10 toxic phrases to avoid in job interviews

Posted December 22, 2015 by
human resources team during job interview with woman

Human resources team during job interview with woman. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

Now that you have graduated, or are on the way to graduating, your behavior in job interviews is more important than ever. Saying or doing the wrong thing is a risk in losing out on great opportunities. That’s no way to begin a career. One thing job seekers can do to help themselves is avoid saying things that are unprofessional or inadvertently offensive when they are being interviewed. Take a few minutes to read this list of 10 toxic phrases to avoid; make it a goal to avoid using them.

1. What does this company do?

Using this phrase tells an interviewer that you couldn’t be bothered to research the company before coming to the interview. It’s okay to ask about upcoming projects, or even to ask about something you saw on the company’s website. It’s never okay to ask the purpose of the company’s existence.

2. My goal is to be self-employed.

Job seekers probably think that this will make their interviewers see them as ambitious go-getters. Here’s what the interviewer will hear: “I would like you to hire me for this entry-level position, invest thousands of dollars in training me and developing my set, then I’m going to leave the company with all that knowledge to become your competitor.”

3. Will this take long?

Never give the impression that your time is more valuable than the interviewer’s time. Using this phrase gives the impression that you have better things to do. As a practical matter, never schedule interviews close together. If things are going well, it is not unusual for an interview to extend 30 minutes to an hour beyond the scheduled time.

4. I need to work at least x hours per week and make at least x dollars an hour.

The job seeker’s role in job interviews is to convince potential employers of everything he can do for them. Job seekers’ needs should never come up during interviews. The appropriate time to bring up hours or rate of pay is after the job offer has been extended.

5. My previous boss was a terrible manager.

Never, ever, say anything negative about a current or previous employer or co-worker. If things ended badly, just say that you were interested in pursuing a new opportunity. By saying something disparaging, potential employers will wonder if you would bad mouth them as well. Also, by working in a small town, or in a niche where people run in tight circles, your old boss and potential employer could be friends.

6. Dissed, bae, fixin to, y’all, #$%$@

Avoid using slang terms, regional phrases, colloquialisms, and by all means do not swear. If an interviewer does any of this, don’t take that as an invitation to do so as well. Keep your language formal, professional, and above reproach. An interviewer may be listening to your speech to determine how you would speak to customers and coworkers.

7. I leveraged…

Avoid using words such as leveraged or any other buzzwords/business jargon. They mean nothing, and they leave the impression that you are trying to dazzle an interviewer with words rather than demonstrating action that was meaningful at your last employer.

8. We and us

When working on a team, it is a good idea to put ego aside and focus on collaboration and getting things done as part of a group. However, when in job interviews, don’t speak of your accomplishments using we or us. The person conducting the interview has no idea what you contributed when you say, “we designed a great email marketing campaign.” Use the word “I” instead and then tell the interviewer what you did specifically, “I wrote the copy for the emails and designed the landing pages for a successful email marketing campaign.”

9. Politician ‘x’ sure is messing things up for us…

Sometimes, when a job interview is going very well, the conversation can turn to topics that no longer have much to do with the job. Discuss a favorite restaurant, the local sports team, or even a hobby that you have in common. Never take any of this as an opening to bring up politics or religion. If they disagree with you, the interviewer will likely find your remark to be unprofessional.

10. Went partying, got blitzed…

Okay, a college student or recent graduate might go out every so often to tie one on with friends. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this, but bringing it up in a job interview shows very poor judgment.

Daniela McVicker has broad experience in the field of personal development. She currently works as a freelance blogger for AssignmentReviews and some other educational sites and provides master classes on public speaking. You can follow Daniela on Twitter or add her on Facebook.

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