8 phrases you should never say in an interview

If you’re on the hunt for a new opportunity, you probably have spent hours obsessing over every last comma in your resume. And having a pal (or three) read your cover letter. While these job application materials are part of the process, an interview can make-or-break you. As career expert Joy Altimare explains, this meeting allows you to amplify your qualifications, demonstrate your cultural fit, and receive answers to all of your questions regarding the position.

While it may be a while before you’re in-person again, your interview communication skills still matter via video, too. Here, professionals recommend the phrases you should never say while chatting with a hiring manager or recruiter, and provide alternative instead:

Don’t say: “Can you remind me what position this is for?”

Say: “I’m excited to learn more about _____ position!”

Real talk: when you’re applying for numerous jobs each week, it can be challenging to keep all your applications straight. Though this is normal, it’s not exactly something you want to say to the person who could hire you, or potentially become your manager. Nothing screams apathy like not being prepared for the specific opportunity. “Before the interview takes place, go through your files and pull up the job description and the version of your resume you used for your application,” recommends Amanda Augustine, a career expert for TopInterview. “Then, research the organization and your interviewers, so you’re prepared to address your qualifications for the position and ask thoughtful questions about the opportunity.” 

Don’t say: “I’m sorry I’m late; I didn’t have time to call.”

Say: Nothing. Be on time!

Of all of the meetings you should give yourself wiggle room for, an interview should teeter toward the top of your list. This is true regardless if you’re in-person or on a video chat. By not being respectful from the start, the interviewer may discount your commitment to the job and your own reputation. “​Imagine what the employer’s schedule looks like: five minutes means a whole lot in the world of business,” explains Tirrell Anthony, the director of talent acquisition at MyComputerCareer. “The interviewee should plan for delays and arrive early as a show of preparation and respect for the role, the employer’s time, and your own work ethic.”

Don’t say: “It’s on my resume.”

Say: “Sure, let me walk you through this project.”

To put it lightly, this statement is just plain rude. The purpose of a resume, of course, is to give the hiring director a bird’s eye’s view of your qualifications. So when they ask for more detail, they’re opening a door, and it’s your job to walk them through it. “When an interviewer asks about the core qualifications or examples of how previous experience applies to the potential job description, it is very off-putting to tell the interviewer to reference one’s resume,” Altimare explains. “The entire point of the interview is to elaborate on one’s experience, which requires elaborating what’s on your resume.”

 Don’t say: “No, I don’t have any questions.”

Say: “Could you tell me more about ____, _____, ____?” 

Even if your interviewer was incredibly thorough, you never want to say ‘no’ when asked this question—whether you’re on your first or your fourth round of interviews with the company, Augustine says. Without proposing any additional inquiries, it could appear as if you are not interested in the job. Sometimes, questions will bubble up throughout the process. But just in case they don’t come prepared. “By anticipating a few questions to ask each interviewer, you’re demonstrating your interest in the position and learning more about the opportunity to gauge whether it’s the right fit for you—it’s a win-win,” Augustine adds.

Don’t say: “I’m not gonna lie” or “To be perfectly honest…” 

Say: “The sentence without these phrases.

In your typical casual speak, these phrases (or ones like them) may come naturally. Your friends likely don’t think twice, but an interviewer might. As executive and career coach Anne Corley Baum explains, they send the message that lying is something you do regularly and that other things that you said were untrue. Try to refrain from them, and instead, start your response with confidence. 

Don’t say: “My last boss was a real jerk.”

Say: “I learned a lot from my previous employer. I’m excited to expand my skills even further in this role.”

Let’s level with you: your last manager might have very well been a jerk. Maybe, you couldn’t stand going into work every day because the environment was so toxic. If this is the case, it’s acceptable to feel jolted, frustrated and perhaps even angry. But don’t bad-mouth your past-employer in front of a potential new employer, ever. “No one wants to hire someone who spends their precious interview time complaining about their new place of employment and spreading negativity. This type of talk dampens the rapport you were building with your interviewer, but it leaves the individual wondering what you might say about their company in the future, should they hire you,” Augustine reminds.

To ensure you don’t let your emotions get the best of you, she suggests practicing your response and trying your best to focus only on the skills you developed, connections you made, successes you had, and other positive parts of your last job.

Don’t say: “Omg!” “Lol!”

Say: “Wow, that’s interesting” or actually laugh.

Sure, we all text in abbreviations. But saying tet lingo out loud? That’s a big no-no. “Not only does it make the person look young and immature, but it also may be misinterpreted,” Baum explains. Take the time to speak in clear, concise, understandable sentences.

Don’t say: “Well, I’ve never really done anything like this, but…”

Say: “I’m excited about the opportunity to grow my strengths in this new role. Here’s how I know I will excel.”

As style coach and organizational psychologist Joanna Lovering, MA, style coach and organizational psychologist explains it can be intimidating to take the next step up the ladder in your career, you should never discount your worth in an interview. “The interview is your chance to show how you connect the dots between your resume and the job description, especially if it isn’t apparent,” she continues. “Focus on your strengths and how your experience will benefit the role, rather than highlighting your weaknesses.”