What NOT to say at a job interview
Clients often ask me whether there is anything they should avoid saying during a job interview. So I have put together a brief list of things I do not recommend saying to your potential employer.
DON´T tell any lies
First, to an experienced interviewer, lies are usually transparent. Second, lies will catch up with you. If you claim competences or experience you do not have, or say anything that is not true, and eventually you get the job, one day you might be confronted with the truth (e.g. get a task that counts on the experience) and risk consequences ranging from a disappointed manager to formal measures.
DON´T make promises you do not mean
Such as: “I would always give my job the highest priority, and find other solutions for my private life“, if you actually mean to stay at home with your three-year-old child whenever it gets sick. Making a false promise might help you convince the interviewer, but it will make it difficult (and cause nightmares) for you as soon as the situation changes.
DON´T give too general answers
Such as: “I am reliable and highly motivated.“ Always add details (motivated by what?) and examples (when and how did you prove reliable?). For that purpose, prepare some examples of your achievements in advance.
DON´T make strong statements without basis
Such as: “I am sure I would fit well into your team.“ You can definitely say something of that sort, but it is better to formulate it as a “belief“ instead of “being sure“, and add what your belief is based on. E.g. “I have always wanted to work in an environment like this: informal atmosphere, cosy premises, a small team. I believe I would fit in well.“
DON´T say negative things about your previous employers
Nowadays, people do not tend to stay in the same jobs forever. So your potential employer knows well that you might leave at some point. It is important for them to know how you tend to present your ex-employers. Thus, never say anything negative about your ex!
DON´T reveal sensitive information about other workplaces
Such as the workplace of your spouse. Your potential employer needs to see you can keep things secret and do not gossip. The interview is your chance to prove such qualities – no exceptions here.
DON´T give too much irrelevant information
Less can be more when it comes to sharing private information at the interview. It is not necessary that you have the same taste in music or hobbies as your potential manager, so why would you risk mentioning something rather uninteresting – or perhaps “weird“ – in their view (unless you know that they share your tastes!).
DON´T reveal higly personal information
Under EU legislation, employers are not allowed to ask about your nationality, religion, age, marital and family status, gender, health, or physical abilities, etc. It is shocking, but it still happens, that employers do ask “too friendly” questions – about maternity plans, for example. You could simply tell them it is not allowed, but if you still want to “keep it friendly”, try to use humour and a smile: say something very general – and change the topic, rather than providing any personal information E.g.: “My priority is to find out about this job option, first of all. Would you mind telling me more about the project you have just mentioned?”.
DON´T specify an exact number when asked about your desired salary
First, because you may say something unrealistically high or too low (which would be a pity). Second, it would show you have prepared that number in advance, before even knowing the details of the job. So you could try to avoid answering the question by telling them it depends on the exact requirements of the job, and asking them for more details (e.g. about particular tasks in the first half year, and the level of your responsibility). Alternatively, you could provide a broad range, based on your previous compensation packages and the typical wage in such positions.
DON´T pretend that you don´t have weaknesses
Everybody has some weaknesses, but not everybody is ready to admit them. The employer wants to see how well you know yourself and whether you are ready to work on further personal development. When asked about weaknesses, mention some that are not in contrast with the main job requirements – and always add an example of how you have been working to improve them.
As you can see from the suggested answers, my general recommendation is: if you are asked a question you cannot or do not want to answer, try to turn it around, and then you ask them something.
If you are asked about weaknesses, mistakes or failures, show your readiness to go on learning and improving.
Do you have a question about preparing for your interview? Do not hesitate to drop me an email: coach @ smallbigchange.com
Consider using individual coaching to get well prepared for self-presentation through your CV, cover letters or, at a job interview. You may also opt for trying an interview role-play, with feedback afterwards. Contact me here.