Given the competitive landscape of the job market, landing an interview is already a challenging task for many job seekers. Nailing the interview itself can be a stumbling block for many candidates, especially if they struggle with public speaking. Understanding what not to say during an interview can be extremely helpful during this process, as you can quickly end your candidacy by saying the wrong thing. Throughout this guide, we’ll discuss various examples of what not to say in an interview to help you secure your next job interview.

Don’t Mention Lack of Skills or Experience

Like the resume, you’ll need to sell yourself to prospective employers during the interview. If you want to succeed at this, you should exude confidence in your credentials and background. You do not want to spend your time discussing your negative traits or weaknesses. Nevertheless, it does not mean that you should lie if the interviewer asks a question about technology, concept, or skill set that you do not possess. Instead, use this opportunity to put a positive spin on the gap by mentioning your ability to learn new skills quickly. You could also provide insights regarding a similar skill you possess that aligns with the topic.

Avoid Negative Selling and Criticism of Past Employers

When you spend time during an interview complaining about poor management at a past company, this can be a red flag for hiring managers that you might be a poor fit for the organization’s work culture. Negative selling in the form of downplaying the viability of other candidates also must be avoided. This approach takes the interviewer’s focus off of your qualifications and creates a negative impression of your professionalism.

Don’t Get Personal

In most instances, you want to avoid personal details unless the situation calls for it. Hiring managers generally aren’t interested in your favorite football team or rock-climbing hobby. They’re interested in assessing whether or not you’re the right fit for the position. This rule isn’t universally applicable, as office cultures vary greatly from business to business. In a more casual atmosphere at a technology start-up, the interviewer may want to know some of your outside interests to see if you’re a good match for the team. It’s safer to avoid personal details in most cases, but you need to feel the interviewer out to determine if this situation is an exception.

Never Mention That You Were Fired

If a hiring manager asks you if you were fired from your last job, or any job for that matter, this is probably a bad sign that the company has a toxic work culture. In the event that they do, you don’t need to confirm that you were let go by a past employer. Instead, you should state that you and the company parted ways because you weren’t the right fit. You could also say that the position wasn’t aligned with your long-term career goals. However, there are exceptions to every rule. An example would be if a company laid off employees due to an unexpected event, such as Covid-19. You have no control over the outcome in this situation, and most employers would understand or empathize with the circumstances.

What Not to Say During a Disability Interview

Jobseekers with disabilities are protected from discrimination due to the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. This means that it’s illegal for a hiring manager to ask you about a health condition or disability during the interview. Due to this legislation, there’s no need to volunteer this information during the early stages of the hiring process. If a disability requires special accommodations from your employer, you’ll need to discuss this at some point, but you also don’t need to make it the focal point of your interview.

Avoid Giving a Number for Compensation

If the topic of salary emerges during the interview, you don’t want to be the first to provide an exact number. You also shouldn’t bring up compensation unless the hiring manager puts you in a position where you need to speak on it. You never want to show your cards too early during a negotiation, and if you offer a specific number, there’s a chance it might be a lower figure than what the company originally had in mind. If the hiring manager presses you on this issue during the interview, the right strategy is to provide a range you’re comfortable with.

You Can Discuss Upward Mobility, But Avoid Being Overly Ambitious

Even if you’re excited about the chance to move up in a company, you don’t want to come across as too ambitious during the early phases of the hiring process. Upon being offered the position, you should express your desire to grow within the company as well as your confidence in your ability to contribute to the team. There’s a fine line between confidence and arrogance, so you want to ensure that you’re not unintentionally projecting the latter during your interview.

Don’t Show a Lack of Enthusiasm

If you aren’t enthusiastic during the interview, there’s a slim chance you will receive a job offer. Hiring managers want professionals who are excited about the opportunity. If you don’t show this, they won’t view you as a serious candidate—for instance, taking the time to research the organization before the interview indicates your genuine interest in the position. Don’t go overboard but be sure to display some level of excitement and enthusiasm during the interview.

What Not to Say in a Phone Interview

If the initial phone screening goes poorly, it’s doubtful that the hiring manager will schedule you for an in-person interview. One important thing to remember with a phone interview is that this is your first real contact with the hiring manager, and it’s very important to make a positive impression to advance in the hiring process. This is why you must conduct the phone screening in a quiet environment devoid of distractions. If the interviewer hears large amounts of background noise, this could unintentionally give the impression that you don’t care about the opportunity.

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Frank Hackett

Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW)

Frank Hackett is a professional resume writer and career consultant with over eight years of experience. As the lead editor at a boutique career consulting firm, Frank developed an innovative approach to resume writing that empowers job seekers to tell their professional stories. His approach involves creating accomplishment-driven documents that balance keyword optimization with personal branding. Frank is a Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW) with the Professional Association of Resume Writers and Career Coaches (PAWRCC).