You’re on your way to your interview when out of nowhere, the highway turns into a parking lot. I'm talking zero miles per hour. Your face is beat red with humiliation as you take the walk of shame into the hiring manager's office a full 20 minutes late. A whole slew of fun things could happen from here: Your heart’s pounding loud enough for the receptionist down the hall to hear, you’re stumbling on your words, or you accidentally criticize the person sitting across from you.
Interviews can feel like a lot of pressure. After all, it could be a serious game-changer when it comes to your career. The last thing you want is to make your interview memorable because of a serious string of palm-to-forehead mistakes you made. While the job-hunting journey is never going to be smooth sailing, there are some common interview blunders you should prepare for and avoid altogether moving forward. Regardless of your industry, role, or length of experience in the workplace, it’s important to exude confidence (fake it till you make it), a positive attitude, and good body language.
Next time you’re meeting with a potential employer, steer clear of the following phrases.
“What does this company do?”
Before any interview, you should be hitting the internet and doing some research. If you invest the time in exploring the company’s website, products/services, social media pages, news, and announcements, you’ll have a much more productive and successful conversation with your interviewer. Asking thoughtful, educated questions is an essential part of impressing a hiring manager and will demonstrate that you place value in the future of your career. Swap this question with one about what challenges the company is facing or the projects you’ll potentially be working on, so you can transition into how your experience will be beneficial in tackling these needs.
“Do you think I’m a good fit for this role?”
While this is something you should be asking yourself internally, this question should be reserved for your eyes only. The goal of the interview is for you to showcase why you’d be a good fit for the role, using specific achievements to highlight your value. Some areas you should reflect on as you embark on each new interview, is whether or not the company culture aligns with your needs, if you believe you can adequately satisfy the requirements of the role, and if your future coworkers are the types of individuals you see yourself collaborating with.
“I don’t know”
Interviews are not a walk in the park and you can expect to be hit with some curve ball questions that you weren’t originally expecting or prepared for. Rather than imitating a deer in headlights or responding that you ‘don’t have an answer,’ take a second to breathe, gather your thoughts, and show your interviewer that you can think on your feet.
“So, you’re technically in the financial space, right?”
Hold it right there. Rewind. Try again. Not only does this go back to conducting a bit of pre-interview research, but if the company is in fact in the finance industry, then you’re just stating the obvious. Don’t allow your nerves to consume all rational thinking. By asking this, you’re simply making pointless small-talk and communicating to your interviewer that you lack confidence. If you do your homework, it’ll automatically boost your courage and help you feel prepared for the conversation.
“I hated the way my previous employer approached X. How does your company typically handle this?”
You never want to frame a question in a negative light or trash talk a previous employer. Always keep the conversation positive, be respectful to former employers you’ve worked with, and pose your question without making an unfavorable reference about another company.
“Why did you decide to interview me?”
If you make it through the company’s screening process and you’re extended an interview, there’s no need to ask your interviewer this question. They have a profile in mind of the ideal candidate they’re looking for culturally and experience-wise for the role, and since you’re sitting across from the hiring manager, you need to drive the conversation from there. You’ll likely be asked what skills you could bring to the table, and should be prepared to talk about how your experience relates specifically to the requirements of the job.
“I am terrible with…”
Unless you want to sell the hiring manager on why you're a poor fit the role, avoid blurting out statements that are going to work against you. Instead, if you’re asked to discuss a weakness, choose a specific example of a time you experienced failure and delve into what you learned from the situation. Being authentic, taking ownership of your actions, and explaining how the experience impacted your future efforts in the workplace, shows maturity and the ability to develop as a professional. Here’s an example of how you can discuss failure with an employer:
“By failing to properly prepare for a meeting with a $500,000 deal on the line, I delivered an incredibly underwhelming performance and lost the contract to a competitor. After receiving the news, I reached back out to the company with an arsenal of relevant stats, info regarding their rival brands, and deal sweeteners. While I didn’t receive the original amount proposed, I did win back some of their business. Now, I use a checklist and perform my due diligence before every meeting with a prospective client.”
“I’m insanely passionate about Microsoft Excel”
I highly doubt you have posters of spreadsheets strewn up across your bedroom walls, or that you gaze lovingly at a blank Excel document night after night. What your interviewer wants to hear, is that one of your strengths lies in your organization skills. You can list what programs you’re proficient in and bring up a few specific situations where your ability to organize transformed a messy scenario into one that wound up producing effective results.
When you're headed into an interview, you want to do the best you can to feel prepared. Not only will it quell your nerves, but it'll increase the likelihood of you receiving an offer or being welcomed back for a second interview. The above phrases are a big no-no in the interview world and by avoiding them in the future, you'll make sure your interview is a success!