5 Phrases That Immediately Disqualify You In a Job Interview

Heading to a job interview? Stay far away from these 5 phrases.

Woman in job interview


Taylor Tobin
Taylor Tobin1.84k

When prepping for an exciting job interview, you can easily deploy a Google search and pull up any number of tips and suggestions for questions to ask and ways to phrase your accomplishments and your interest. However, in many cases, it’s equally important to know what not to say when speaking with a prospective employer. To avoid an off-the-cuff dismissal caused by an unfortunate turn of phrase, stay far away from these five phrases.

1. “My old boss/coworkers was/were crazy.”

This is one of those “honesty isn’t always the best policy” situations. It might be true that you’re desperate to leave your current place of work because your boss and colleagues cause and reinforce a toxic work environment. But because your interviewer doesn’t have a clear perception of you yet, she lacks the necessary information to determine whether your estimation is correct. And even if you can compellingly argue your former boss’s dysfunction, companies typically aren’t interested in hiring employees who will later go on to say negative things about them in future interviews. Keeping your word choice neutral and your tone positive will help you tremendously. Instead of saying “I have to leave because my colleagues are impossible to work with," less accusatory phrases like “It’s time for me to move on to new opportunities” or “I’m seeking growth potential that I don’t currently have at work” will serve you better.

2.  “My biggest weakness is that I work too hard.”

If you’ve ever visited a particularly out-of-touch career counselor, you’ve likely heard this old chestnut: “When asked about your weaknesses, just reframe your strengths!” Here’s the thing, though: if you do that in an actual interview, your interviewers will immediately know what you’re doing, and they’ll likely be annoyed by your effort to dodge the question. Instead, offer an honest response that will both help the employer imagine you as a realistic employee and will help you screen for jobs that actually fit your strengths. "Ask A Manager" author Alison Green told New York Magazine the following: “You’ll get far better outcomes for yourself if you use the interview as a chance to figure out whether or not the job is a strong match for you, taking into account what you’re great at and what you’re not-so-great at. You should want to make sure your interviewer is aware of your weaker points and doesn’t think they’ll be big obstacles in the job.” We’re inclined to agree!

3. “What will my salary be, and how much vacation time will I get?”

Generally, conversations about pay and benefits should come after receiving an employment offer. Rightly or wrongly, many employers believe that asking about compensation during the interview is a jumping-the-gun move. The interview phase should focus on discovering more about the position, determining whether your skills and experience make you a fit for the role in question, and ascertaining your level of interest in the role. Pay negotiations take place once the company decides that they want you and you figure out what type of offer you’d need to accept the job. 

4. “I don’t have any questions.”

Contrary to popular belief, job interviews aren’t auditions. The goal isn’t just to convince the employer that you’re the best one for the job; you also need to gain all the information you need to make an educated decision for yourself. That’s why the question-and-answer period typically held at the end of the interview should be taken seriously. Don’t miss your opportunity; come to the interview with at least 3 questions already prepared, and also keep your mind open to new questions that may arise during your conversation with the hiring manager.

5. Anything racist, sexist and/or homophobic.

This one should absolutely go without saying. However, we’re going to mention it anyway: even if you think you’re telling a “joke”, anything even remotely tinged with racist, sexist, or homophobic bias should be completely avoided during a job interview (and, really, in every other circumstance). Nothing will trigger an immediate “no” like a discriminatory remark...for good reason.