Each year I work with people who should have gotten jobs they wanted but blew the interview by saying things which seem okay, but are actually turn-offs to the interviewer. Here is a short list; don’t take the words literally, but think about the communication when these things are said.
“I am not actually looking”
Then what are you doing there? There are times to be and play cool; an interview is not one of them. A much better way of saying this is, “I am always interested to find out about opportunities which might benefit my growth or career….”
“I came for information”
No you didn’t. You came to find out if there is possibly a job and if you can meet people. I have said it many times: there is no such thing as an informational interview. If you are liked, there is a good chance of being hired, either immediately or in the future. Talking about getting information actually communicates disinterest: you didn’t come for information, you came to try to get a job. College graduates go on “informational” interviews, but experienced executives do not. Better to say, “I have always been interested in this company and I came here to see what might be available either now or in the near future.”
“In my next job here is what I want...”
Don’t set up obstacles for yourself. The whole process is about getting the information you need in order to make a decision. Telling companies what you want and don’t want early in the process can kill your candidacy. In fact, some candidates start to negotiate way too early by telling interviewers what they will or will not do or by saying what they want or don’t want before fully interviewing. The time to negotiate is when you have an offer, not before.When a poor interviewer hears about a candidate’s demands and those things are not in the job specs/description, a candidate can be eliminated as “inappropriate” when they are actually good for the job and the job is good for them.
“I have other offers pending”
By telling a prospective employer this you sound indifferent to them and you communicate that money may be the determining factor of your decision. Every client wants to feel like they are the only company you are talking to. On the other hand, if you are talking to multiple companies, don’t communicate that you are in love when you are not. No company (or recruiter) likes to be blind-sided, so at some point in the interview process, when it comes up naturally, you should let them know that you are talking to others.
“So, how did I do?” or some variation thereof
Never put your interviewer on the spot. Even if they like you a lot, it is very aggressive and puts the interviewer on the defensive. It could kill your candidacy, so why risk it? If you are trying to elicit feedback, tell the interviewer you enjoyed the meeting and see if you can provoke a response. And if you are there through a recruiter, that is his or her job.
“ I would happily take a cut in salary or title to work here”
No matter how you say it, it comes across as desperate, especially if you are out of work. I have written so many times that you should never take a cut in title. There are times to take a cut in salary, but why offer it? All you need to say at the end of the interview is, “I love the agency and the job and would like to keep talking.”
My pet peeve. When asked to do a follow up (make a call, set up a meeting, send samples, etc.) Saying I’ll try is actually setting up an excuse to be late or for not doing it at all. If you are going to do something, you simply say. “Sure”. Only when there is a real chance you might not be able to do it (client conflict, other deadlines, etc.) does the word “try” get used But even then only with an explanation. Using “try” is the sign of a wishy-washy and indecisive executive.