The five worst things you can say in a job interview

Sometimes honesty isn't always the best policy. I had a mate who went for a job at the Australian Reptile Park. Things were going well during the interview until he was asked if he had any phobias. "Well, I guess I'm a little bit afraid of snakes," he replied. Next!

Most of us have had that feeling where we've walked out of the HR department and thought, 'why the hell did I just say that?'

Unfortunately turning back the clock isn't possible, so you have to get it right the first time.

On the money

"It all comes down to preparation," says Dr Karen Sanders, professor in organisational behaviour and human resource management, UNSW School of Business. "I always tell people to have a list of questions you will expect to be asked. This way, you feel in charge of the conversation."

Sanders says one of the first questions you can expect to be asked will be tell us about yourself and your motivation for applying for the job. "Never say it's for the money, money is a bad motivation," she says. "You should tell them that you see the role as a challenge you are capable of meeting and that you can't wait to take it on and learn."

Keep your personal life out of the interview as much as possible.

Dr Karen Sanders

You will also be asked to give specific examples around every part of the job description. For example, if your new job will be taking care of people, the interviewer may ask you to give an example of a difficult time you had managing people in the past, and how you solved that problem.

"You need to know the job description thoroughly and be able to give examples of your challenges and solutions with each of the elements," says Sanders.

Question time

Often, towards the end of the interview you'll be asked if you have any questions about the role. Sanders says you should always ask about something, even if it's just to enquire how many other candidates they will be seeing and when they expect to make a decision. "If you don't ask anything it looks like you are not very motivated."

When it comes to things you should never say in a job interview, Sanders says female applicants should not mention that their children are more important than the job. "Of course that may be the case, but you are there for the job, not for talking about your personal life. In general keep your personal life out of the interview as much as possible."


And as for an answer to that old chestnut: What is your weakness? Don't reply that you are too much of a perfectionist. Not only is it a terrible cliché, it just implies that you lack the ability to prioritise.

Bianca Azzopardi is the human resources director with The Sam Prince Group and was awarded the Australian HR Manager of the Year 2015. We asked her to nominate the top five things never to say in a job interview:

Disparage a past employer

Regardless of history with previous employers it is never wise to speak poorly of them. Without context and background, the prospective employer could be left wondering whether the negativity actually stemmed from an action or attribute of your own.

Ask dumb questions

Don't ask questions that could have easily be found through your own background research prior to the interview. This shows that you do not show initiative and lack interest in the organisation and the role. Come prepared with a list of questions that show you've prepared; that you understand the company and the role.

Have no weaknesses

When asked to share your weaknesses, never state that you can't think of any or be stuck for an answer. Always be prepared to communicate some areas for development – everybody has them! Sharing your areas for development shows that you are self-aware, conscious of your continued development and most importantly, honest.

Refer to your resume

When asked to provide details around your career history, never simply state "it's on my resume." If an employer asks around a particular job or experience, ensure that you provide detail. It is likely that they are not evaluating your resume but using this as an opportunity to evaluate your communication skills and gain further insight into past roles and experience.

Ask about salary

Never discuss salary in the early stages of the interview process; leave it for the negotiation stage, that is, after you have received an offer of employment. Raising this question too early on can leave the employer wondering about your motivation for wanting the role. More often than not, employers are interested in candidates that are aligned with their vision and values and show a true passion for the role and the organisation at large.

What's the worst thing you've said in an interview? Let us know in the comment section.