What You Should Never Say in a Job Interview

Just as important as saying the right things during a job interview is making sure you don’t say the wrong things.

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Alison Green
Just as important as saying the right things during a job interview is making sure you don’t say the wrong things.

Here are 10 things you never want to say in an interview:

1. “What does your company do?” If you ask questions about the company that could have easily been answered with a modicum of research, you’ll come across as unprepared, unmotivated, and maybe lazy.

2. “My old boss was a jerk.” Your boss might have been an abusive tyrant, but, rightly or wrongly, the convention is that you don’t badmouth previous employers in an interview. It doesn’t matter what the circumstances were. It’ll raise enough of a red flag in your interviewer’s mind that it’s just too risky.

[See 9 Companies Hiring Now.]

3. “My salary requirements are flexible.” Really? So you’d accept half of what you were previously making? Your salary requirements almost certainly aren’t that flexible. Look, I’m no fan of employers who play coy themselves about salary, but claiming you don’t have a range in mind yourself sounds insincere.

4. “I need to check with my wife/brother/neighbor to make sure they can drop me off in the mornings.” This is like saying, “I’m probably going to be late or not make it in at all a lot of the time.” Keep your commute difficulties to yourself or you’ll raise a red flag.

5. “Would I be able to play a role in (something totally unrelated to the job you’re applying for)?” You might be really excited about the company’s social media operation or that big party they put on in Malibu every year, but if it doesn’t relate to the job you’re applying for, don’t imply that it’s more exciting to you than the work you’re actually interviewing to do.

[See 7 Ways to Make a Difference on the Job.]

6. “What benefits do you offer?” The time to inquire about benefits is when you’re negotiating the details of an offer. At this stage, your questions should center around the job itself and the organization.

7. “I’m a perfectionist.” Even if it’s true, this has become such an interview cliché that your interviewer will assume you’re being disingenuous. We’ve heard hundreds of people claim they’re perfectionists; try something new.

8. “I don’t have any questions.” You might be spending eight hours a day (or more) in this job, at this company, with this manager, and there’s nothing you’re wondering about? Interviewers want to know that you’re interested in the details of the job, the department you’ll be working in, your prospective supervisor’s management style, and the culture of the organization. Otherwise, you’re signaling that you’re either not that interested or just haven’t thought much about it.

[See How to Position Yourself to Change Careers.]

9. “Sorry I’m late.” Do whatever it takes not to be late, even if you have to leave two hours early to ensure you’re there on time. It’s difficult to get past the bad impression you’ll leave if you’re late to an interview. Interviewers assume you’re on your best behavior now, so if you’re late to the interview, you’ll likely be unreliable on the job.

10. “I desperately need this job.” Even if it’s true, don’t talk to your interviewer about it. Job offers are based on what’s best for the employer, and you’ll come across as naïve and inappropriate if you talk about personal needs rather than why you’re a strong fit for the job.

Alison Green writes the popular Ask a Manager blog where she dispenses advice on career, job search, and management issues. She's also the author of Managing to Change the World: The Nonprofit Leader's Guide to Getting Results and former chief of staff of a successful nonprofit organization, where she oversaw day-to-day staff management, hiring, firing, and employee development. She now teaches other managers how to manage for results.