11 Interview Phrases That Will Eliminate You on the Spot, According to Hiring Managers

What Should You Not Say In An Interview: 11 Phrases That Will Instantly Eliminate You


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No one wants to sound overly rehearsed during an interview. You’re trying to portray who you are authentically — as best as you can while being judged over a Zoom call, at least — and having every last one of your lines written down in advance is likely to leave things feeling stilted. 

But while it’s perhaps wise to not map out every single thing you’ll say during the interview, according to experts, there are some lines you can go ahead and plan on not saying. Starting with the following 11 phrases.

1. “My last boss/company was the worst.”

“I make it a point to never say anything negative about a previous employer or boss,” Jennifer Flanagan, an FGB VIP and PR and Marketing Specialist at Gentle Giant Moving Company, said. “Even if the candidate feels the information is true, it doesn't reflect well on the candidate or the person or company they are speaking about, and it doesn't give the person conducting the interview a great impression of the candidate. It's a lose-lose-lose in my eyes!”

2. “Would you hire me?”

“I would say the single worst phrase someone can say in an interview is ‘based on what you know now, would you hire me?’” Meghan Titzer, an FGB VIP and a director of product development, said. “Even if the answer is yes, they may not want to or be able to say so now. If the answer is no, they're going to feel awkward telling the truth, and no one wants to lie to your face.”

3. “No, I don’t have any questions.” 

“Even the best recruiter won't provide everything you might need to make an informed decision about a position you're considering,” said Steph McDonald, an FGB VIP and a recruiter with Zapier. “You should come to each interview with pre-prepared questions for each interviewer. I like to have at least 10 per interviewer ready and prioritize them based on what was shared and what I still am unclear about. I know 10 seems like a lot, but it's okay to (in fact, I encourage) asking the same question to multiple interviewers. Having questions ready shows your interest and eagerness to know more.”

4. “Sorry, I can’t think of anything I learned from that experience!” 

“One thing that always jumps out to me as a red flag during an interview is a candidate that is unable to provide any examples of what they learned from a challenging work project or a demanding boss,” Suzanne Speak, an FGB VIP and senior HR leader, said. “When I ask a job candidate what she or he learned from ‘X’ experience, I expect to hear a specific story related to the experience that describes what they learned. Learning from mistakes demonstrates a desire for growth and development. An inability to learn from difficult situations may signal a lack of interest, or worse, it may show a level of arrogance in the candidate.”

5. “How long before I can be considered for a promotion?”

“This question indicates a fleeting interest in the current role,” Karen Rubin, an FGB VIP, Executive Coach and Founder of Princeton Corporate Coaching, said. “Let’s face it, many of us have taken a job that we consider a stepping stone toward the role we really want, or as an entrée into our dream company… When you’re on the hiring side, however, this question is a red flag that the candidate is more focused on their career growth than doing the job at hand.”

6. “This job will be really great for me because…”

“It surprises me how many people say, ‘This job will be really great for me because…’ as part of an interview,” Martin Woods, Multilingual SEO Director at Indigoextra Ltd, said. “The interviewer wants to know how you will be really great for the company, and that’s what to focus on.”

It’s a line Carolyn O’Connor, an FGB VIP and Immigration Legal Specialist, has heard, too.

“Pretty much anything overly gushing about what they want or their feelings about a position is a red flag,” she said. “It comes across as desperate or a sugar-coated mindset of what the job will entail. I don’t doubt the enthusiasm; I’m just not sure it is realistic and will tend to steer away from candidates who say those things.”

7. “I don’t know the answer to that.”

“To me, the one thing to avoid saying in an interview is ‘I don’t know’. Of course, no matter how much we prepare, there will sometimes be questions that we don’t immediately have the answer to, but there is usually a better way to answer it than with ‘I don’t know,’” Jenna Carson, HR Manager at Music Grotto, said. “You should never make something up to answer a question you don’t know the answer to, but try to use your communication skills to turn around the question. Take the time to think about it, perhaps repeat the question as though you are thinking about it, and come up with something that turns the conversation back to something you do know.”

8. “How long will this take? I have to do XYZ thing.”

"I would advise against using a phrase like 'Can we keep this short? I gotta go do (XYZ thing),” Dana Case, Director of Operations at MyCorporation.com, said. “In the era of COVID-19 when many job interviews are being held over the phone or via Zoom, there will likely be a hard stop for the interview. However, the hard stop is primarily to be observed by the interviewer, not the interviewee. Do not start off a job interview essentially asking when it will be over so you can do something else unrelated to the role and the call altogether." 

9. “To be honest…” or “in all honesty…”

“When a candidate prefaces their answers with this statement, it makes the interviewer wonder what they aren't being honest about,” Melissa Smith, Founder and CEO of Association of Virtual Assistants, said. “Are you not completely honest most of the time? Have you lied in the past? Do you not know how to communicate candidly so you resort to not being completely honest? The candidate actually thinks they are being seen as more trustworthy when they explicitly state their honesty, when in reality it's working against them.”

10. “I need this job.”

“Hiring managers want to see that candidates are interested in working for their company, but it's easy to go overboard with the enthusiasm,” Adam Sanders, Founder and Director of Successful Release, said. “If you appear too eager or worse, desperate, to get the job they are going to start wondering why that is. The highest-quality candidates tend to have other options available which allows them to come off as interested but still professional. Candidates that are desperate tend to get passed over or offered the position with reduced compensation.”

11. “Here are the names of the other companies I’m interviewing with.”

“While it is normal that job applicants are also applying for other positions in different companies, it is a massive turnoff for recruiters if candidates tell recruiters that the company is not the only option for them,” Yaniv Masjedi, CMO at Nextiva, said. “Recruiters are looking for people that will grow with the company… I recommend that candidates not mention their other job-hunting endeavors — unless asked by the recruiters. Focus on the company that you’re interviewing with because it would help if recruiters feel that you want to be in their organization rather than see them as ‘one of the options.’”
This article was written by a FGB Contributor.