Things NOT to say during a job interview

Today’s post is actually based on an article titled Nine Things Never to Say to Your Boss that was published on Monster.com, but most of those “things never to say” are easily adaptable to the interview situation.

1. “I need a raise.”

While you wouldn’t be asking for a raise in a job interview, what this suggestion reminds us is that you should never bring up salary (or benefits) in an initial interview. This is fairly common knowledge, but if you’re inexperienced at searching for a job, you may not realize that there is a time and place to share that information. As I discuss in Tip 46 Know when to ask about salary and benefits, you don’t want to ask about this until you’ve been made an offer—although in some cases the employer will bring it up sooner, so you need to be prepared to deal with questions about what salary you hope to earn. The work I suggest you do in Step 3: Research Potential Jobs will help you figure out what is reasonable for particular jobs in particular geographic areas.

2. “That just isn’t possible.”

The article is telling you how to respond when your boss makes impossible demands. The comparable topic in a job interview would be if the interviewer says that there are tasks required of the job that you don’t know how to do; for example, the interviewer may say that you need to work with unfamiliar software or complete statistical analyses that you’ve never done before. In those situations—and you should be prepared for them if you have researched the job and the company carefully—you need to be ready to explain how you will make up for that lack of knowledge. You can say you’re planning to take a course, have signed up for a workshop, or have purchased a book on the topic which you’re studying—or mention any other reasonable method you know of for learning about that requirement.

3. “I can’t stand working with ____.”

Again, this exact conversation isn’t going to come up since it’s unlikely that you will know the other people you would be working with. But you may get asked questions about your prior experiences working on a team, either at a job or in the classroom. You need to demonstrate that you know how to get along with others, and having examples of teamwork experiences in mind is a good way to talk about this topic.

4. “I partied too hard last night — I’m so hung over!” 

This one is pretty obvious—I can’t imagine anyone would go into an interview and say this! But from what I have heard from corporate recruiters, the way that people behave in interviews isn’t always logical. The underlying message here is to be professional—and show up rested, prepared, and at your best for every job interview. Save partying for the night after you get a good job offer, when you have a reason to celebrate—as long as you don’t have to start work the next day!

5. “But I emailed you about that last week.”

Sending an email does not mean you can forget about whatever it is you sent. If you were asked to submit materials—say a writing sample or references—via email prior to the interview, be sure to follow up before the interview to make sure your materials arrived. And bring print copies with you to the interview just in case they got lost. That way, if the interviewer has dropped the ball, you’ve made up for the oversight and no awkwardness or embarrassment will occur.

6. “It’s not my fault.”

The basic lesson here is to take responsibility for your actions. If you’re asked why your grades were poor in English, don’t say it’s the teacher’s fault. If asked why you were late (oh, no, you weren’t late were you?), don’t blame the traffic. Find a way to respond, explain why it won’t happen again or how you can fix the problem, and move on.

7. “I don’t know.” 

The response to this in the Monster.com article is so perfect that I’m just going to paste it here: “If your boss asks you a question you can’t answer, the correct response is not ‘I don’t know.’ It’s ‘I’ll find out right away.’”

8. “But we’ve always done it this way.” 

The comparable statement in an interview could be, “But I was taught to do it a different way.” While most organizations are gong to be interested in new ideas, you need to make sure you learn their way of doing things before you make suggestions for change.

9. “Let me set you up with…” 

What the article is saying is don’t try to help your single boss get a date. I can’t imagine this ever coming up in a job interview—but if the interviewer is single and actually brings it up, you may want to think twice about working at that company.