ll get before you land the job is such a bad idea you’d think that nobody would do it. You would be wrong.
8. “What the hell.”
Swearing is considered cool in many situations and many say it can be a stress reliever. It also causes unemployment. Even if secretly your future boss swears like a drunken sailor, he or she probably won’t do it during your interview and even if it happens, keep quiet and smile.
9. “Times are tough right now.”
This is the kind of statement that suggests a desperation that doesn’t inspire a prospective employer. You might as well have come in wearing clothes that looked as if you slept in them. Not to put too fine a point on it, but don’t do that either; try your best to look as if you are already successful.
10. “I’ll have the lobster and an appletini.”
If you are having the interview over lunch or dinner, try to look to your companions for clues on what to order. Even if you’ve been the restaurant a gazillion times, ask your host what would be the best choice. And it doesn’t matter if he or she orders a glass of wine, just demur. Chances are you’ll need to keep your wits about you.
Even Mark Zuckerberg took heat for this one. Starting or ending a sentence with “So….” indicates tentativeness or insecurity. What could be worse? The dreaded “So, yeah, no.”
12. “Sorry I’m late.”
Huh. Again, you’d think this would be obvious. Just. Don’t. Be. Late. Really.
Everyone wants to make a good impression in a job interview but it’s easy to blow the gig with just one verbal misstep. Be aware of your verbal crutches and keep your eye out for possible pitfalls. Look your best, watch your words and stay confident. You’re going to get that job!
About the Author: Rafael Magaña helps organizations grow. Helps leaders accelerate strategy implementation in their organizations. Specializes in leadership, management, and philanthropy. He has published more than 160 scholarly articles. Visit and connect with him on LinkedIn and on Twitter: @RafaelMagana
Copyright 2019 by Rafael Magaña.