First impressions matter— a lot! Especially when it comes to job interviews.
You see, even if you’re an expert at what you do, you might still not get the job if you mess up your interview.
And even if you’re just not the best and the brightest, if your interview goes really well, you’re still likely to get hired.
Here’s a secret: You don’t have to say impressive things, you just have to avoid saying things that might come across as red flags.
To make a good impression, here are some phrases you must avoid saying during a job interview:
1) “Sorry, I’m late.”
If you want to sabotage your interview, you don’t even have to utter a single word, you just have to be late. BAM! Instant turn off.
The interviewer won’t even care which school you’re from or what awards you’ve received. They’d be too focused on how you don’t respect time.
Want to leave a good impression? Arrive at least 15 minutes earlier.
You can also use the 15 minutes to calm your nerves before you enter the door.
2) “Oh wow, you look pretty.”
While giving compliments is not forbidden, you have to make it classy. And by classy, I mean appropriate.
Hiring managers can tell when you’re simply trying to flatter them. And if you’re male, it might come across as sleazy if you say this phrase to a female hiring manager.
Don’t say anything about their physical appearance.
Instead, if you can, give a compliment about the company…or even the office chair. But make sure it’s a genuine compliment.
3) “Huh, ah, uhm, so like…”
Fillers are fine as long as you don’t utter them every two seconds.
It’s also forgivable if what you’re saying actually makes a lot of sense or the job you’re applying for doesn’t require great communication skills.
We’ve seen a lot of people deliver TED Talks who keep saying “uhmm” but we forget it because we’re too focused on what they actually have to say.
But still, as much as you can, try to minimize your use of fillers. Generally, it signals lack of confidence.
4) “It’s not there on my resume?”
When they ask “So which University did you go to?” or something that’s obviously written on your resume, it’s not because they’re lazy, they just want you to start talking about it.
And even if they indeed haven’t read your resume, this is just rude to ask.
It literally translates as “You’re not doing your job!”, and this could give them the impression that you’re sassy…and no one wants to work with someone who’s sassy.
5) “As I’ve said earlier…”
This is another phrase that can come off as sassy.
It can sound like “You’re not listening to me?”
Of course, there’s no problem when said in a matter-of-fact manner. But when said in a condescending way, don’t expect to get hired.
This phrase, when said with slight annoyance, could signal that you’re impatient and rude. It definitely doesn’t make you attractive to hiring managers.
6) “I didn’t read the job description thoroughly, but…”
So why didn’t you?
And, more importantly, why did you apply if you don’t know what you’re applying for?
Even if you say something impressive after the “but”, hiring managers would still fixate on the fact that you didn’t read the job post thoroughly.
Massive turn off.
It won’t even take 10 minutes of your time to read the job description thoroughly so this signals to them that a.) you’re lazy, b.) you’re just desperate to get any job, c.) you’re the kind who doesn’t pay attention to detail.
7) “My previous company sucks.”
People who bad mouth others are generally lacking in integrity. And hiring managers keep an eye on any negativity applicants spew out during interviews.
Sure, there are instances where this is necessary like if they ask “So why did you leave your previous company? They’re more reputable than us.”
When they ask you this, you have no choice but to give a reply.
As a general rule, avoid saying anything negative about your previous employers. But if you have no choice, keep it short and direct, not gossipy.
8) “I still don’t know what I want.”
This phrase signals that you’re probably just looking around.
“I’m just curious” or “I’m just checking my options” could sound like you have commitment issues.
To the hiring manager, this is a red flag that you’ll likely leave the moment you start to realize that the job position isn’t really something for you. And they can’t afford that.
They don’t want to train someone who’s non-committal.
But look, I know what you’re thinking. A lot of us still don’t know what we want. I’m 37 but I’m still not quite sure what I want to do in my 40s.
But we don’t say that out loud during interviews.
9) “To be honest, I just need money.”
Let’s be real—many of us just go to work to earn money. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.
Contrary to what we’ve been taught, our job doesn’t have to be our passion. The main purpose of work is simply to earn. And in fact, there are benefits to pursuing passion purely outside work.
However, saying “I just need money” is a bad thing during interviews because it could sound like you’re not actually excited to do your work and grow with the company.
Companies are tired of managing quiet quitters. They want people who are actually interested in what they’re doing day in and day out.
So yes, a bit of passion and drive is still necessary for most hiring managers. So don’t apply to jobs you truly don’t enjoy doing, or find a way to start liking it.
10) “I’m willing to do anything to get the job.”
Saying this phrase won’t impress hiring managers.
It can just make them wonder “Hmmm, WHY are they willing to do anything? Are they that desperate?” or “This is obviously BS.”
But I get it. You want to say you’re willing to put in the hard work…which is a big plus. But do try to make it sound much better by being specific.
So say something like “I’m willing to undergo training on X and Y if that’s necessary for the job” or “I can arrive an hour earlier to ensure we achieve our goals.”
“I’m willing to do anything” is just too much.
11) “What can YOU offer me?”
It’s your right to know the salary, benefits, and other perks, for sure. But it’s generally considered a faux pas if you ask it too soon.
It’s better to wait for the hiring manager to be the first one to open up about these things.
And trust me, they won’t forget to discuss it if you’re about to get the job (when you’ll get the job offer).
For your first interview, focus more on telling them about you and what YOU have to offer them. Then just wait.
12) “My weakness is I work too hard.”
This is one of the most cliche responses to the most cliche interview question “What’s your greatest weakness?”
So try to be more authentic. There are many ways to answer this question. Find one that suits you best.
But basically, the trick is to find something that’s true for you but is actually a strength disguised as a weakness, or a flaw that doesn’t actually impact how you deliver work (as in “I’m not such a good team player, I work best when I’m alone.”)
13) “I want to start my own company someday.”
They want us to be ambitious…well, as long as we’ll be an asset to their company, of course.
By saying that you want to start your own company, it almost feels like you’re only using them to gain experience. Again, nothing wrong with this, really, but these are the things you shouldn’t tell a hiring manager.
There are a few exceptions. For instance, if you want to work as an assistant to an artist, then it’s perfectly fine to say you plan to be like them someday.
But for corporate jobs, it’s generally a no-no. They wouldn’t want to train a potential competitor.
14) “It was nice talking to you. I have another interview in an hour”
You don’t have to hide that you are applying to other companies, but it’s something you don’t want to flaunt either.
So if they don’t ask, there’s no need to tell them about it.
Hiring managers don’t expect you to name the companies you applied for. But if they ask, keep your answer short and direct. As in, “Yes, I have applied to three companies so far and one already gave me a job offer.”
But don’t volunteer that information because it would sound like you’re trying to increase your value…which can be a turn off for some.
15) “Am I hired?”
Even if you’re the best candidate, hiring managers need time to evaluate your application.
While eagerness is a plus, impatience and being too forward isn’t.
So once they say “Thanks for your time”, there’s nothing much you can do but be patient.
It’s not easy to get a job in this economy.
But as long as you impress them with your resume and you don’t turn them off during your interview, you’ll get hired fast.
Be yourself, but just try your best to not utter the phrases in this list if you want job offers left and right.