Top 10 Worst Things to Say in an Interview

A master sergeant reviews her resume and gets interview tips.
Master Sgt. Barbara Bookard, ASA-Dix Mobile Readiness Battalion, reviews her resume and gets interview tips from Kim Keefe of New York-based Achieve It. (Edward Mingin/United States Army Security Agency, Fort Dix photo)

Interviews can be intimidating situations -- one wrong word might kill your chances at getting hired. Don't fret; do research. Business Excellence put together the top 10 worst things to say during an interview, which we've compiled for you below. It's easier than you might think to avoid these missteps; just make sure you take them to heart.

1. My Greatest Weakness Is, I'm a Perfectionist

Really? Your greatest weakness is that you want things done well? All employers have heard this one before, and it's disingenuous. Talking about your weaknesses might seem difficult, because it's best to avoid negatives during an interview.

But this question necessitates an honest answer. Rather than lying about a positive quality that might sound negative, think of a personal trait that doesn't directly impact the job and is something you've made progress on changing. Employers ask this question to see how honestly you can evaluate yourself and how you handle shortcomings.

2. My Previous Boss Was Stupid, and I Didn't Like Him

Professional behavior is one of the most important soft business skills you can display during an interview, and that includes keeping discussions about your previous employer completely civil. You may be right: Your old boss could have been a philandering, coldhearted thief, but that doesn't mean you're in the right to slander them in front of a hiring manager at a different company. If you absolutely must talk about your old boss, try to use the most sterile, nonjudgmental terms possible.

3. I Want to Take Your Job in 5 Years

Another typical interview question is, "Where do you see yourself in five years?" Employers ask this because common corporate wisdom looks at growth in five-year chunks for their business, as well as their employers. Five years is enough time to get a promotion, reach a new revenue goal and more.

So when you think about your own five-year plan, do not threaten the interviewer by telling them you're gunning for their seat. It's important to let them know that you want to strive for bigger and better things, but not in a way that makes you look like a snake in the grass.

4. That Outfit Looks Great on You

It's important to try making a connection with a hiring manager, but complementing them on their appearance or any other personal aspect is the wrong way to do it. Even a simple compliment such as, "That's a nice outfit," might send the wrong message. The interviewer is there to gauge whether you are a good fit for the company, not whether you enjoy their appearance. It's generally OK to touch on topics that don't relate to business, such as brief mentions of common interests, but don't let professional boundaries slip.

5. Sorry I'm Late

Nothing undermines your qualifications like showing up late to an interview. This is quite possibly one of the worst things you can do, barring stealing from the office and insulting the interviewer. It is the very first aspect that employers can judge, and it plays a big part in setting the tone.

If you arrive late, regardless of the reason, employers won't take you seriously as a candidate. If you can't or won't make sure you arrive on time, why should an employer work around you?

6. I Don't Know

There's a very easy way to avoid those fateful words during an interview: research. Research the company, the company's products, who you're talking to, where the company fits in their industry, the industry as a whole, the position you'll be in, other positions similar to what you'll be doing, and what skills you can bring to the new position.

It may seem like a lot, but a few hours researching will seriously help your qualifications. No matter what the position is, the more you know about it, the more impressed hiring managers will be.

7. I Don't Have Any Questions

Always have questions. If you don't think you'll come up with any on the spot, have a few ready before you go in. Questions demonstrate interest, and no employer wants to hire someone who doesn't seem interested in working for their company. Ask questions that show a willingness to learn about the position and a curiosity about the industry at large.

It's OK to talk about subjects that don't directly relate to the position, so long as you're thinking about how the company operates and how you'll be a strong contributor to their operations.

8. How Much Time Off Do You Provide?

Do you want the new job because of the perks, or because you're passionate about the industry and want to work hard and help the company? Employers will not accept the first answer. If there's an appropriate way to have a conversation about benefits without the employer mentioning it first, they are incredibly rare and tricky to pull off. Unless you have a concrete job offer, sidestep bringing this up entirely.

9. Excuse Me, I Need to Take This Call for Just a Second

Your future is, in a lot of ways, on the line during an interview. You might desperately need a new job, or it's in an industry you've always wanted to be a part of, or it may just offer a better quality of life.

With so much at stake, a job interview is not the appropriate time or place to take calls or answer texts. Unless there is a grave emergency that requires your immediate attention, keep your phone out of your hands. Stalling an interview for a quick chat is another way of saying, "Hey, this isn't really important to me, and I don't care about how you spend your time. Where's the door?"

10. I Thought You Had a Copy of My CV

Always bring extra copies of important documents. This will usually mean just your CV, or curriculum vitae, but it includes anything else that could be relevant. It's a small step to take, but it's better to have a copy on hand than not.

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