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7 Things You Should Avoid Saying In a Job Interview (and Why)

Matthew Williams

Interviews can be stressful. A lot rests on this brief window of opportunity, with a career, financial security, and self-fulfillment potentially on the other side of a short conversation with a stranger.

How you conduct yourself during a job interview, therefore, is vital. Of almost equal importance as what we say, is what we don't. Saying the wrong thing can cause an otherwise flawless interview to spiral downwards and undo 45 minutes of hard work.

Below, we've put together a short list of some of the things you should not say during your next job interview. These job interview faux pas' are red flags for recruiters and lessen your chances of landing the job considerably.

1.   “Dunno”

There's nothing wrong with being unsure about how to answer a question. Sometimes, in job interviews, the interviewer will throw us a curve ball and field a question at us that we may not have prepared for. Avoid the temptation to tell the interviewer a glib "I'm not sure" or "I don't know." This indicates you are unable to think on your feet and wrestle with issues that may crop up in the role on offer.

Instead, try not to freeze as the feeling of dread washes over you. Relish the opportunity to demonstrate your sharp mind and try to formulate an answer to their question. Don't be afraid to request a moment to gather your thoughts or more information if necessary.

2.   Unprofessional language

We are most confident when we are being true to ourselves. During a job interview, then, we can express confidence by revealing our personality. Job interviewers want to get a feel for who you are as much as they want to discuss your formal education and qualifications.

It's important, however, to not slip into using unprofessional language. If an interview is going well, it's often the case that people will let their guard down a little and perhaps speak more colloquially.

In most cases, it's best to retain a professional demeanor even if the interviewer demonstrates a more casual attitude. This means not swearing, using slang terms, and speaking with clarity and brevity.

3.   Put yourself down

Self-deprecation, while sometimes humorous, is unsuitable for a job interview.  Whether it's a coping mechanism to deal with the stressful interview scenario or it's a genuine admittance of your shortcomings, leave it out.

Employers want to recruit people with self-confidence who are able to remain positive even in stressful situations. If there's something you are incapable of doing, for example, and it crops up during an interview, express enthusiasm about learning and training towards that goal. Don't avoid answering questions, but always give a positive answer to a question, tackling questions in a way that highlights your abilities.

4.   Speak in clichés

When asked where you see yourself in five years, it's probably best not to say "CEO of the company" or other such clichés. Telling a job interviewer that you’re “passionate” about what they do, you’re “a natural leader,” or what a “team player” you are could ring alarm bells.

While recruiters are looking for confidence and perhaps a bit of a competitive streak, overuse, generic phrases, and prepared answers can come across as unoriginal. This gives the recruiter the impression you are unable to think for yourself and can harm your chances of getting the job.

Instead, speak authentically. For example, you could explain that you envision yourself in a more senior role perhaps running a small team within the company with more responsibility.

5.   Ask how you did

You’ve spent 45 minutes to an hour nailing your job interview, don’t undo all your hard work by asking the interviewer how you did on your way out.

There’s a time and place for feedback on your interview, typically with a follow-up email, phone call, or letter. Looking for feedback before your interviewer has even had time to digest the interview is inappropriate and can put both of you in an awkward position.

If the interview went well, your asking can make it seem that you don’t understand basic work protocols. If the interview went less than great, receiving negative feedback then and there can be a bit demoralising and even upsetting.

6.   Complain about previous jobs and employers

Even if your last employer was a nightmare to work for, avoid expressing negativity about your past jobs. Interviewers often ask such questions that invite negativity to see how we respond.

Instead of ranting about how terrible your last place was, maintain professionality, confess there were some challenges but that the role has prepared you for new challenges. Explain, for instance, that your previous job has been full of challenges that have led to self-growth but it does not have the right roles available for you to advance your career.

Reframing your answers in a positive way like this encourages the interviewer to see you as upbeat, positive, and forward-looking. It also avoids the interviewer wondering if you would speak so negatively about the role on offer.

7.   Ask about pay, holiday time, and benefits

Lastly, a job interview is a conversation to find out if you are most suitable for a role, it is not the time to be bringing up salary raises, holiday time, and benefits. Discussing these topics at this early juncture is off-putting to most job interviewers who, ideally, want to see interviewees excited about working for their company. Trying to negotiate time off before landing the job can give mixed signals about your priorities and your suitability for the job.

While these topics aren’t always taboo to discuss during a job interview, it’s important not to give the impression that you are only applying for the role for the material benefits. These are best brought up after a job offer or during a second interview should there be one.


Taking time to consider what not to say during a job interview can help us avoid giving interviewers the wrong impression. Avoiding the above verbal traps keeps our responses honest, positive, and appropriate.

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