In an interview, your primary goal is to get across to the hiring manager why you—above all the other candidates—are the right person for the job.
That you have the right set of skills, a great personality, and the drive to really make things happen in your new role.
But as you’re preparing answers to interview questions that’ll let you do all of those things, it’s equally important to know what the hiring manager will consider a red flag. After all, a wrong move or two, and it won’t matter how great your sales numbers at your last job were.
To help you out, steer clear of these 30 messages. You’ll make sure that your awesome abilities and accomplishments will be what your interviewer remembers.
1. “So, tell me what you do around here.”
Rule #1 of interviewing: Do your research. You never want to walk into an interview knowing next to nothing about the position or company—you want to show that you’re excited enough that you’ve done some homework and thought about how you’d fit in.
To get started, do some online research (here’s your game plan), and try to find a current or past employee you can talk to before the big day.
2. “Ugh, my last company…”
No matter how bad a job was, you never, ever want to badmouth a former employer in an interview.
Keep your tone somewhere between neutral and positive, focusing on what you’ve learned from each experience and what you’re hoping to do in the future. This especially applies when you’re talking about why you’re leaving—here are a few tips on how to do it right.
3. “I didn’t get along with my boss.”
Similarly, you don’t want to speak negatively about anyone you’ve worked with in the past. Even if a previous manager could put the characters in Horrible Bosses to shame, your interviewer doesn’t know that—and could wonder whether you’re the difficult one to work with.
4. “I’m really nervous.”
Even if you’re more nervous than you’ve ever been, no company wants to hire someone who lacks confidence. “So, in this case, honesty is not the best policy,” says Amy Hoover, president of the job board TalentZoo. “Fake it ’til you make it!” (Via Business Insider)
5. “I’ll do whatever.”
Most hiring managers are looking for people who are incredibly passionate about the role they’re taking on.
So when you say something to the effect of, “I don’t care what jobs you have available—I’ll do anything!” that’s a big red flag. Instead, target your search to a specific role at each company, and be ready to explain why it’s exactly what you’re looking for.
6. “I know I don’t have much experience, but…”
This mistake is easy to make, especially if you’re a recent grad or career changer. Problem is, when you apologize for experience you don’t have, you’re essentially saying that you’re not a great hire, that you’re not quite the right fit for the role, or even that you would be starting from square one.
And that’s just not the case! Instead of drawing attention to your weaknesses, stay positive, focus on your strengths, and immediately launch into your transferable skills and infectious enthusiasm for the position. Here are a few better phrases to try instead.
7. “It’s on my resume.”
“Here’s the thing; I know it’s on your resume, but if I’m asking you about a particular job or experience, I want you to tell me more beyond a written word. I’m actually evaluating your communication and social skills.
Are you articulate? Should you be client-facing, or are you someone we need to keep hidden in the basement next to the IT lending library?”says Nando Rodriguez, Head of Employment Branding at Ogilvy & Mather.
“If a recruiter is asking you about a certain skill, don’t reference your resume, and instead use it as your moment to shine.”
8. “Yes! I have a great answer for that!”
Practiced your answers to some interview questions? Great. But don’t memorize them word for word. When you’re hyper-prepared and hanging on the edge of your seat waiting for certain questions for which you’ve prepared to be asked, you willlikely have a very hard time engaging in genuine conversation with the interviewer.
And interviewers don’t tend to hire detached people who can’t seem to have a genuine conversation. Certainly, walk in prepared, but force yourself to not memorize or over-rehearse the practice questions.
9. “Perfectionism is my greatest weakness.”
Here’s the thing: Chances are, telling a hiring manager that perfectionism is your greatest weakness won’t surprise him or her—and it might come off as sounding like an overly rehearsed cliché.
It also doesn’t offer much of a true insight into your work style or personality (especially if half the other candidates are giving the same response). Try a more genuine response (here are some ideas)—and if perfectionism really is your greatest weakness? Use these tips to spin it right.
10. “I’m the top salesperson at the company—and I have two semesters worth of Spanish.”
In an article for the Harvard Business Review, Heidi Grant Halvorson gives an excellent example of a case in which less is more:
Instead of stopping after describing your degrees from Harvard, your relevant internships, and your technical expertise—you tack on your two semesters of college-level Spanish. Maybe Spanish is relevant to the job, but even so, according to the “Presenter’s Paradox,” rather than seeing that as a bonus, our minds tend to average out the impressiveness of the listed achievements.
Try to keep any string of accomplishments you mention within the same range of impressiveness as others, and either leave out the outliers or wait for a better opportunity to talk about them (when they won’t be stacked against your highest achievements).