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5 Terrible Things to Say at a Job Interview

If getting through a job interview with no major gaffs is a noble beginning for a newbie career hunter, why set such low expectations?

When I had my first job interview for an entry-level job straight out of university in (sorry the number pad has been disabled) there was no Career Advice web site to warn me against divulging my passionate political feelings to the interviewer. Today, the world is more open, the Internet is a free-for-all, but the corporate world is still conservative, prim and proper (even if it’s just an illusion).

You already know more than we did at your age, or should if you’ve been properly taking advantage of the Internet, which simply didn’t exist when I used to walk 22 miles to school in a blizzard 🙂

Don’t Dish Out Lame Compliments or Be Chummy with the Interviewer

Greetings should match your wardrobe, business formal or corporate casual. If you’re tempted to break the ice by throwing a compliment her way say something nice about the office and leave it at that.

You might confuse her into thinking you’re a flighty fashionista if you speak more passionately about her handbag than you do about your interest in the job. If you’re a male candidate paying attention to her eyes, hair or smell, your “flirtations” will likely be perceived as lame attempts to score favoritism.

Don’t pay any false compliments because they will come across as fake. Hiring managers are sensitive if not trained to read body language emitted by people when they tell lies.

Don’t Blame Your Ex-Boss for Anything

You may want to reconsider throwing around accusations about your former boss, as it might call into question a bunch of factors, for example, the other side of the story, your own sense of accountability and issues dealing with authority. The best way to talk about a bad experience with a former boss is to wrap it up with a positive spin. Talk about how you overcame challenges citing specific examples of you honing your problem-solving skills.

Show you’re team spirited. Shift into positive contributions you’ve made to team projects at work, interning or as an undergrad. Go as far back as you can go into your past experiences and include things you didn’t put on your resume or cover letter even if they’re not directly relevant to the job.

Don’t Ask the Interviewer about the Salary Range

Similar to a first date, in the first round of job interviews your goal should be to charm the pants off your prospective employer and get that ‘second date’.

Try to bond as much as possible by engaging her enthusiasm in hiring you. Make sure you sell yourself as a conceptual match before moving into awkward salary talk. Use this time to show you have loftier priorities than salary. Instead convey your interest in contributing to a stimulating learning environment.

Unless you’re asked, “what is your salary expectation?” don’t broach the subject.

Be prepared to provide a realistic salary range. If you’re still too green to command a very large salary, and assuming you’re still single and mortgage-free – you can afford to make less money. Instead look for valuable opportunities to learn, travel, be mentored and develop your skills.

Don’t Spill Embarrassing Personal Baggage to the Interviewer

Open-ended questions leave you a lot of leeway to make big mistakes. A great way to exercise caution is to think before speaking.

Don’t over divulge personal information like your mother’s mental history, the current state of your irritable bowel syndrome or the fight you had last night with your boyfriend. To add depth to your experience your interview answers are probably going to extend beyond your work history.

Besides academics you should draw on your personal accomplishments in your hobbies and athletic and artistic endeavors.

Also keep in mind that people like the sound of their own voice. She’ll develop an inexplicable complicity for you if you let her do a lot of the talking. First of all you can use this information, much like a psychic does, to feedback things she just told you she wants to hear. To get her talking ask a few prepared questions about the business and its organization. And remember to keep your own rambling in check.

Don’t Say This: “So what is it exactly you guys do here?”

When it comes time to answer ‘the final question’ with a question please don’t cross your leg, clasp your chin in feigned interest and ask, “So what is it exactly you guys do here?”

You can make yourself look good just being curious and showing that you figured out their business model all by yourself. Outshine your competitors by being exhaustively knowledgeable about the company.

Use their web site, Google, LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. This shows you’re keeping your eye on the big picture – your future. Ask a thoughtful engaging question that gets them thinking they might want to groom you for bigger better things. You may be hired for a starter job today but your dream job could be lurking around the corner office, with a plush chair and expensed lunches waiting for you to prove yourself worthy, for just a little while longer.

In conclusion, I thought I might add one more thing you should never say:

“Just one sec, that’s my phone.”

You should never interrupt an interview to take a call, unless somehow you know it’s to say your house is on fire and the person handling any emergencies that might arise while you’re at interview has suddenly slipped into a coma and can’t call 911 to save your burning cat and it’s really too small a window for anything that calamitous to happen. For the 45 minutes you’re in the interview everything you say and do should be of singular mind and focus, the job.

Make a connection and you’ll make it to the next round.

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