If you were in high school in the early 2010s, you might remember taking careers class. There, teachers taught how to write resumes despite students having next to nothing to put in them, how to dress for job interviews (wear a clean shirt), and how to present ourselves during that interview. Some of their advice rings true – you should have some knowledge of the company already, enough to ask a question or two at the end of the interview. You should talk about what you can do for them– sell yourself a bit. Think in terms of marketing. Hubspot has a good slogan – attract them. When asked about weaknesses, don’t tell them your actual weakness, instead say something positive/negative like ‘I’m a perfectionist’.

After a whole generation being taught to say ‘I’m a perfectionist’, it’s been reduced to a cliché that makes you seem ingenuine.  Here are a few other things to avoid saying or doing while being interviewed.

1. “How much does this job pay?”


That is not something to bring up off the bat during an interview. Asking about how much you’ll be paid, how much vacation time you’ll get or if you’ll get to work from home makes you seem rather self centered and can be quite off-putting.

Instead, ask these questions once you’re at the offer stage.

2. “My last boss was an idiot.”


Do not speak rudely about your last employer. It’s important that you don’t badmouth your current role or team when discussing why you’re pursuing a new role. Instead of agreeing with you, future employers are more likely to side with your previous supervisor. Speaking ill of them makes you seem difficult to manage.

Instead, don’t say anything judgemental about your current employer. When asked about your current position, you could reply with something like “I feel like it’s time to explore other opportunities.” Don’t say anything personal about anyone you’ve worked for.  

3. “I’m a perfectionist”


It’s a bit like that fad among the previous generation to print their resumes on fancy, marbled paper. It makes no difference when everyone is doing it.

When asked about your greatest weakness, you could instead give a weakness that’s not related to the job you’re applying for. If you’re applying to be a bookkeeper, you could talk about your challenges with managing people, since that’s outside the scope of your function. Or you could talk about a weakness you had and how you overcame it like, “I used to be bad at time management and deciding how much time to spend on tasks, but thanks to….” You could turn this into a declaration of your drive to learn and improve, which appeals to employers.

4. “I’ll be sitting where you are,” when asked where you see yourself in five years.


While confidence is great, being cocky or arrogant is not. Remember that interviewers are there to evaluate your character, whether you’ll work well on a team and follow orders. You want to seem easy to work with here.

This is a question you may want to do some research on beforehand. Where do people in the position you’re applying for typically wind up a few years down the road? First, that demonstrates you’re knowledgeable about the position. Or you could start off talking about what’s typical then what you hope to achieve in five years.

5. “I get nervous at interviews.”


Honesty is good but to a limit. You want to project confidence during interviews as it demonstrates preparedness and a sense that you’ll be decisive when push comes to shove. If anything, talking about how nervous you are will make you even more nervous and won’t come across favourably to employers.

Instead, say something like “I’m happy to be here.” This phrase better conveys how you feel to be there – you are glad aren’t you?  It also reflects some of that nervous enthusiasm you feel but in a way that presents better to interviewers.

6. “I was really great at X, Y, Z.”


If you’re going to brag, make sure able to illustrate your abilities with data to support your claims. Everyone can and probably does talk about how great they were at a previous role but numbers and evidence speak more convincingly for themselves.

Instead, say something like “I grew sales by 30% last quarter”. If you don’t have actual numbers, go by customer testimony like “customers really appreciated that I….”

7. “I don’t have any questions.”


When asked if you have any questions, it’s a good idea to have one or two prepared. If you’ve done your research about the company, you could ask something specific (but not prying) about the work and what you’ll be doing. This shows that you’re interested in the company and makes you seem engaged.

Ask about the interviewer’s experiences working at the company like, “What’s something you find challenging about working in this field that someone just starting out wouldn’t know about?”. Not only will this be informative to you, it opens a discussion between you and the interviewer, making you at least memorable to them. Interviewers have reported that conversational skills are one of the most positive factors that inform the decision to hire a candidate.

It may be tempting to say something unconventional to stand out, but your goal in an interview is to convey how you’re the right fit for the job, which includes not just skills but how you work with people. Interview questions are the first tools employers use to evaluate your character, so if you want to stand out, stand out for being knowledgeable about the company and asking specific questions no one else thought of that demonstrate that you’ve done research. With that, you’ll be sure to set yourself apart from the crowd – in a good way.

Posted on: October 30, 2017 | Author: Jason

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