There is no doubt that a job interview can be nerve-wracking, even for tenured professionals.
However, they are a valuable opportunity to help you stand out from other candidates.
While it's important to think carefully about what to say in a job interview, it’s just as critical to know what to avoid, especially if nerves get the better of you.
Here are six ‘don’t go there’ responses to avoid during an interview.
1. “My current boss is impossible to please.”
If there is one golden rule of what to say in a job interview, it’s staying positive, or at least impartial, if you’re asked about your past or present employer.
Making negative comments about the boss or your workplace may allow you to vent some steam. But it’s unlikely to reflect well on you. For a starters, you never know if the person on the other side of the desk has close ties with your boss. Bad-mouthing your employer can also raise questions in the interviewer’s mind about what you will say about their organisation if you land the role.
Here’s a better option. Skip emotionally charged comments and stick to neutral facts. Instead of saying, “My current job is going absolutely nowhere”, try something more professional along the lines of “I am keen to explore a new career path”. Bypass responses like “My last job was mind-numbingly boring” and instead explain “I’m looking for an opportunity to extend my skillset” to create a great first impression.
2. “IKR, that’s so LOL!”
Overly casual language, addressing the interviewer in informal terms (like mate or sweetheart) or worse, swearing, is highly unprofessional and can be a source of offence.
Even if the interviewer tosses around the occasional slang word, don’t follow their lead. Remember, an interview is the equivalent of an audition, and it's important to act the part of a professional.
3. “Do you mind if I just take this call?”
Your phone may be indispensable, but taking a call mid-interview isn’t going to earn you any kudos. It disrupts your chain of thought, and as far as the interviewer is concerned it suggests the role on offer isn’t your top priority.
The solution is simple. Switch off the phone to avoid being distracted before heading into the interview.
4. “I boosted the PCLs and TBDs and that saw an uptick in OEDs.”
Pardon? Liberally peppering responses with industry jargon, buzzwords and specialist acronyms may seem like a smart move, however strong communication skills are highly valued in today’s workplace.
Use the job interview to demonstrate that communication is one of your strengths by using clear language. Explaining your skills, experience and noteworthy achievements in straightforward terms is a great way to highlight your ability to convey complex issues to a broad cross-section of colleagues.
5. “What do I know about your current IT partnerships? Um, let me think…”
Knowing what to say in a job interview doesn’t just boil down to practice. Research plays a key role too. Hiring managers like to see that you have at least taken the time to understand something about the company you are applying to work for. Otherwise, responses such as the above will result in both an awkward silence and a fading opportunity for a call-back.
So take the time to invest studying and researching about the company you are applying for. The details you discover will be useful if you are asked about issues specific to the organisation, and it also allows you to tailor comments on your skills and experience in a way that is relevant to this particular job.
6. “What’s the pay like?”
At some stage the issue of remuneration will be raised – just don’t be the first to raise it. The risk in asking too early imparts that money is the main catalyst for your application. While the question will ultimately need to be discussed, your first job interview should be about getting to know your professional qualifications.
However if salary expectations are raised by the interviewer, you will need to be ready. You need to stay up to date with an understanding of the market salary that applies to your role, level of experience and industry. Salary guides are extremely helpful here, and will prevent you being tongue-tied over what to say in a job interview when talk turns to money.
Avoid the awkward silence by planning what to say in a job interview
It’s highly likely a hiring manager will round up the interview by asking if you have any questions. One of the worst responses you can offer is “No”. Instead, seize the opportunity to showcase your additional skills, highlight special experience or demonstrate particular interest in the company or industry.
A little forward planning can help you decide what to say in a job interview when it is you who starts posing the questions. Maybe ask the interviewer what they believe is the best part of working for the company.
Demonstrating that you’re interested in the organisation isn’t flattery. It’s a clever strategy that can help you stay uppermost in the hiring manager’s mind.