My very first interview experience could be considered a total mess – I didn’t know the history of the company or how to sell my skills in order to become the perfect candidate for the job. I found myself trapped in questions like ‘why do you want to work here?’ or ‘how much are you looking to earn?’. With little experience and being at the start of entering the working world, I left extremely confused and worried that I said something I shouldn’t have said.
Everyone’s best friend for preparing for an interview is, you guessed, the Internet. There are loads of career websites which offer tips for succeeding in a job interview. We all know what we should say, but what are the trickiest answers that we should avoid?
It’s well-known that employers are interested in how skilled and suitable you are for the advertised position. There’s no right or wrong answer in a job interview and this can sometimes be confusing and make you think twice before answering a question. So here are some helpful tips on what you shouldn’t mention in a job interview:
Be both friendly and professional
Don’t try to be either too formal, or too laid-back. Make sure you keep a balance between these two as you’ll make a good impression both as a nice human being and as an ambitious potential employee. You shouldn’t start telling your interviewer personal stories, but you should make sure you’re open to discussion. Kate Palmer, the Associate Director of HR consultancy Peninsula, believes that an applicant should be both informal and professional: “Potential candidates should ensure they present themselves in a confident and professional manner. They should always introduce themselves and greet every interviewer with a handshake. However, it’s important not to be overfamiliar in this situation and keep in mind that it’s a job interview, not a catch-up with friends or family”.
Don’t use cliches when asked about your biggest weakness
Maybe one of the trickiest questions in a job interview is ‘what is your biggest weakness?’. Your answer will reveal your true suitability for the job, so you might not want to screw this one up. Even though you know that you’re not that great with time management, don’t point to it if it’s a job requirement. It would lead employers believe you’re not right for the job. Palmer’s advice is to avoid clichés such as ‘I work too hard’ or ‘I’m a perfectionist’- which usually come off as false - , and instead try responding with ‘I have a tendency to say yes to everything and can overcommit myself’. Make sure you then bring an example of how you work on prioritising as it’s really important to let your potential employer know you recognise it as a weakness, and you’re actively working on improving yourself.
Don’t say bad things about your previous boss or workplace
Many employers are interested in finding out why applicants left their previous workplace. Again – the test of honesty might not be the best choice here. No matter how many fights you had with your former boss, you should definitely refrain from saying anything bad about them as it’ll only make you seem gossipy and an unloyal team player. It may also make the employer skeptical, as they’d be afraid you’ll talk bad things about the internal policy of the company. Palmer says that any mention of specific misgivings about the former workplace should be avoided. Instead, say you’re ‘looking for a new challenge in your life’ or that you were ‘unhappy with the culture of the organisation’.
Don’t mention your previous salary
A money question is always taboo, especially when it comes to the exact details of your previous salary. According to Palmer, “employers have been known to reduce their initial salary offer if they discover individuals were previously paid a lower rate”. So if you want to avoid being paid less than you should, keep your previous salary confidential and instead offer a diplomatic answer which won’t require further questions. A good idea is to state that ‘your salary was in line with the one currently being offered by the interviewer’, adds Palmer.
Don’t leave without asking any questions yourself
At the end of your interview, you’ll be given the chance to ask the employers any questions about the position. Leaving without asking anything will make the interviewer think you’re less engaged than other applicants. Being curious about your potential future job is a sign of having thoroughly researched the company before coming to the interview. Palmer believes that the applicant should ask two questions, but have at least four prepared in case some of them are answered during the interview: “It’s important that these questions are thoughtful and engaging because, if the interviewee asks something that has already been explained, it can hurt their chances of being hired far more than it can help”.