I get a lot of questions from clients asking what they should say in a job interview when responding to common interview questions. But rarely does someone ask me what they should never say in a job interview. However, this knowledge is just as important (if not more!) than the knowledge of what to say.
I can remember when I was doing my first job search, I really just wanted to answer the question “What is your greatest weakness?” with, “Chocolate.” Of course I knew better! But some people still say things which seem obvious not to say. And then there are those not-so-obvious things.
I could spend quite a bit of time discussing all the things you should never say in a job interview. But for this post, I’m going to focus on the top five things most candidates mistakenly say but should never utter.
Top 5 Things You Should Never Say in a Job Interview
1. Don’t share anything too personal
When answering “Tell us about yourself,” never tell the interviewer your personal history starting from kindergarten! They don’t care where you went to middle school, what your favorite color is, or what your dog’s name is.
Instead, talk about your professional self, including your strengths and experience, your interest in the job, and how you can make a contribution to the company. Show them you can be a problem-solver for them!
This is not to say you can’t use a personal challenge you’ve faced in your life that shows your problem-solving skills or your ability to adapt or be resilient. Sometimes those kind of personal stories can tell the interviewer a lot about your character.
I once hired an intern based on a story she shared about what it’s been like for her to grow up with a sibling with Down Syndrome. She shared this personal story in a professional way and related it back to her ability to perform the job at hand.
Therefore, if you do decide to share a personal challenge, I advise you to follow the same approach. Don’t get too bogged down into the details of your personal situation. Instead, show how you’ve grown from it and how this growth has made you a better person for the job.
2. Avoid generalities
Always avoid speaking in generalities. You want to provide specific examples of how you’ve previously demonstrated your strengths.
I’ve said this time and time again on this blog, but I cannot stress enough the importance of doing this! Your specific examples are what differentiate you from the other candidates.
*To learn how to do this, check out my post The Secret to Answering Behavioral Interview Questions.
3. Never show you’ve not done your research
When asked “What do you know about us?” don’t just talk about what you found on the company’s web site.
Dig deeper by studying the company’s past press releases, annual reports (if they’re a public company), and social media posts to show the knowledge you’ve gained from your research.
4. Don’t be the first one to mention salary
NEVER bring up salary until they do, and even then, don’t try to negotiate until there’s an offer on the table.
If you are being pressured for an amount you’re seeking, always give a range, never a single dollar amount. The range you give should never start with your lowest amount you’re willing to take. Start slightly higher than the starting number in your range because you can always negotiate down, but you can’t negotiate up.
5. Never say yes right away
Finally, don’t say yes to the first offer.
Know that you can typically negotiate salary and most employers expect you to! If you don’t, you could end up leaving a significant amount of money (and benefits!) on the table.
Get more tips on how to prepare for job interviews and how to negotiate salary in the following ways:
- Free 10-minute career success video: The Most Common Job Interview Mistakes and How to Avoid Them
- E-book Foolproof Strategies for Acing the Interview, available for purchase on Amazon Kindle
- On-demand program Steps to Acing the Interview and Reducing Your Interview Anxiety(e-book included)