Things to avoid saying in an interview

The full title for this blog should really be, “Things to avoid saying in an interview, and how to rephrase them positively” – but we wanted to keep our titles concise! But we’re not just here to give a long list of do’s and don’ts for interviewees… we’re here to offer constructive advice too.

As a experienced recruiters, we’ve guided countless job seekers through the interview process over the years. A key element of interview success is not only knowing what to say but also what not to say. So we’ve shared some of the more common interview pitfalls we’ve seen or heard about, and share our take on how to reframe your responses positively.

1. Avoid: “I hated my last job/boss.”

Rephrase Positively: Focus on what you’re looking for in a new role rather than what you disliked in the past. For example, “I’m looking for a position where I can grow and face new challenges.”

2. Avoid: “I don’t have experience in that area.”

Rephrase Positively: Demonstrate your eagerness to learn. Try saying, “I haven’t had the opportunity to work with that yet, but I am very keen to learn and adapt.”

3. Avoid: “What does your company do?”

Rephrase Positively: Show that you’ve done your research. Instead, ask specific questions about the company, like “I read about your recent project on X, could you tell me more about that?”

4. Avoid: “I don’t have any weaknesses.”

Rephrase Positively: Be honest about an area for improvement, but follow it with how you’re working to overcome it. For instance, “I’ve found public speaking challenging, but I’ve been attending workshops to build my confidence in this area.”

5. Avoid: “How much vacation time do I get?”

Rephrase Positively: Frame it in terms of work-life balance. Say something like, “Can you tell me about how your company supports work-life balance?”

6. Avoid: “I’m not sure.”

Rephrase Positively: Show your problem-solving skills. Say, “I haven’t encountered that before, but I would approach it by…” and outline a potential strategy.

7. Avoid: “It’s on my CV.”

Rephrase Positively: Use this as an opportunity to expand on your CV. Say, “Yes, that’s on my CV, and to add to that…” providing more details or examples.

8. Avoid: “I don’t have any questions.”

Rephrase Positively: Always have a couple of questions prepared. Try, “Could you tell me more about the team I’d be working with?”

9. Avoid: “I just need a job.”

Rephrase Positively: Express enthusiasm for the specific role. Say, “I am excited about the opportunity to contribute to this company because…”

10. Avoid: “I can do everything listed in the job description.”

Rephrase Positively: Acknowledge your strengths while being realistic. Say, “I have strong experience in many areas listed, and I’m particularly keen to develop further in…”

In an interview, how you phrase your responses can significantly impact the impression you make. By avoiding negative or unprepared statements and focusing on positive, proactive language, you can present yourself as the solution to the employer’s needs. Remember, an interview is not just about your qualifications; it’s also about your fit for the team and the company culture. As your recruitment partners, we’re here to help you prepare and succeed in making that positive impression – so can help you with your interview preparation; just ask.

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