11 Things You Should Not Say in a Job Interview

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Interviews can be intense! And sometimes even the most polished candidates can say something they wish they could take back. If you’re not careful, an offhand comment or two could cost you the job.

Saying certain things during a job interview can also make you look unprofessional, unprepared, or even desperate.

While this may seem obvious, you’d be surprised how often job seekers say things they shouldn’t during an interview. For instance, 45% of interviewees in the United States say something that hurts their chances of landing a job. That’s a huge number,  and it just shows how important it is to be mindful of what you say during an interview.

So, what should you avoid saying during a job interview? Here’s a list of 11 things you should totally avoid.

Why Focusing On What NOT To Say Is Just As Important As What You Do Say

Landing an interview in itself is an accomplishment. After all, the average job opening will attract more than 250 resumes at a go. Yes, your qualifications may have gotten you through the door, but it’s your job during the interview to prove that you’re the right candidate. 

Keep in mind that your potential employer will be assessing everything about you to see if you’re a good fit for the job—including what you say (and don’t say). 

Why “WHAT NOT TO SAY” is Important!!

  1. Saying The Wrong Things Might Ruin Your Chances – You can have a great interview and ruin everything with one wrong comment. In fact, research has shown that it only takes one mistake to make a bad impression.
  2. They Have Negative Impact –  People tend to focus more on negatives than positives, so one wrong comment could change the interviewer’s whole opinion about you.
  3. Comments Can Be Misinterpreted – It’s easy for comments to be misinterpreted, especially if they’re taken out of context. For example, if you’re asked about your weaknesses, and you say that you’re “a perfectionist,” the interviewer might interpret that as you being arrogant.
  4. The Difference Between Getting Hired Or Not – In some cases, saying the wrong thing during an interview can completely ruin your chances of being hired.
  5. Will Be Used In Accessing You – During a job interview, it’s important to remember that your words matter just as much as your actions. Every little thing you do or say during an interview is being noted and could potentially be used to decide whether or not you’re the right fit for the job.

11 Things You Should Not Say in a Job Interview

Yes, it’s important to focus on saying the right things during an interview. But it’s just as important to avoid any comments or questions that could hurt your chances of landing the job.

Here are 11 things you should never say during a job interview. 

1. “I don’t know.”

During an interview, you’ll likely be asked a question that you don’t know the answer to. In fact, an interviewer might deliberately ask you a difficult question to see how you handle it. Using the response “I don’t know” implies that you have little imagination.

So, if you’re asked such a question, you should take a guess or give a brief explanation. Saying that you don’t know shows that you’re not prepared for the interview and that you’re not resourceful.

Try asking the interviewer for clarification if you don’t understand the question. This will buy you time to think about your answer and show that you’re interested in the question. If this doesn’t yield many results, you should give a thoughtful estimation.

2. “My previous boss was a jerk.”

No matter how much you didn’t get along with your previous boss, avoid badmouthing them during a job interview. This will make you look unprofessional and difficult to work with. 

The interviewer is operating from a position of seniority, so they are more likely to understand the challenges that management teams face when it comes to personnel.

Instead of badmouthing your previous boss, try to focus on the positive aspects of your previous job. For example, you could say that you learned a lot from your previous boss or enjoyed the challenges of your previous job.

3. “I’m not sure if I’m qualified for this position.”

Even if you’re not sure if you’re qualified for the position, don’t say so during an interview. This will make you look unprepared and unconfident. 

Doubting your qualifications will not only raise red flags for the interviewer but also make them question why you’re even applying for the position.

If you’re not sure about your qualifications, do some research before the interview. Find out as much as you can about the company and the position. This will help you understand what the interviewer is looking for.

Additionally, instead of admitting that you’re not sure if you’re qualified, try to focus on your strengths and what makes you a good fit for the position. It’s also a good idea to mention any relevant experience or skills that you have.

4. “I don’t have any questions.”

At the end of the job interview, the interviewer will ask if you have any questions. Take the opportunity!

Asking questions shows that you’re interested in the position and the company. It also allows you to gather more information about the job and assess whether or not it’s a good fit for you. Answering with a simple “no” makes you look unprofessional and unprepared.  

