5 Cringeworthy Phrases to Avoid Like The Plague In Interviews, According to a Career Coach

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Elana Konstant12
Career Coach for professionals in transition
April 14, 2024 at 11:27AM UTC
Even for the most talkative and outgoing among us, interviews can feel like a special kind of torture. As a career coach, I help clients prepare and practice for interviews all day long. It still amazes me how powerful, accomplished women struggle to tout their own achievements for fear of coming across as aggressive or arrogant. Feeling confident in yourself, your qualifications, and your fit within the company is vital to convincing the interviewer that you’re the one. But, in an interview, as with any relationship, it’s just as important to figure out what NOT to say. Here are five sentences that should never cross your lips in an interview:

1. “While I don’t have the exact experience…”

Many people feel a need to point out the flaws in their candidacy so they can address them. Although generally being proactive is important, here is one area where it’s better to take a wait and see approach. If you’re asked about a specific area in which you are lacking, you need to have a prepared way of alleviating their fears and discussing your ability to do the work because of your past experience, your ability to learn quickly, and your desire to rise to the challenge. That said, do not bring these issues up yourself! Stay on the sunny side and steer clear of giving the interviewer any ammunition to disqualify you.

2. “My last supervisor was a terrible manager.”

Badmouthing current or former employers or colleagues raises a definite red flag for interviewers. Such negative remarks will lead people to start wondering what you would say about them if you left. Also, pointing out personality conflicts or any other clashes reflects poorly on your ability to navigate a difficult situation. Hearing a candidate air their qualms about her prior role sets a negative tone for the interview, which is hard to overcome no matter how stellar the credentials.

3. “What salary are you offering?”

Assuming you can help it, the interview — at least a first-round interview — is not the ideal time to talk about salary expectations. If asked directly, state that you are negotiable and look forward to learning more about the expectations of the role. In this stage you still don’t have enough information to make the appropriate ask. Utilize your research and networking, to figure out exactly the right amount based on your value and the role. Waiting until the offer gives you the most leverage possible because you know they already want you. Although it’s tempting to start the salary conversation immediately, try to push it off until you have more information and an offer pending. 

4. “I’m willing to take a pay cut.”

This usually comes up when someone is seeking specific flexibility measures or benefits accommodations. While it is important to prioritize what you are willing to sacrifice so that you can negotiate accordingly, you never want to preemptively undercut yourself. Again, this comes after the offer when you have the most power. If money isn’t your primary concern, ask for flexibility in your schedule, increased vacation days, stock options, whatever other potential benefits the company can provide so that you feel as though you advocated for yourself.

5. “No, I don’t have any questions.”

This just screams disinterest! If you have no curiosity about a place that might become your next professional home, why would the employer want you there? Asking questions is a great way for you to determine if this is the right fit for you as well. Think about what you want to know to make a decision if an offer comes your way. Potentially ask about upcoming projects, biggest challenges, team structure, and/or favorite company attribute. Research the company here on Fairygodboss and in your network to find more topics to discuss.
Elana Konstant is a career coach and consultant focusing on professional women in career transition. A former lawyer, she founded Konstant Change Coaching to empower women to create the career they want. Change is good. Elana will help you find out why. Her career advice has been featured in Slate, Glamour, Babble, Motherly, and other outlets. You can learn more by visiting her website, konstantchangecoaching.com

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