17 Things You Should Never Say In A Job Interview

By Maddie Lloyd - Mar. 30, 2021
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Job interviews are stressful. With all of the suffocating pressure to say all the right things, it’s easy to slip up and say something wrong. There’s always a chance you say something that costs you a sweet job opportunity, even if you have all of the right qualifications. But hey, no pressure!

Here’s the deal:

During a job interview, everything you say matters. You want to make sure you’re focused on showing employers the best version of yourself and making a great impression, while making as few mistakes as possible.

With that in mind, here are the ten things you should never say during an interview if you want to land the job:

1“So sorry I’m late!”

Being late is a guaranteed way to make a bad impression before you even meet your interviewer, and there’s little chance that you’ll be able to recover from such an impression. First impressions are a big deciding factor in whether a company hires someone or not, so make yours count.

When you show up late for an interview, it shows that you have poor time management skills, and it shows that you don’t respect the company or the position. Yikes. Just be on time, or better yet, show up ten minutes early.

2“Could you hold on for a second? I have to take this.”

Texting or answering calls during an interview basically tells employers that you don’t care about the job opportunity and you have no problem with wasting their time. Ouch. Not the best move to make when you’re trying to land a job.

Just put your phone away and turn it completely off. Your priority is to give the interviewer your full attention, so make sure your phone doesn’t make an appearance. We know it’s hard to separate ourselves from our beloved smartphones, but you’ll be reunited soon enough.

3“I’m a perfectionist.”

A classic interview mistake is to answer the greatest weakness question with a strength. Saying that you’re a perfectionist or a workaholic isn’t going to impress anyone. In fact, you’ll sound just like everyone else who didn’t get the job.

Everyone has a weakness. The trick is to show the interviewer that you’re taking the steps necessary to improve upon your weaknesses, not that you’re just a completely perfect person with no faults.

4“So, what exactly do you guys do around here?”

If you don’t do some background research on the company before the interview, you might as well just not go at all. You never want to walk into the interview clueless about the company or the position.

Plus, if you get the classic “What do you know about our company?interview question, you’ll be left to make up something on the spot, and that never turns out well.

You want to show employers that you took the time to research the company and learn as much as you could — it lets them know that you’re motivated and genuinely excited to work with the company. Check out their company website and read up on their “About Us” section; you’re likely to find everything you need.

5“I know I don’t have much experience and I’m probably not the best fit, but…”

Don’t downplay your strengths! A job interview is not the time for you to be humble. On the contrary — it’s a time for you to sell yourself to employers on why you would be the perfect fit. Even if you don’t have all of the qualifications, that doesn’t mean you’re not the best person for the job.

Instead of drawing attention to your shortcomings, focus on the skills and experiences you do have, and how they can help you succeed in the position. Show the interviewer that you’re excited about the opportunity — a little enthusiasm can take you much further than just having a list of qualifications.

6“How much vacation time do I get?”

You haven’t even gotten a job offer, and you’re already asking about when you can leave. Yikes! Asking questions about time off during an interview will make employers think that you don’t even want to be there.

During an interview, employers want to know what you can do to help their company succeed, not how they can meet a list of your demands. If you get a job offer, vacation time will come up in the conversation — but if you bring up vacation time during the interview, you’ll probably be getting a rejection letter instead.

The same goes for questions about salary, flexible scheduling, or any other benefits or perks.

7“I’m a go-getter who thinks outside the box.”

Yawn! You might as well be saying “I’m a boring generic person who has no imagination and can’t think for themselves.” Skip the lame buzzwords. What are you “go-getting” anyway?

If you want to impress employers by showing them that you’re creative and a hard worker, show them that with your stories. Use words like “achieved,” “developed,” “created,” or “organized.” Using generic buzzwords with nothing to back them up is essentially giving employers an empty promise.

And whatever you do, please, leave “synergy” out of the conversation.

8“I don’t know.”

If you answer an interview question with “I don’t know,” you’re basically forfeiting the position to someone who can give basically any other answer.

Prepare ahead of time by practicing your answers to the most common interview questions. Even if you run into a question during the interview that stumps you, use one of these tactics. Anything is better than “I don’t know.”

9“It’s on my resume.”

This rude response to a question is surprisingly common. You might think you’re doing the interviewer a favor by pointing them to the information they asked about so they can see it in a well-formatted way.

But interviewers have already looked at your resume and you’re in the interview stage now. At this point, the hiring manager or recruiter is more interested in how you talk about your professional experiences. Your communication skills are being tested just as much as your credentials.

Your resume can be a great jumping-off point, but you have to make that dry document come alive throughout the conversation.

10“My last boss was a jerk.”

