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What Not to Say During an Interview

What Not to Say During an Interview

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I’ve conducted 300+ interviews over the past 10 years. During onboarding seasons I sat down with so many potential candidates who said such similar things they would often blend together. And it became obvious to me what not to say during an interview.

I wasn’t looking for superstars or extreme talent. I was looking for the right fit. I wasn’t looking for magic words or the perfectly constructed answer to a tricky question. But my ears were tuned to those who stood out-for better or for worse. Unfortunately, it’s actually easier for us to look bad during an interview than to look good.

What not to say during an interview:

“I’m a quick learner.” Sounds like you don’t know things.

What to say instead: Describe a new role or function you held that required you to develop mastery quickly.

“I’m a people person.” It’s so common it’s become meaningless.

What to say instead: They’ll know whether you’re a people person not from your interview, but from how you interact with others before and after the interview. Don’t act smug or smarmy. Don’t carry yourself like you want to impress people. Just be kind, warm, and understated.

“If you’ll just give me a chance.” Sounds desperate.

What to say instead: Portray the positives you see in their company culture and how you’re drawn to want to be a part.

“To be honest with you.” Were you not being honest already?

What to say instead: Use other terms for emphasis. “To put it simply…”

Don’t be critical of your previous employer.

What to say instead: In many interviews, expect to be asked to share a tough situation you previously had to overcome.

I was asked this during an interview. The interviewer wanted specifics, oddly. I hemmed and hawed around it so much the conversation started to feel weird. Within 10 minutes the interviewer said that he didn’t think the place I came from gave me the right priorities. He didn’t seem to question my character. He seemed to have assumed that wasn’t the environment he wanted to hire someone from. Actually, he said that out loud.

Truth be told, don’t paint a poor picture of your previous employment. This will reflect on you.

“No, I don’t have any questions. I think you answered everything!”

Be ready for any question…

What to say instead: This is certainly what not to say during an interview. Come prepared with specific questions. Ask what they are looking for. What are the expectations for that role? How can a person grow, excel and really own that role?

Talking through, or practicing with a friend beforehand, will ready you against what not to say during an interview.


Every hiring manager is looking for something specific. Sometimes you can get this out of them by asking what they’re looking for. Be ready to translate your experience to how you fulfill that.

Good luck landing the job you want! If you’re not currently on the market, make sure to stay sharp and keep your resume updated. Walk into your next opportunity knowing what not to say during an interview!

Check out – How to Ask for a Raise and What Not to Do

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