Try to ask questions that are relevant to the position and the company. For example, you could ask about the company’s culture or the challenges of the job. Thoughtful questions are a great way to stand out in a job interview.

5. “What is my salary?”

Asking about salary during an interview can be tricky. 

On one hand, you want to make sure that you’re being paid fairly for the position. On the other hand, asking about compensation too early can make you look like you’re more interested in money than the job itself. Don’t be the first one to bring up salary.

The best time to ask about salary is after the interviewer has made an offer. However, if you’re asked about salary during an interview, be honest. Just avoid giving a specific number and instead highlight the salary range you’re looking for.

You could also say that you’re open to negotiation or willing to discuss salary once an offer has been made.  

6. “What does your company do?”

This is a common interview question, but it’s one that you should avoid asking. If you ask this question, the interviewer will likely assume that you’re unfamiliar with the position. 

If you don’t know much about the company, do some research before the interview. This will help you understand what the company does and whether or not the job is a good fit for you. 

Also, instead of asking about the company, try to focus on the position. You could ask about the responsibilities of the job or what kind of experience the interviewer is looking for.

7. “I don’t have any weaknesses.”

No one is perfect, and admitting that you have weaknesses shows that you’re self-aware. It also shows that you’re willing to work on improving yourself. Saying that you don’t have any weaknesses makes you look arrogant and unprepared.

Think of a few weaknesses that are relevant to the job. For example, if you’re applying for a job that sometimes requires public speaking, you could say that you’re not comfortable speaking in front of large groups of people. 

Once you’ve identified your weaknesses, you should then focus on what you’re doing to improve them. For example, you could say that you’re taking a public speaking class or working on your communication skills.

8. “I think it’s on my resume.”

This is one thing that lands most job seekers in trouble. Most employers dislike this answer. Statistics show that 70% of employers will not even bother reading your resume if it’s more than two pages long. 

Referring your interviewer to your resume during an interview can make you seem a little arrogant. It also shows that you’re not comfortable talking about your accomplishments. 

So, take the time to talk about your experience and skills. This will help you stand out from the other candidates and increase your chances of getting the job.

9. “Yes, I will have a beer or two.”

Well, this can be rather tricky; some employers might not mind if you have a beer or two. In fact, they might even offer you one! However, some interviewers only offer alcohol as a test of sorts and will not hesitate to eliminate you from the running.

It’s best to avoid drinking alcohol during an interview, regardless of the employer’s stance on the matter. You can always have a drink after the interview to celebrate (or commiserate).

10. “So sorry I’m late!”

This is a major red flag for employers. Being late to an interview shows that you’re not punctual and that you don’t value the interviewer’s time. It also shows that you’re not organized or prepared for the interview.

If you’re running late, call the interviewer and let them know. Apologize for being late and explain why you’re running behind. Most importantly, don’t use this as an excuse for being unprepared.  

11. “I’m nervous”

Honesty is often the best policy but not in this case. Never let the interviewer know that you’re anxious. They may interpret this as you lacking confidence, which is a huge deal-breaker for most employers.

Check out this post for help: How to Stay Calm During an Interview [9 Tips]

What to Do If You Accidentally Say Something You Regret in a Job Interview

If you accidentally say something that could cost you the job, don’t panic. Just stay calm and keep your cool. 

The best way to recover from a slip-up is to immediately apologize and try to reframe the conversation. For example, if you accidentally badmouth your previous boss, you could say that you’re grateful for the opportunity to learn and grow from the experience. 

It’s also a good idea to have a list of questions prepared in case you need to change the subject. Asking the interviewer about their favorite part of the job or what they like most about working for the company is a great way to refocus the conversation.

Be Very Deliberate About What You Say in a Job Interview

While it’s important to avoid saying certain things in a job interview, remember that mistakes happen. If you happen to use these words in your conversation with the interviewer, don’t panic. Instead, be calm and try to correct the mistake. 

Most importantly, learn from your mistakes and avoid them in future interviews. All you need is some practice, and you’ll be able to ace any job interview.