Talent Acquisition

14 Things Your Candidates Should Never Say in a Job Interview

HR advisors tend to be pretty positive people. You’ve got to be. It’s your job to fill candidates with confidence, top them up with information, and send them off to their dream job interviews with nothing but the other candidates to stand in their way. But what if, with all that positivity, you’ve missed a few negatives that needed throwing in, too?

Your candidate may know what to say. But it is just as important for them to know what not to say. Recruitment candidates are making the same mistakes over and over again because human nature (and the clichés we see in the media) tells them that certain strategies or phrases will serve them well in the interview room. It doesn’t always cross the HR professional’s mind to nip this in the bud before it happens.

Example? Your candidate, Johnny Eager, turns up to interview for his ideal role at a long-established but low-profile company. Johnny is freshly qualified, confident that he can tick every item on the candidate description list, and he has polished his shoes. Unfortunately, he’s so confident that when the panel asks him if he has any questions, young Eager decides to show his energetic enthusiasm by boldly asking for an overview of the company, its products, its history. Sure, Johnny has proved he is interested – but not interested enough to do his research before showing up.

It just takes a small adjustment to an inquiry like this to make a winning candidate. Johnny should do his research, reflect what he’s learned in his answers, and then ask for clarification on something that he has read about the company, or for a detail that hasn’t been made public – something to do with workflow, or plans for the future, for example.

At the opposite end of the scale, you will always have candidates who struggle to maintain their confidence when they get into the interview room. But while you already know to equip them with certain tools to keep their poise, you might not think to warn them of certain things they might say to try to excuse their lack of confidence.

For example, it is never a good idea to admit that you’re nervous in a job interview. It might seem like a good idea at a time: it’s an honest, down-to-Earth thing to say, and might also excuse your candidate’s nervous mistakes. But employers who see dozens of candidates each day can easily dismiss a potential candidate if they think they lack confidence – even if the candidate is a nice enough person to admit it.

A better word than ‘nervous’? ‘Excited.’ If your candidate is likely to struggle with nerves in an interview, their voice shaking, cheeks blazing, sweat dripping… explain it away with excitement. It’s basically the same thing anyway, right?

Another side-effect of nerves is being over-compliant. Your candidate wants the job, they want to come across as a reasonable and kind person, so when the panel asks if there are any particular tasks the candidate would expect to complete in the job, the candidate replies – with a winning smile – “I’ll do whatever!”

Wrong answer! Employers want employees who are laser-matched for the role. They want someone who is passionate about the tasks they’ll be given, not just the chance to have any job at all. Your candidate should be able to identify (by asking, if necessary) the key daily roles they’ll be expected to play, and should express that this is the exact job they’re looking for – as long as that’s more or less true.

For a full run-down on the 14 things your candidates should never say in an interview, and what they should say instead, take a look at this new infographic from

About the author: John Cole writes on behalf of NeoMam Studios. A digital nomad specializing in leadership, digital media, and personal growth topics, his passions include world cinema and biscuits. A native Englishman, he is always on the move, but can most commonly be spotted in the UK, Norway, and the Balkans

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