Job interviews are tricky – you think you’re confident in all your answers and then one little unexpected question makes you slip up and say the wrong thing. Be thoughtful about your interview answers – take a second to answer if you need to – and whatever you do next, just make sure to avoid the four following phrases.
1. “I hated my last job.”
Never say anything negative about your former companies, bosses or co-workers at a job interview. Even if you were treated poorly at a prior job or suffered through an incredibly toxic workplace, no hiring manager has a way of knowing if you’re telling the truth or not. Since there may be the odd case that someone is exaggerating their mistreatment at a former job, hiring managers will automatically write you off for saying negative things about a prior job. Think about it: you wouldn’t want to bring drama or negativity into your workplace, and neither would they.
Even if your last job was horrible, only talk about it kindly. You don’t have to lie, just try to focus on the positives: if you hated your boss, just don’t bring up your boss, and instead state that you learned a lot at that job, or speak highly of the duties you enjoyed performing.
2. “I want to have your job someday.”
To you, this may sound like you have high aspirations. To the hiring manager, it simply sounds like someone wants to steal their job! And, obviously, the hiring manager wants to keep their job, so don’t come into their office threatening it. It sounds more arrogant than you may intend it to be – a manager may think you’re asserting that you can do their job better than they can.
Instead, simply say you’d like to work your way up in the company. This shows that you plan on sticking with the company long-term, but you also are a very ambitious person.
3. “I know I don’t have that much experience.”
Never speak negatively about yourself in a job interview period, but this phrase in particular is one that you should absolutely avoid. You may think it’s going to be a good thing: “I know I don’t have much experience, but I’m willing to learn.” Sure, that sounds positive, but a hiring manager will hone in on the fact that you’re insecure about your abilities and be reminded you don’t have as much experience as other potentials. Maybe they didn’t even see you as inexperienced until you pointed it out – you never know!
Only speak about the experience that you do have and feel free to emphasize that you’d like to learn and grow more within this field – just don’t state that you’re starting from the bottom outright. A lack of confidence in your abilities is a bad look, so always be positive when speaking about yourself.
4. “I don’t know.”
I get it, I’ve been in plenty of job interviews where unexpected questions hit me and I had no idea how to respond. It happens to everyone, I promise. That being said, you absolutely cannot say “I don’t know” or “I’m not sure” no matter what. Trying to answer the question will always be a million times better than an “I don’t know” even if it’s not a great answer – at least you gave the question your best shot. It’ll seem like you’re committed to trying to solve a problem rather than simply shrugging, saying you can’t solve it, and moving on.
If you just can’t think of an answer, at least stall. You can say something like, “Great question! Let me think about that for a second.” More often than not, an interviewer is happy to give you a spare moment to think through the question. You can even ask them to repeat it to buy time, or ask for clarification to see if there’s a new way you can think about it. Just take a breath, have a drink of water if you have some there, and do your best.
The best way to get better at interviewing is to practice. Make a list of potential interview questions, write out and rehearse your answers, or get a friend to pretend to interview you with unexpected questions so you can learn to answer on the spot. As long as you keep your answers positive and humble yet confident, you’ll be okay.
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Emily Morrison is a media professional with passions for writing, film and popular culture.
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