What NOT to Say on an Interview

Career Blog

Beautiful business woman covering her mouth with her handsJob seekers have more resources at their disposal than ever before – from on-line assessments and interview guides to professional career coaches and books like The Introvert’s Guide to Job Hunting. The proliferation of tools help ensure candidates come to the table prepared to answer common behavior-based questions such as, “Can you tell me about a time you had to resolve a conflict between yourself and a co-worker?” or “Can you give me an example of how you won back the trust of a jilted customer?”

As a long-time hiring manager and HR professional, I’ve seen the collective uptick in performance firsthand. The increase in candidate sophistication only makes common blunders even more glaring. To keep your resume out of the circular file, avoid the following:

  1. “Sometimes I work too hard.” This is often used in response to the, “What’s your greatest weakness?” Say that and even a senior level recruiter may be unable to resist the eye roll. Instead of opting for a self-serving cliché, be thoughtful about your answer. If you’re applying for an accounting position and you say “math”, well you probably won’t get the job. Instead, cite an actual weakness (ideally one that is used infrequently in the role e.g. public speaking) and then follow up with what you are doing to improve that competency. This demonstrates that you are honest, self-aware, and willing to develop.  
  1. “I’m a people person.” This is often used in response to, the “Tell me about yourself.” request or “What is your greatest strength?”  The trouble with that response is that it’s a throw away line that offers no substance. Assuming working with others is a true interest or skill it’s important to be specific about the interaction e.g. “I enjoy coaching and mentoring others.” Then follow up with an example that validates your statement such as: “In college I volunteered at Big Brother’s Big Sisters, counseled incoming freshmen or held a part time customer services job at ABC.”
  1. “Ummmm.” This is most often uttered or should I say stuttered in response to the “What makes you the best candidate for the job?” Instead of fumbling around for an answer at the last minute, come prepared with a clear rationale. For example, you could acknowledge that while there are likely several qualified candidates, you believe that you’re an excellent fit because you can not only do the job (have skills A,B,C) you actually want this job at this company because (insert win statement for you and the employer).

Good interviews are meant to be conversations where both parties learn about each other and how they could produce a mutually beneficial relationship. Honesty is key. No one expects you to be perfect on an interview and so it’s doubtful that one misstep will cost you’re the job. That said, it’s important to think about your answers and ensure they accurately represent who you are and what you offer. Throw away line, clichés, and omissions – intentional or not, do little to help in that regard.  

Need a career coach? Contact me via www.plotlineleadership.com.

Be sure to check out my new book The Introvert’s Guide to Job Hunting and follow me on Twitter at @timtoterhi


Share This Article


Leave a Comment


Pin It on Pinterest