3 Things to Never Say in a Job Interview

Leaving a toxic workplace? Increase success when you avoid saying these things in a job interview

No matter what stage of your career, there are many potential stumbling points in any interview. While some are unavoidable (such as unexpected or puzzling questions), others you can plan for. Use these tips as a starting point to understand 3 things you should never say in a job interview.

1. “My current role (manager, company, coworker) is awful”

No matter how terrible your current situation, it’s generally frowned upon to complain about it during interviews. If it’s the company you’re badmouthing, your interviewer might wonder if you’ll do the same when you leave your next job.

If your manager or team is the source of your frustrations, that’s a fair reason for leaving—but your interviewer may question whether you’re in fact the difficult one to work with if you harp on it during the interview.

Lastly, a role that’s a poor fit can certainly lead you to look for new opportunities, but you should instead focus on what you’re looking for, not on what isn’t working.

Instead of complaining, practice reframing these difficulties in a positive light. If you’ve struggled with your manager, for example, speak more about the great working relationships you do have at the current company, and what this has led you to look for in your next team.

If the company isn’t a cultural fit or isn’t doing well, be careful not to disclose information that isn’t public, and instead emphasize why you’re excited about the company you’re interviewing for.

2. “I know I’m not qualified, but…”

While it’s important to remain humble (and tell the truth), a job interview is your time to boast about your skills and achievements—as the other candidates will be doing the same.

Even if there are some qualifications listed in the job description that you can’t match to experiences or skills on your CV, keep in mind that hiring managers often write job descriptions for the ideal candidate while knowing full well that this person doesn’t likely exist. Good managers are willing to spend time to train a talented candidate who might be missing a few skills.

Rather than giving your interviewer a reason to doubt your abilities, use your time with them as a chance to add color to your most significant accomplishments—and particularly those which speak to the required or desired skills listed in the job description.

3. “I don’t have any questions”

Regardless of how extensive your conversations have been with the company, it’s important to have questions ready for the end of each interview.

Most interviewers will leave some time for you to ask questions, and not only can not having any leave you in the awkward position of admitting there’s absolutely nothing on your mind. It can also make you look unprepared and, at worst, uninterested in the company and role.

Even if it’s a second interview with the same person, you should demonstrate that you’ve done additional research and thinking about the company and role in between your conversations.

Importantly, tailor your questions to the interviewer—and try not to repeat the same question if you speak to multiple people. Try to come up with specific questions throughout the interview based on what’s discussed. It’ll show you were paying attention. It also means you won’t have to rack your brain for the questions you prepared prior to the interview.

Further, be sure your questions include more than just the standard logistical/procedural questions (e.g. when are you looking for someone to start? What are the next steps in the interview process?), as these can seem canned.

Stay positive and avoid open negativity in interviews

In summary, it’s important to keep your attitude during interviews light and positive, regardless of how unhappy you might be in your current role—and whether or not you feel completely qualified for the role you’re interviewing for or not. Take the necessary steps to make sure you’re well-prepared, including (but not limited to!) going into the interview with specific questions for your interviewer.

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Revised 1/6/22

About the Author

Napala Pratini

Napala is a consultant to early-stage technology companies. Prior to going independent, Napala led marketing initiatives across both consumer and B2B fintech for employers including NerdWallet and Earnest. In past lives she was a ballet dancer and a cancer researcher.