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What Not To Say In A Job Interview

Published: Monday 16th March 2015

It’s your dream position and you’re on your way your the job interview. You’re desperate to make a good impression but what will put an interviewer off you straight away?

Woman covering her mouth with her hand

Single Word Answers

At a job  interview, there’s a rationale behind all job interview questions asked. The interviewer isn’t looking for a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’, he or she wants to know the reasons you answered ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to a question. Monosyllabic answers are a big turn-off and can lead to awkward silences. Do your best to explain why you answered the way you did. With a bit of thought, you might be able to put a spin on the answer that better demonstrates your suitability for the role.

A good example would be if you were asked if you had knowledge of a certain software programme. Instead of saying simply ‘yes’ or ‘no’, you could say you’ve heard about the programme and are hoping to learn how to use it in the future. You could then talk about similar applications that you are more familiar with.

Behave Professionally

Confident businessmen sitting by table during consultation

For all job adverts, whether they’re driving, retail or civil service jobs, especially those that involve liaising face-to-face with customers, you will be expected to behave professionally. In terms of language that means no swearing of course, but avoid slang too, or in the case of electronic communications, text-speak. Even if the interviewer uses informal phrases, such as ’cool’, ‘kinda’, ‘super’, etc, it’s best that you keep your own words as professional as possible. At the same time, try to avoid too many buzzwords or jargon, such as ‘team player’, ‘enthusiastic’, ‘hard working’. Too many of these will make you sound pretentious or false. Instead, use examples of how you can be all of these things.

Be Clear And Incisive

There might be times when you become tongue-tied or simply can’t think of anything to say. If this happens, don’t start ‘umming’ and ‘ahhing’. Instead, be honest and say that you don’t know, or don’t have the knowledge to answer that particular question. If you need time to collect your thoughts, ask the interviewer to repeat the question, explain it in further detail or request a moment to think about what was asked. Sometimes the interviewer will deliberately throw a question into the mix that you’re not expecting to see how you react, so be prepared.

Young business woman job interview

Avoid Clichés

If you’ve applied to a number of job adverts, you may already have taken part in several job interviews. At this stage in your job hunt, it can be tempting to supply generic answers to what appear to be generic questions. However, every job interview is different and every interviewer has different ways of assessing candidates and their traits. Whether it’s a civil service job or a private sector role, you should tailor your pre-interview preparation accordingly. Think about what qualities the organisation is looking for and how they will react to your answers. For example, avoid answering questions such as ‘what is your greatest weakness?’ with ‘I’m a perfectionist.’ Most interviewers have heard that answer several times already today. Be unique, use you’re your initiative and be clever. This is your opportunity to let your personality shine.

Don’t Be Negative

Nobody wants to work with someone who’s negative. Don’t complain about companies you’ve worked for in the past, how they do business, or criticise former colleagues (the interviewer may know those individuals if you work in same industry). Don’t be too boastful either. Be factual and be prepared to back up what you say with evidence. Always focus on the positive, even when making small talk. Even if you did have a terrible journey getting to the job interview, say the journey will be easier next time. If the rain is pattering against the window, say something like ‘I think it’ll clear up later’. Everyone warms to someone who is positive and enthusiastic. 

Job interview - businessman listen to candidate answers

Chatterboxes Need Not Apply

Nerves can affect people in different ways. While some clam up, others talk too much. That can mean digressing and taking the interview off track and into the unknown. Interviewers don’t like this. Stay focused with your conversation and try to guide the job interview into the areas where you are strongest. 

Don’t chat at length about your favourite pastimes, likes or dislikes, unless you believe there’s some relevance there for the interviewer. By all means, if you discover a shared interest, chat a little, but let the interviewer guide the conversation.

For more top tips on job hunting why not follow Zoek on Twitter @zoekappuk or simply visit Zoek’s InfoHub.

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