14 Things to Avoid Saying in an Interview

Well, I just completed my interview with the IRS last week. I know what your are thinking, what loser would want to work for the IRS and take all of that heat? Well, I do! Times are rough in the job market and this is a viable option for me. First, I love taxes and talking with individuals about them. Second, it is well within my expertise and I know I will be great at it.

Before the interview took place, I was brushing up on my responses to typical interview questions. It got me thinking about things that you should absolutely NOT say during an interview. I thought I would share with you some common interview questions and what not to say (as well as what a good response should be).

Common Interview Questions

1. Tell me a little more about yourself…

Bad Answer: Well, as you know, my name is Adam. I grew up in Connecticut in a wealthy household and pretty much had everything taken care of for me. Upon graduating high school, I went to Princeton for 6 years because my father is a professor there. I didn’t really like it but I graduated with a degree in liberal studies. Since Princeton, I have been living at home and working on my comic book career.

Good Answer: This question allows a lot of flexibility in your answer. You should talk about your past such as where you grew up and went to college. You should also talk about some of your career accomplishments and hobbies that are related to the job you are applying for.

2. What made you apply for this job?

Bad Answer: I think it will look great on my resume and I just cannot get over how well it pays!

Good Answer: Talk about how your skills and past experiences fit well with the position. You should make sure that you know as much about the position as you possibly can before going into the interview

3. What is your biggest strength?

Bad Answer: I would have to say that my biggest strength is my ability to chat with my coworkers.

Good Answer: Make sure your answer is related to the position. If you are good at communicating with customers and the position calls for it, make sure you mention it.

4. What is your biggest weakness?

Bad Answer: My biggest weakness has to be my inability to talk to customers. I am just so deathly afraid that I am going to say something wrong.

Good Answer: With this question you should focus on a weakness that can also be portrayed as a strength. A good example would be saying that you can sometimes take too long on projects because you are very detail oriented. Many interviews will see this as a good thing because you will be required to do good work.

5. Why did you leave your previous job?

Bad Answer: Well, I left because I really did not like anyone there. Everyone was always asking me to do too many things and I just cannot handle many things at once. Besides, the pay was bad and I wasn’t really qualified for the position anyway.

Good Answer: Talk about how the position that you are applying for better fits your goals and qualifications.

6. Tell me about your previous boss…

Bad Answer: He was just a real jerk. He hated everyone in the company and was always looking down upon his workers. I really hope that I never see him again because I am not sure what I would do to him.

Good Answer: Do not bash your former boss. This questions is just a setup for you to do so. Talk about how they encouraged you to be better at your job and if they would recommend you, say so.

7. Where do you see yourself in 1, 5, and 10 years?

Bad Answer: I see myself starting my own business in this industry.

Good Answer:With this question, make sure you take the approach that the company wants to hear. Talk about how you see yourself working in that company possible in a more responsible position. Never talk about how you want to be one of their biggest competitors in the future.

8. What do you know about our company?

Bad Answer: Well, I only found out about this job through a friend. I really never heard of you before yesterday.

Good Answer: It is in your best interest to know everything that you possibly can about the company you are hoping to work for. Look at their website and ask around about the company!

9. What are your interests outside of work?

Bad Answer: Well, my wife and I thoroughly enjoy going to Star Trek and World of Warcraft conferences. We even get dressed up in the appropriate costumes!

Good Answer: When talking about interests outside of work, make sure you make it something that is low key (like playing with your grand kids) or something that is relevant to the position you are applying to. Typically, when I am asked this question I say that I enjoy writing about personal finance. Now that’s relevant!

10. What are your goals in life?

Bad Answer: I strive to be a millionaire by the age of 30 and I plan on walking on the moon someday.

Good Answer: Keep your goals relevant and in-line with the position you are applying for. For example, if you are applying to become a financial planner, you may want to say that your goal is to be managing $10 million by the time you are 40.

