10 Things NOT to Say in an Interview (and What to Say Instead)

interview interview prep interview tips Jul 12, 2019

Here are the top 10 answers I’ve heard in interviews that I would recommend an interviewee NEVER say.

Some seem like common sense, some are a bit shocking (I was definitely surprised by the number of people who have told me they’ve sued their former company), and some might seem like innocent answers but raise red flags.

The people who gave me these answers did not get the job…

1️⃣ “I sued my former company.”

What this says to the interviewer: You could possibly sue our company.

What to say instead: Nothing. Please don't say this under any circumstance.

2️⃣ “I’ve had conflicts with my former boss and/or colleagues.”

What this says to the interviewer: You’re not a team player. You'll most likely have conflicts at their company too.

What to say instead: Focus on the positive connections, teamwork and customer interactions you have had. If you've had conflicts, this is not a good reason to explain why you left your last position, even if it was the driving factor. Identify another (factual) reason to describe why you left.

3️⃣ “I can’t think of a time when a project I was managing/working on wasn’t successful.”

What this says to the interviewer: You’re either not telling the truth or you’re not self-aware. Neither are good.

What to say instead: Prepare several examples of projects that didn't go according to plan (e.g. time, scope, budget). Explain very factually what you learned from the project and how you incorporated those learnings back into your work and the overall process for your company. WORD OF CAUTION: When you're describing the scenario, do not use this as an opportunity to blame other people for the situation.

4️⃣ “I had no respect for the leadership at my last company.”

What this says to the interviewer: You could become disgruntled at the leadership at this company.

What to say instead: If asked about the prior leadership, focus on what worked well. Be creative to find examples if you felt nothing was managed well. You could think about specific projects, initiatives, upcoming plans the company was making, etc.

5️⃣ “I left because they weren’t paying me enough.”

What this says to the interviewer: You’re going to be constantly asking for more money.

What to say instead: Describe non-financial reasons you left the company. 

6️⃣ “I left because they wouldn’t promote me.”

What this says to the interviewer: You’re going to be constantly asking for promotions and will leave when you don’t get what you want.

What to say instead: Focus on the value you're excited to deliver to your next organization. You can describe your long-term goals but avoid asking for how you can get promoted quickly. If you're asking the interviewer what type of promotion you can expect in the first 2 years (or less), you will come across as a flight risk for the position.

7️⃣ “I left because they were favoring my colleague. My boss liked him better.”

What this says to the interviewer: You’re not able to handle professional relationships in a mature way. You are going to take a lot of energy for me to manage you.

What to say instead: Don't disparage your former boss in any circumstance. Get a sense for the manager's leadership style and reference his/her qualities that you're picking up on (use examples if possible), and indicate you would really resonate with that type of management (if it's true).

8️⃣ “ Will I need to pass a drug test/references/background check before I get hired?”

What this says to the interviewer: You are worried about passing a background check, a drug test, or a reference check.

What to say instead: Easy, do not ask any of these questions.

9️⃣ I don’t have any concerns about this position? (in response to a question about any concerns you might have, not voluntarily)

What this says to the interviewer: The interviewer will most likely think that you haven’t spent the time to  thoroughly consider the position or the company. Instead, you run the risk of coming across as desperate.

What to say instead: A great way to answer this question is to say you don't have concerns per se but are interested to learn about the first 90 days and how others have been successful in the same or similar role. You could also ask about the person in the position before decided to leave. Again, not coming from concern but so you can better understand how to maximize your impact.

🔟 “I don’t have any questions.”

What this says to the interviewer: You didn’t prepare. You’re not that interested. You’re not able to think on the fly.

What to say instead:  Research the company, business unit and hiring manager. Prepare several questions to better understand the corporate goals, direction, culture, management style, accountability structure, and how they measure success. Use this as an opportunity to demonstrate your ability to look at the big picture and see how your role would contribute.


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