Words you should never say to a hiring manager during an interview

What words should you never say when being interviewed for a job?

“I like a big sandbox.”

It reads dumber than it sounds.

The Sandbox answer rarely fails to disappoint hiring managers. I know because I’ve used that little gem … a lot.

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It usually bombs.

To me, it means, “I have vision! I have ideas! I think of cool stuff that makes people like work!”

To them, it means, “He has vision. He has ideas. He’s going to cost us money.”

The Sandbox answer kills most interviews.

Why? Because everyone between you and the CEO doesn’t want your vision or ideas. That stuff costs money. They want you to work on their vision and their ideas. They don’t need yours.

So why do I still use it?

Because the Sandbox answer, for me, is a great way to weed out the places I’d be miserable at. You know, the pleated khaki’s, jeans Friday, “It’s not a good idea unless it’s my idea” sorta place.

Here’s a quick guide on when to use it … and not …

When to avoid The Sandbox

  • You really need a job
  • When any job sounds better than the one you have
  • You’re not that creative and don’t care
  • You’re a specialist
  • The job is temporary

When to use The Sandbox

  • You’re a creative soul who loves doing cool things to evolve organizations and you’re in a place where you can be selective of who you want to work with.

— — —

“Stop talking about the sandbox.”


Here are some other things not to say during an interview:

  • I have a side business
  • I’m a jack-of-all-trades
  • I don’t have a plan
  • I really need this job
  • I’m fun
  • I’m Wiccan

And, the must-be-mentioned: Avoid talking about your political, religious and sexual beliefs.

Nobody cares until they don’t agree.

But, when you’re asked what your greatest strength is, use this awesome-until-everyone-starts-saying-it answer:

“I’m adaptable.”

This column first appeared on Quora.