An employment interview is stressful. You need to say the right things to convince the hiring manager you’re the perfect person for the job. But you also need to be sure your nervousness doesn’t get the best of you and cause you to say something you’ll regret. Saying the wrong thing can cost you the opportunity, no matter how skilled or experienced you are.
Here are examples of what not to say to a hiring manager:
No-no No. 1: “My current boss is a jerk!” or “I left the company because it was a rotten place to work.”
Never badmouth a current or former employer. Even if you have had legitimate issues with a colleague, boss or company, don’t air the dirty laundry in front of the person with whom you interview. Complaining about others will just make you appear bitter and resentful and could cause the hiring manager to wonder about your attitude if you were to be hired at his or her firm. Stick to neutral comments such as, “I am looking for a different work environment” or “My career goals have changed” if you’re pressed for details about your desire for a new position.
No-no No. 2: “How much vacation time do I get?” or “What’s the bonus structure like?”
Questions like these tell a prospective employer one thing: You’re more concerned about the perks of the position than the job itself. It’s OK to ask these questions if you have been through several interviews and the hiring manager has expressed serious interest in hiring you. At that point, these types of inquiries allow you to make an informed decision about whether or not you truly want the job. But until then, focus your efforts on what you can offer the company, not what it can offer you.
No-no No. 3: “How much longer will this interview take? I have another appointment soon,” or “Do you mind if I make a quick phone call?”
An important part of the interview is, of course, treating the hiring manager with respect. Asking questions like these makes you seem rude, as if the interview were something of an inconvenience for you. Instead, take pains to show how interested you are in the opportunity. Arrive to the interview on time — or better yet, a few minutes early. Remain attentive throughout the meeting by taking notes and maintaining the right posture: Look the interviewer in the eye; nod when you agree with or understand a point he or she is making; and avoid crossing your arms, tapping your feet or displaying other signs of impatience. If you do have another appointment after the interview, leave a large enough window in case the meeting runs long or let the interviewer know ahead of time.
No-no No. 4: “I don’t want to have to work late,” or “I’d rather not learn PowerPoint.”
You don’t want an interviewer to view you as inflexible, which is exactly how he or she will if you make statements like these. Keep an open mind about a position that interests you, even if some aspects of it don’t seem ideal. Other factors — such as a higher-than-expected salary or the possibly to advance quickly — could outweigh the need to work overtime on occasion, for example. At the same time, don’t overlook absolute deal-breakers. If you do not want to travel for work, no matter the circumstance, let the employer know the opportunity is not right for you as soon as you realize that.
No-no No. 5: “Fortunately, my bad habits haven’t caught up with me,” or “I am one party animal.”
While you want the hiring manager to be able to get a sense of your personality, you don’t want him or her to know everything about you. When the hiring manager says, “Tell me about yourself,” use discretion and avoid the urge to overshare.
As a Robert Half survey indicated, strong people skills are among the most valuable qualities a job candidate can display when competing against another person with similar skills and experience. The first chance you get to show your strength in this area is during the interview, so think twice before you speak when meeting with an employer.
Robert Half International is the world’s first and largest specialized staffing firm, with a global network of more than 360 offices. For more information about our professional services, please visitroberthalf.com.