5 Things Interviewers Never Want to Hear

by Natalie Fisher | January 08, 2018

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When you're going in for an interview, you might wonder if there is anything you could possibly say to absolutely kill your chances at the job offer. 

From my years of experience (and sitting in on over 100+ interviews myself), I've compiled some of the things that set off red flags for hiring managers and instantly make them have concerns about a candidate. In this post, we'll talk about what these things are, why these things cause concerns, and what to say instead, so you can land that new job! 

Here are five things interviewers never want to hear: 

1.That you hope to start your own business

When employers hear that you want to start your own business, this puts a bunch of red flags up for them right away. They start thinking that you won't want to be there for very long, and that becomes one of their main concerns about you. 

Generally, organizations want to bring people on board who will stick around and grow with the company. Hiring is a costly business, and they want to retain you for as long as possible. There's nothing wrong with wanting to start your own business, but if you're planning to do that in the future, you might not want to volunteer that information right away in a job interview.

2. That you hope to be in the hiring manager's position in five years 

They might ask you, "Where do you see yourself in five years?" or a question related to your future goals in some way. They'll want to get a sense of where you hope to be in your career down the line.

When answering any of these future type questions, you never want to say that you plan to be in the hiring manager's position. 

What you want to do instead is to talk about: 

  • How you want to get really good at that specific role
  • How you want to focus on doing what you do best (for example, developing processes for the department, making things more efficient, etc.)
  • And how you'd like to become a mentor to others in the department and help to improve the departments systems as best you can. 

Even if you do want to be in a management position down the line (which is a great goal for you), don't voice that out loud in the interview. One step at a time. :)

3. Any 'Negasaurus' comments or hints of negativity 

Hinting, gesturing, or speaking negatively about your past positions, bosses, or co-workers gets you nowhere. Anything negative about your previous employer at all is off limits. This only makes the interviewers see you as someone who maybe speaking negatively about them in the future if you end up working together. 

If you need to communicate something that was perhaps negative, make it very matter of fact. Make it about the behavior and how the behavior was getting in the way of a specific result. This places you in the position of the 'results-focused' person, not the candidate who was complaining. 

For example... 

Complaining: 

"My colleague was so slow, and he never met deadlines. He would always need a lot of nagging to get things done, and it drove myself and the team nuts. We tried to help him out, but it didn't matter what we did--he was just so lazy!" 

VS. 

Results-focused: 

"My colleague had not met the last deadline, and this was interfering with the project's completion date. The action that I took was to speak to him directly, and I asked him what I could do to help." 

In the second example, I brought it back to the action that I took as soon as possible and spent the smallest amount of time on the behavior of the person I was dealing with. You can emphasize that what was most important to you, was how it was getting in the way of progress on a certain result. 

4. "I keep everything in my head." 

OK, no. 

In my first management position, I was looking to hire someone to be my assistant. I asked one candidate, "How do you organize your tasks and keep track of what you have to do for the day?"   

She pointed to her head and said playfully, "I keep it all up here." 

Being inexperienced at hiring, I really liked the candidate, and I hired her anyway. This was a big mistake. I realized later that this was also a big red flag, and I noticed that it's a common question among hiring managers to ask in some form or another. 

Saying you keep things in your head doesn't instill confidence because, as it turns out, we humans can only keep track of maybe nine things at a time (if we're not distracted). In a job where you have to keep track of any amount of things, it's likely that someone who doesn't strive to have some sort of system of either writing things down or recording their tasks in some way, whether it be pen to paper, on their phone or on their computer, is more than likely to let a lot of things fall through the cracks. I learned this the hard way. 

Where I currently work, we pose this question to every single interview candidate. If they answer with "in my head," they fail that question.   

5) Any signs that something is beneath you 

In any job, people like working with people who will pick up the slack if needed. 'Team player' is a term that we throw around, but what does it really mean?

Demonstrating that you're a team player means that if the dishwasher needs to be emptied, you don't mind doing it once in a while. 

You don't want to say things like, "I won't have to empty the dishwasher, will I?" or any form of "That's not my job" comments. These comments demonstrate the opposite of a team player mentality. 

Basically, hiring managers look for candidates with this attitude: "If something needs to be done I'll help out to get it done, no matter what it happens to be." That shows a team player in action. Ideally, you want to be able to tell a story of when you jumped in to help on something you weren't necessarily asked to help with. This will actually show you're a team player, instead of just putting that word on your resume (which really doesn't do anything, anyway). 

There are some people who will still make these rookie interview mistakes because we simply don't know what we don't know, and despite the popular belief, common sense is actually not that common. Don't let this be you.

If you enjoyed this post, feel free to download my free guide to situational interviewing, where I provide you with 10+ examples of stories you can tell in an interview that show the interviewer that you are going to be a team player and more. The guide includes 10 concrete, detailed examples, fill-in-the-blank templates, and 25 questions you can ask yourself if you're getting stuck on thinking up your own stories to tell in interviews!

Filed Under: Interviewing | Job Search | Workplace Issues

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