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5 things you should never say in a job interview

Interviews are crucial gateways in your career path, often making or breaking your job prospects. As the saying goes, "You never get a second chance to make a first impression.".
Photo: Unsplash

Interviews can be nerve-wracking experiences where every word counts. While preparing for common questions is essential, it’s equally vital to know what not to say.

Research conducted by a team from Old Dominion, Florida State, and Clemson universities reveals fascinating insights into how quickly interviewers form opinions about candidates. Their study of over 600 job interviews found that while first impressions are important, they are not always definitive.

About 4.9% of interviewers made their decision within the first minute, and 25.5% within five minutes. However, 69.6% of decisions were made after the first five minutes, indicating that a candidate’s performance throughout the interview can significantly influence the outcome. This research suggests that while an excellent first impression is valuable, a candidate still has ample opportunity to sway the interviewer’s decision during the course of the interview.

This underscores the importance of being well-prepared for every aspect of the interview process, from the initial greeting to the final questions.

Here are five phrases to avoid in an interview, along with explanations and alternative strategies.

1. “I Don’t Know Much About Your Company.”

Saying this immediately signals a lack of preparation. Researching the company shows interest and initiative. Before the interview, study the company’s website, recent news articles, and social media profiles. This knowledge not only avoids the blunder but also allows you to tailor your responses to align with the company‚Äôs goals and culture.

Instead, try: “I’ve researched your company and am impressed by [specific project or aspect].” This shows you’ve done your homework and are genuinely interested in the organization.

2. “My Last Boss was Terrible.”

Speaking negatively about past employers is a major red flag for interviewers. It raises concerns about your professionalism and ability to handle workplace conflicts constructively.

Rather than focusing on the negative, redirect the conversation to what you’ve learned from past experiences. For instance: “I’ve faced challenging situations in the past, which have taught me valuable lessons in communication and resilience.”

3. “I’m Just Looking for Any Job.”

This statement can make you appear desperate and uninterested in the specific role. Employers want candidates who are passionate about the job and the company.

Try something like: “I am particularly excited about this role because of how well it aligns with my skills and career goals.” This approach demonstrates both enthusiasm for the role and an understanding of how you can contribute.

4. “I Don’t Have Any Weaknesses.”

Claiming to have no weaknesses comes off as arrogant and unself-aware. Employers appreciate candidates who can critically assess themselves and are committed to personal development.

Instead, mention a real but not critical weakness and follow it with how you’re addressing it. For example: “I’ve found that I can be overly detailed-oriented, but I’ve been working on balancing attention to detail with efficiency.”

5. “How Much Does This Job Pay?”

While compensation is important, asking about it too early in the interview process can make it seem like your primary interest is money, not the job itself.

Wait for the interviewer to bring up salary or address it after receiving a job offer. Alternatively, if you need to know early in the process, phrase it diplomatically: “Could you provide some insight into the compensation range for this position?”


You can present yourself as a thoughtful, well-prepared candidate by steering clear of these phrases and focusing on positive, constructive responses. Remember, an interview is not just about answering questions; it’s about demonstrating your fit for the role and the company culture.

Key Takeaways:

  • Research thoroughly.
  • Stay positive and professional.
  • Be specific about your interest in the role.
  • Show self-awareness and willingness to grow.
  • Time your queries about salary appropriately.

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