You might think some iteration of the above statement is an acceptable answer to questions like “why are you looking for a new job” or “why did you leave your last position.” These questions aren’t necessarily trying to bait you into negativity, but they do seem to invite a negative answer.

Avoid this temptation at all times. Talking negatively about your former boss, coworkers, or company writ large will raise red flags for most hiring managers and recruiters. The thing is, they only have your side of the story — as far as they’re concerned, it’s just as likely that you were the problem.

When you’re directly asked about a negative situation, always turn the conversation back to positivity. For example, if you’re asked about what you didn’t like about your old workplace, focus more on the positive changes you would’ve made and the lessons you learned from the experience.

11“I have the perfect answer for that…”

Okay, so that’s not exactly what you’d say (we hope). But what we’re really talking about here is memorizing your answers and spouting them out like you’re reading from a book. While it’s a great idea to prepare for the most common interview questions, you should always leave yourself some room for improvisation.

Interviewers want to hire people with the right qualifications, but they also want to add a personable, authentic person to their roster, not a finely-tuned robot.

We recommend coming up with several stories that cover all of the major categories of interview questions (accomplishments, conflicts, goals, etc.) and then prepare a rough set of bullet points for each.

That way, you’ll have the skeleton of a script that ensures you hit the most important points in your response, without locking yourself into memorizing a monologue.

12“Oh damn, really?”

Cursing is a big no-no at a job interview. It makes it seem like you’re taking the whole process too casually and some people find bad language disrespectful. Even if they’re not so prim and proper, most interviewers will take note of it and chalk it up to a lack of professionalism.

You might have the most casual interviewer in the world — a guy who swears so much he’d put a pirate to shame. That doesn’t give you license to swear at all. Regardless of the tone of the interview, keep your language family-friendly.

13“And on my sixth trip around Asia…”

A bit of small talk and conversation about non-work-related topics is perfectly fine at a job interview. Some interviewers enjoy warming up the conversation this way or winding down with more off-the-cuff conversation.

But when you start going into detail about your personal life and aspirations that have nothing to do with the job, you’re going to lose the interest of most hiring managers and recruiters.

Start slow when you’re sharing information about a hobby or experience that’s unrelated to the job. Gauge the interviewer’s interest and go from there.

14“This job will give me…”

At first glance, a statement about wanting the job because it will give you great experience sounds harmless. But to an interviewer, it sounds selfish and a bad reason for wanting the job.

While you can talk about being attracted to professional development opportunities and working alongside such talented individuals, you want to avoid sounding like the company will be paying you and educating you at the same time.

Instead, focus on the value that you’ll bring to the company. Always consider how your work fits into the broader goals of the employer, and frame your answers and motivations that way. While you might only want this job as a stepping stone to a grander career, it’s essential you don’t express that as your primary objective.

15“Um, like, er”

Filler words like this make you sound unprofessional and lacking in confidence. A hiring manager might reasonably think that you’ll have trouble communicating clearly with clients or team members, which is a necessity for most jobs.

We recommend performing a mock interview and recording yourself speaking. You might already have a good grasp on your biggest verbal tics, but listening to them can help you identify speech patterns you’d like to avoid.

Of course, these sorts of habits don’t go away overnight — just be conscious of them and minimize how often you let them slip during your interview.

16“No, I don’t have any questions.”

Big mistake. Huge! When the interview is coming to a close and you’re asked “So, do you have any questions for me?” you should always have a sturdy list of questions on hand for the interviewer. And never, no matter what, say “Nope! No questions here!”

Not having any questions basically tells employers that you don’t care about the company or the position enough to learn anything else about them. Having questions will also make your interview feel more like a conversation rather than a criminal interrogation.

17“Do you have an idea of when we’ll be wrapping this up?”

Asking about when the interview will be over gives the impression that you have somewhere more important to be. Your interview should be your number one priority, so treat it as such. If an employer thinks that there’s somewhere else you’d rather be, you can expect the interview to be over pretty quickly, along with your chances of getting the job.

Final Thoughts

Your biggest goal during a job interview is to show employers why you’re the best person for the job. Remember to focus on showing them what you have to offer, how you can help their company, and that you’re motivated to work with their team.

Saying anything that could make employers think otherwise is a great way to get yourself removed from the hiring process. Let’s not let this happen.

Be confident, do your research, and make the interview your biggest priority, and you’re sure to say all the right things and land the job!

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Author

Maddie Lloyd

Maddie Lloyd was a writer for the Zippia Advice blog focused on researching tips for interview, resume, and cover letter preparation. She's currently a graduate student at North Carolina State University's department of English concentrating in Film and Media Studies.

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