What NOT to Say in an Interview

Alas, the ways you can get yourself into trouble during an interview are astounding.

Alas, the ways you can get yourself into trouble during an interview are astounding.

Aside from things like mispronouncing the hiring manager’s name or making a joke that bombs, there are some scenarios where you are more likely to plant your foot firmly in your mouth.

What Not to Say in an Interview (and What You Should Say Instead)

Ready, Aim, Fired

Don’t Say: They made a big mistake in letting me go. They should have fired the account manager instead.” Whatever the reason you were let go from your last job, don’t speak condescendingly of your former employer or colleagues. Trying to shift the situation away from yourself and getting defensive is enough to kill your chances.

Do Say: “This is what happened… and this is what I learned.Ivy Exec Career Coach Nii Ato Bentsi-Enchill offers the following advice: “Own your answer. Start with the truth and try to put the focus on a positive recounting, message, or learnings.” Similar to answering the question about your greatest weaknesses, you want to always speak positively about the situation and uncover how you came out from the experience stronger than before.

Tell me about your relationship with your last boss

Don’t Say: “He was a real jerk and had no idea what he was talking about.” Yes you could say that. But of course this is a completely loaded question, and your answer just shot your chances of getting the job in the foot. The interviewer wants to know a few things here: whether you were able to form a relationship with your last boss that helped build trust and results, and how you most likely are going to get along with senior management at the new company. And even if you weren’t able to have a great relationship with your former boss, talking smack never looks good. It’s a solid indication that if you left this potential new company, you would go on to smack talk them as well!

Do Say: “We disagreed on certain points.” Even if your boss is a dolt and makes poor decisions that fueled your search for a new job, be positive about the situation. If your boss didn’t share the same values or principles, you might tell the hiring manager that you chose their company because they share the values that you hold.

Money. It’s a gas

Don’t say: “So what is the base salary and commission structure?” There’s no better way to express that you are more interested in the money than the role (especially on a first interview).

Do say: Well — just don’t say anything! Wait until the hiring manager brings it up. If they ask towards the end of the interview process, then they are seriously considering you as a candidate and you can begin negotiating. But if they start asking about your desires early in the interview, try to answer that it is negotiable or that you prefer talking about it after you know whether you are right for the company, and vice versa.

Ask the right questions

Don’t Say: “So how long has the company been around?” Really? If you can Google the answer to the question you are planning to ask the hiring manager – then don’t ask it. It’s a dead giveaway that you didn’t research a company thoroughly.

Do Say: “I’ve noticed that the company seems to be heading in a new direction recently…” If you do your research, you can ask questions that you already know the answer to, and can follow up to the manager’s comments with your own PAR–Problem, Action, Results–stories.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

Don’t Say: How Soon Will I Be Promoted? It’s good to express your excitement and willingness to succeed at a company. But you don’t want to come out saying that you think you are either too good for the role or are less interested in the actual job offer, and really wish there was a Director or VP level role in the same vein.

Do Say: I’m excited to take on and excel in this role. Show them you are on board and in it for the long-haul. Hiring managers don’t like job hoppers – so if you can convince them that you are here to stay, they will look upon you favorably.

About the Author

Greg Olsten is Ivy Exec's Sr. Content Manager, producing Online Classes, and Executive Intelligence articles.