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3 Things to Never Say in a Job Interview


Much is written about what to say in a job interview: Make small talk with the interviewer, ask about the company’s values, have questions ready about the job responsibilities, etc. Much less is written about the words and phrases to avoid when interviewing for a civilian job.

The interview is a series of first impressions. From how you look, sound, express yourself, handle stress, and build rapport, the interview is important for an employer to evaluate your skills, knowledge, aptitude, and ability to fit in well with their company. To prepare for an interview, you will research the company and the interviewer(s), learn about the company culture and values, and discover what is important to them and what isn’t. The knowledge and insights you gain before the interview should empower you to give thoughtful, focused, and impactful responses to the interview questions.

As you prepare for the job interview, you should also practice how you give your answers. A few wrong words or phrases can hurt the genuineness, intelligence, and outcome of your responses. Do your best to eliminate these words and phrases from your vocabulary:

Any version of “honestly” including, “to tell you the truth” or “truthfully,” signals to the interviewer that what you said previously might have been misleading or untruthful. Deception experts listen for cues such as the word, “honestly” to indicate a change of heart in the respondent’s message, as if what they just said before wasn’t honest. While it is a subtlety, don’t take the chance that the interviewer would question what you said, casting a doubt on your confidence, information, or ability to relate to others.

“No… absolutely…”
I have a friend who does this one constantly! You ask her, “Do you have time to help me with this?” and she replies, “No, absolutely I do!” Huh? It’s as if the “no” is a stall and the “absolutely I do” is the real response. To the listener, this prefacing statement is confusing and can disrupt the flow of the conversation. Your goal in an interview is to give thoughtful and focused responses to questions asked. If you need to take a few seconds to form a response, do that. Look off to the side (or upwards) and then respond clearly and with confidence.

“Between you and me…”
In an interview, nothing should be considered private or confidential. If you aren’t comfortable sharing the information with your former employer, colleagues, or former C.O., don’t mention it. Prefacing with a statement like “between us” implies a level of trust and intimacy misplaced in a job interview.

The interview is a demanding event for anyone. Even the interviewer is uncertain whether the meeting will be pleasant or stressful. Strive to build rapport, show genuine interest and excitement for the position, and relate to the interviewer as a future employer, not a best friend.

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Lida Citroën, a branding expert based in Denver, has made a career of helping people and companies create new or enhanced identities. She is passionate about helping veterans learn how to compete for careers in the civilian sector. A TEDx Speaker, Lida presents her unique personal branding training programs across the U.S., at military installations and events, serves on the Board of Directors of NAVSO  volunteers with ESGR, and has produced numerous programs and materials to help military veterans successfully transition after service. If you have a transition question Lida can help answer, email her at She is also the author of the best selling book, "Your Next Mission: A personal branding guide for the military-to-civilian transition," available at and on Amazon.