Business Interview Etiquette: What NOT to Say!

You’re sitting in the waiting area, nervous. You’re dressed in a smart, spiffy outfit. All signed in, the receptionist has informed your interviewer that you’ve arrived. The stage is set and your interview is about to begin. You slide your tongue over your teeth just-in-case and check to make sure you have a working pen and notepad ready. To kill time, you check your phone for messages and wisely set it from vibrate to silent. They call your name… let the games begin!


Interviewing is like a game. That isn’t a remark intended to make light of the process. However, it is worthwhile to think of the experience more like a chess match or a competition. You are competing against all other candidates, they just don’t happen to be in the room with you. Your “score” and successes are being recorded by your interviewer.

In this game, there is no reason to give the interviewer reason to disqualify you. You don’t have to be dishonest, answer tactfully and honestly. There are certain statements or topics that can only hurt your chances.


Three Areas to Avoid

Bad stuff from your current or previous jobs

Your interviewer is going to want to know some stuff about your work history. Why are you looking to leave? Are you running from problems or conflicts that you caused? They want to make sure they aren’t inviting crazy into their nice little team.

Avoid complaining, focus on the positive things drawing you to this new opportunity. If there are legitimate changes going on at your job, like you know your position is going to be eliminated, you can carefully describe that one of the reasons you are interested in moving is for a more stable position, but be careful.

Don’t sound arrogant or condescending. If you are about to say “I can’t explain it, you wouldn’t understand.” Stop! Remember that this person is listening to not just what you say, but how you present what you do. Many interviewers can easily detect a fake. So don’t inflate yourself by using with lots of jargon.

Telling all your previous company’s dirty laundry is also a bad idea. It doesn’t make you look any better, since you were a part of that culture. It also raises the possibility that you will move on and complain about this group after you leave this position as well.

Try to remain upbeat and focus on positives. You can describe challenges and problems, but stick to describing your proactive efforts.


Questions that reveal you are unprepared

Asking questions that make you seem unprepared or just too blunt is bad. Asking, “what does your company do?” Means you didn’t do your homework. You should be able to describe the business or at least have intelligent questions to show you are trying. Some people or companies don’t have much public information. Today, with Google, the name of the company and the address of their facility, assuming your interview is on their property, there isn’t much excuse for not having at least basic information about the company.

Asking too early in the process about pay, vacation policy, bonuses, raise or promotion schedules tells your interviewer that you are focused on yourself. Other questions that similarly damage your impression are asking about childcare or taking private calls during work time. You get the idea.

Some of these special issues can be discussed during the negotiation phase, which only happens when they decide they want you. That is when you start to get some power in the discussion.

One more thing in this category, you also don’t want to ask personal questions of your interviewer or put them on the spot. Asking if they are married, if they have kids, what their political or religious views are are way out of line at this stage of the relationship. Some articles in the past have instructed candidates to ask directly for the position, “do I get the job?” or “so, how did I do?”, are usually not good tactics.

There may be a time when these work. When the position calls for a dominant aggressive personality, like a sales position. But any good salesman should be able to read the situation and know if it is the right time to make a play like that.


Revealing unhelpful information about you

It is pretty easy to guess some general information about the candidate, but there are some things that you just shouldn’t blab about yourself. In this article on, several are listed. There is no helpful reason to provide your age. Many career counselors even advise candidates to remove graduation years from college degree listings on your resume and profile.

Your personal situations like child care challenges, marital status, certain hobbies like weekend bar crawls won’t help you land your next role.


Common sense is the key

The interviewer or hiring manager isn’t an adversary, they are trying to add a new member to their team that is a benefit and not a liability. Consider your answers from their side and do your homework. You should be able to avoid most of of these mistakes.


Good luck!

[Featured image credit: zsoolt]

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