10 Things to Say if You Want to Completely Blow Your Job Interview

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In an informational interview or a formal job interview, I try to be super helpful. I'm like every other military spouse, veteran or transitioning military member. I go in intending to show that hiring manager how their own job would be so much easier if only they hired an epic worker such as me.

Then I start talking -- and blow the whole thing without even knowing it.

My job-seeking military clients tell me they experience exactly the same thing. They would never go to an interview intending to tell them, "Your baby is ugly." Instead, they go in with the best intentions. They leave thinking the interview went well, but somehow no offer comes forth. How could they have blown it? It did not feel blown.

This is the nature of interviews. They are coded meetings designed to eliminate from consideration those who are a bad fit for the job, which is not fair to the innocent interviewee. Most of the interview feels like a conversation that is going well, but most of the time, it is not. Most of the time, we are accidentally saying all the wrong things.

As the transition master coach for Military.com's Veteran Employment Project, I get to hear the raw answers all of us give when we start the interview process. If you absolutely, positively do not want the job, use these innocent -- but wrong -- phrases.

1. I Need to Make a Lot of Money

None of us needs to mention we are in the interview to get a job to make money. It is assumed. Have your salary range researched and ready, but don't mention it unless it is specifically requested.

2. I'm a Proud Military Spouse

I am, in fact, a proud, active-duty military spouse. For me, the term "military spouse" is a marker for fortitude, persistence and ultimate adaptability. I've moved 20 times so far, and I pride myself on keeping my employers happy. But leading your introduction with your spouse status distracts the interviewer from thinking of you as a worker first.

3. I'm the Proud Father of 3 Kids

So often, our kids are the reason we are working so hard in life. We love them. We care for them. We are responsible to them. But parent status is like spouse status; by leading with your personal life, you introduce the idea that you will be so distracted by your kids that you will only show up to work on Thursdays. Instead, practice your introduction.

4. This Is My Backup Plan

This is a sentence most frequently heard at an informational interview. You think you are being honest, but this is a case where you are being way too honest. No one wants to feel like your backup plan.

5. Can You Make This Job Fully Remote?

According to Buffer's 2023 State of Remote work, 98% of workers would like to work remotely at least part of the time. While the majority of U.S. workers do not have jobs that can be done at home, you certainly want it if you can get it. If the subject is not raised in the job listing or in the interview, wait to discuss it until after you get the job offer when all the power is on your side.

6. Do We Get All the Federal Holidays?

Again, talking about salary and holidays is like talking about how many babies you want to have on a first date. Wait.

7. You Should Outsource This Work to My Company

If you have your own company or you have been working as a 1099 employee, you might think that suggesting how work can be done better and less expensively by outsourcing to your company is a good idea during a job interview. While that may be true, it confuses the interviewer and makes them think you will not stay as an employee.

8. What Does Your Company Do?

If you have an informational interview with someone, it is expected you will have at least Googled their company and read their profile before you take their time. It is a business courtesy.

9. I Want to Keep on Serving the Army

This phrase is most often said by retiring military members. I think it is a way people mentally cross that invisible barrier between the military and their providers. That is fine. Noble, even. But this phrase does not prompt the interviewer to hire you. They are not looking for ways for you to continue to serve. They are trying to figure out how you could possibly help them get the job done.

10. I Don't Really Need to Work

This is a phrase most frequently used by retiring military and military spouses. I think it is said to emphasize that you have passion for the work. Or that you will have to be enticed to do a job since money is not your motivator. While I respect both of these positions, this phrase turns off the interviewer who does, in fact, need to work.

Job interviews and informational interviews may seem tricky, but they are usually pretty straightforward. Focus on what the interviewer is focused on -- how they will get the job done and how your experience can help. 

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Transitioning military, veterans and spouses may be qualified for the job, but they are missing the secrets of civilian hiring. Find out everything you need to know with our FREE master class series, including our next class. You can view previous classes in our video library. Questions for Jacey? Visit our Facebook page or reach out on LinkedIn Jacey Eckhart.

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