Bad salesman trying to convince to a bored client in her office or businessman in a job interview
ATD Blog

10 Things You Should Never Say in a Job Interview

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Have you ever walked out of an interview under a dark cloud, feeling sure you weren't going to get the job (and you didn't)? Maybe it was something you said! Here are a few things you should never say in a job interview, along with smart alternatives to use when you’re faced with a tough question.

1. "I should point out that I don't have any experience with X."

Memorize this interview rule: Never volunteer a negative. If you lack experience, your resume will show it. If you're not good at something, fine, don't claim you are—but don't go out of your way to talk yourself down, either. They have reason to think you can do the job, or they wouldn't have invited you to interview for it.

Talk about what you do have to offer.

2. "I don't know. (full stop)"

There are better ways to handle a question that has you stumped. Try taking a bit more time, perhaps thinking out loud as you work your way through some possibilities. Consider asking a clarifying question, or surround your "don't know" with what you do know.

For example, you could say, "I've seen situations like what you mentioned. Although I don't know exactly what the answer is, I'd want to look into A, B, and C as possible reasons. Can you give me a little more background on this issue?"

3. "A time when I worked with a difficult person? Well, the head of engineering at my most recent company . . ."

You do need to give a real example, but it's indiscreet and inconsiderate to identify the person. Disguise them in a phrase like "a manager in another department at one of my jobs."

Remember, questions like this are ultimately about you, not the other person. Most of your answer should be about the skills and strategies you used to make the best of the situation. Your comments about the other person's behavior should be very brief, factual, and fair.

4. "I left my job because it was a toxic environment. "


Some offices are about as functional and pleasant as a swamp full of alligators. But don't say so, or the interviewer will wonder whether you'll be badmouthing their own company someday. Focus on a positive reason: "I really want to work more with (particular skill or technology), as I would be doing here."

5. "What is this company's flagship product?"

Never ask a question you could figure out through your own research. Study the organization's website, social media pages, and recent mentions in the media. Glassdoor, online directories such as Hoover's, and word of mouth are also good resources. Demonstrate diligence!

6. "Can I telecommute?"

Ask not what the company can do for you, ask what you can do for the company. Questions about special working arrangements, perks, benefits, and salary are premature until a written offer is on the table, at which point you may be able to negotiate.

7. "I'm not going to bull**** you."

Never swear in a job interview, even if the interviewer does. One four-letter word can end your candidacy on the spot.

8. "No, I don't have any questions. I had some, but they've been answered during our discussion."


To ensure that you'll have several good questions to ask, bring a written list of about a dozen. Prioritize the list, since it may not be appropriate to ask all of them.

9. "(A lie.)"

Not only is lying in the interview unethical, but it brings a major risk to the candidate's future. It's likely that the truth will come out, resulting in termination with cause, without unemployment benefits, and with a damaged reputation. It's not worth it.

If you have no idea how to answer a certain question honestly yet effectively, work with an interview coach. There is always a better solution.

10. "Thanks for meeting with me. When will I hear back?"

This concluding statement is sadly incomplete, in two ways.

First, it's absolutely essential to express your interest in the job. A pet peeve of interviewers is when a candidate leaves without saying whether they're still interested. You might think, "Of course I'm interested, why else would I come to the interview?" But for all they know, you came out of curiosity and have decided it's not a fit after all. Speak up!

The second point is that people tend to remember endings, so the end of the interview is a key moment to remind the interviewer why they should hire you. No big speech is required; just leave them thinking about a couple of the most memorable reasons why you're a good fit for their needs.

Replace these 10 "interview fails" with smarter alternatives, and you'll be well on your way to getting the job.

About the Author

Thea Kelley is a job search coach serving individuals in the San Francisco Bay Area and nationwide. Drawing upon more than 20 years of experience in coaching and career services, she works with professionals across all occupations and career levels, from entry level to senior executive. She is author of the Amazon best-seller Get That Job! The Quick and Complete Guide to a Winning Interview ("Excellent" —Forbes) and publishes a wealth of practical job search tips. For information or a free consultation, visit

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