In a job interview, you might end up saying some things that offend the interviewer or make you look bad. They might be things you truly believe or need to say -- about salary, benefits, the role -- but are hard to communicate clearly. It’s important to find a way to discuss the things you’re concerned about or express who you are, so don’t shy away from finding a way to say what you need to say.
Here are 10 things you might want to say to an interviewer paired with alternative ways to say them without giving off a negative impression. After you’re done reading these 10, check out the 10 we wrote about last time.
DON’T SAY: I’m a generalist/jack of all trades.
WHY NOT: You might be a great generalist and the role may or may not call for someone who is great at many things. However, there are better ways to signal that you’re a quick learner with a lot of multi-functional experience.
DO SAY: I have a great deal of experience that sets me up for success with this role. I also like to help other teams and get involved cross-functionally when I can, getting to learn for myself and bringing new perspectives to others.
DON’T SAY: I took a college course in that so I’m sure I’ll be able to manage it.
WHY NOT: Your college courses by themselves are not an indication of prior work experience. If you want to use college courses as proof of capability, you need to add more information.
DO SAY: I took a college course in [that subject] and did some related projects. I think I’ll be able to tackle that challenge by applying what I learned.
DON’T SAY: Are there opportunities for me to work with other teams in the company?
WHY NOT: You might be too far beyond the scope of your job too quickly and suggesting you like to hop between teams or projects too often.
DO SAY: Does your team often collaborate with others in the company? Are there a lot of opportunities for cross-functional projects?
DON’T SAY: Salary is most important to me in a job.
WHY NOT: Being driven solely by money signals your status as a mercenary-type employee. To hiring managers, this presents you as a risky short-term, high-cost hire.
DO SAY: I'm performance-driven - I like to really earn my paycheck and challenge myself by exceeding both company and personal goals each quarter.
DON’T SAY: I don’t like working overtime, ever.
WHY NOT: Projects will sometimes require overtime to hit critical deadlines and hiring managers want to know they can count on you.
DO SAY: I value work-life balance and downtime, but am always available when situations are critical.
DON’T SAY: Why don’t you do it this way, like at my last job?
WHY NOT: Different companies have different work styles for specific reasons. No one wants to hear one thing is better than another without proof to back it up.
DO SAY: This is how we did this at my old company. X and Y worked well while Z didn’t. I could see the strengths in both and would be interested in finding out which method is better.
DON’T SAY: When should I email you if I don’t hear back?
WHY NOT: Hiring is a slow and uncertain process. Get as much certainty as you can and assert yourself as an active participant.
DO SAY: What are the next steps and timeline? Great, I’ll follow up on that with you.
DON’T SAY: My last job bored me.
WHY NOT: The person sitting across from you might not understand why you found your last job boring and could judge you for not being able to find and tackle new challenges.
DO SAY: I reached the full potential of my last job and think this new opportunity is a way to find and tackle new challenges and elevate my career.
DON’T SAY: My last boss and I didn’t get along.
WHY NOT: It’s just not a mature way to talk about the issue of work styles.
DO SAY: My last boss worked differently than I did and we couldn’t adapt to one another. How do you tend to work, both generally and on a day-to-day basis?
DON’T SAY: I burned out at my last job.
WHY NOT: Makes you a risky hire by indicating you might burn out at your new one.
DO SAY: My last job tended to overwork employees. That resulted in unhappiness and high turnover.