Your Job Interview: The 9 Worst Things to Say (And 1 You Should…)

Interviews are the holy grail for job seekers: It means your resume passed muster and you’re one step closer to getting an offer. But interviews can also be landmines for candidates who don’t know which phrases turn off potential employers. Below are the nine worst things you can say during your interview…and one that will impress the interviewer. 

Don’t say:

1) “My last boss was a complete nightmare.” No matter how poorly you were treated by your former employer, there’s no excuse for bringing up that baggage during a job interview. If you’re asked why you left your last position, it’s fine to gloss over an antagonistic relationship. “I needed a new challenge” or “I wanted to move into a role that would allow me to make a more significant contribution” are perfectly acceptable answers. 
2) “What will my salary be?” There will be plenty of time to discuss how much the job pays after you receive an offer. Asking this question sends the message that money is the only thing you’re interested in. Of course, salary is a crucial consideration, but wait until the interviewer brings it up—which may not happen in the first interview.  
3) “How many weeks of vacation will I get?” Similar to the salary question, asking about bonuses and benefits leaves a bad taste in the interviewer’s mouth. If and when you get an official job offer, your benefits and bonus structures will be outlined alongside the base salary.
4) “It’s like, you know, really hard to get a job right now.” Many people don’t pay attention to their speech patterns during casual conversations with friends and family. But be on your best “speaking” behavior during the interview, when slang and unnecessary words such as “like” and “you know” can make you sound less than professional.
5) “Well, you know how women are…” Language that stereotypes any ethnicity, gender, religion, etc. is always a bad idea. Most companies don’t want to hire people who are bigots because customers—and, hopefully, other employees—come in all shapes and sizes. Often, these “grouping” statements happen in an attempt to build a rapport with an interviewer, but stay far away from stereotypical language, even if the interviewer brings up a touchy subject first.
6) “So, tell me what your company does.” This is a big red flag that indicates you didn’t care enough about the interview to research the company and its products or services. Why come across as lazy when all you have to do is spend a few minutes on the Internet? 
7) “I don’t have any weaknesses.” It’s almost certain that you’ll be asked to describe your weaknesses during the interview. And while you don’t want to give them a laundry list of your shortcomings (“I’m not a morning person and don’t take direction well”), it’s very important to have a response in mind before you step foot into the interview. The key is to spin your weakness into a learning experience or, even better, something that will be seen as an asset. Try something along the lines of this: “I’ve always been a bit afraid of technology, but I recently took a PowerPoint course that completely changed the way I look at technology.”
8) “I hit that %#& project out of the park!” Don’t curse. It seems obvious, but many people use at least a little profanity in their everyday lives, and it’s hard to break a habit like that—especially if you’re nervous. But unless you’re interviewing for a job as a stand-up comedian, cursing is a one-way ticket to the door. The solution? As soon as you’ve booked an interview, remove all profanity from your speech so you’ve formed a new (clean!) habit before the meeting.
9) “No, I don’t have any questions for you.” At the end of every interview, candidates get the opportunity to question the interviewer. You should always have questions. Not only does it indicate a real interest in the job, but it’s a great way to dig for more information about what they’re looking for. For instance, when you ask, “How have people been successful/unsuccessful in this job?” it gives you a glimpse into what behaviors and characteristics you need to demonstrate if you want to do well.

Do say:

1) “I really want to work for XYZ company because…” One of the biggest mistakes candidates make is not being perfectly clear that they want the job. In trying to come off as professional, some of your passion can get lost. Let it out by identifying exactly why you want to work for them. Maybe you truly identify with their mission to eradicate illiteracy or you feel you can take a leadership role in their fledgling design department. Just make sure your reason doesn’t have anything to do with their high salaries and relaxed dress code.