11. Have you ever done this kind of work before?

Bad Answer: I have never done this work before and frankly, I never saw myself doing it. This position is just too laborious for me.

Good Answer: If you have done the type of work before, talk about it and explain your accomplishments in doing so. If you have not, talk about how you are a fast learner and can pick up on positions very easily.

12. Why was there a large gap in your resume?

Bad Answer: During that time I was just relaxing around the pool trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. Most of it was a blur.

Good Answer: Obviously, if you have a good answer use it here. If you were studying or learning a new trade, explain how it will help you in the position.

13. Wouldn’t this job represent a step down for you?

Bad Answer: Well, it would because I am used to a lot more money. My previous jobs have also had less responsibility.

Good Answer: Talk about how having the position will not be a step down in your mind. Say how passionate you are about the position and that it will be your honor to work in the field (and have a job in general).

14. What are your salary requirements?

Bad Answer: I require $xx,xxx in salary. I will take no less than that.

Good Answer: This is an area that you have to tread carefully. If at all possible, you want them to make the first offer so you can negotiate from there. If they will just not give you a figure, put a number out there that is within your acceptable range. If they cannot afford that, they will just come out and say it.

Well, there you have it! If you have an interview coming up, make sure you avoid those horribly bad interview responses.

20 thoughts on “14 Things to Avoid Saying in an Interview

  1. Adam Post author

    Good luck on your interview!

    I guess I should rephrase that comment. “I like talking with other people about their taxes and how they can reduce them”. I also like to use taxes as a precursor to dig into other financial problems that individuals may be having.

  2. MoneyEnergy

    Nice list. I’ve been through my share of interviews and liked none of them! Too stressful and you always have the feeling that the interviewer is never sincere or “real” with you. Many are unfailingly and unjustifiably rude. But this list makes me think of a new approach to job interviews – it’s kind of like applying to grad school. There are certain things they’re looking for in your statements, and if you rub their hair the wrong way, you just aren’t getting in.

    MoneyEnergy’s last blog post..Carnival of Money Stories #5: The “Other People’s Money” Edition – Use It, Don’t Abuse It!

  3. Adam Post author

    @MoneyEnergy – You are absolutely right. They are just looking for certain areas that fit what they are looking for. If you don’t have the right answers, see you later! You could be the nicest person in the world (with all of the qualifications) and not get the job because you didn’t say what they wanted to hear. Sometimes I wonder how the world works…

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  5. Paul @ FiscalGeek

    As someone who has interviewed and hired many people one of the most important tips was that when the interviewer asks you “Do you have any questions of me?” Have some questions ready! How about, What’s the work culture like here? Even ask for feedback about your interview that’s totally okay as well. Act like you want the job and you’ll be amazed how it goes.

    Paul @ FiscalGeek’s last blog post..Refinance You Home Even if it’s Underwater with the Making Home Affordable Program

  6. Adam Post author

    @Paul – Great tip! I wish I would have remembered that one as it is one of the most important. It shows that you are dedicated to the position and really want it. Have those questions ready people!

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  10. Dave Claghorn

    I’ve actually, purposely, given a few of these “bad answers”. Since they are SO incredible that anyone with half a brain would ever say that and mean it, it opens the door for me to chuckle about it and then really turn on the selling job to answer the question. Did it work without pissing people off? It got me no fewer than four second interviews and two job offers with international companies.

    BUT… you have to practice the timing. Timing is EVERYTHING, basically, start laughing at your own answer before they can even raise their eyebrows. THEN start the selling job straight away.

  11. Jon Albert

    The problem with the 14 things you have listed is that they only pertain to office jobs. Not everyone works in an office, and according to you people should come off boring and conservative: “I prefer to write about finance in my spare time”. Really? What a snooze. I would much rather hire the person saying they go to Star Trek conventions and dress up. That shows creativity. Try to write advice that’s more universal next time.

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