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What should you not say in your first interview?

Going on your first job interview can be an incredibly nerve-wracking experience. You want to make the best possible impression on the interviewer so you can land the job, but it’s easy to make mistakes under pressure. While there’s no way to completely avoid slip-ups, you can minimize your chances of saying the wrong thing by steering clear of certain topics and statements.

Don’t Badmouth Past Employers

One of the biggest interview mistakes is badmouthing your previous employers. You may have legitimate reasons for leaving a job and harboring resentment toward your old boss or company. However, an interview is not the time or place to air those grievances. Spewing negativity will make you come across as unprofessional and could raise red flags about your attitude.

If asked about why you left a previous job, keep your answer brief, diplomatic and focused on the positive. For example, “I was seeking new challenges and opportunities for growth” or “I’m looking for a company culture that’s a better fit for me.” Don’t be tempted to bash your old employer, boss or coworkers even if directly asked. Take the high road.

Don’t Ask About Salary or Benefits Too Soon

One major mistake first-time interviewees often make is asking about salary, bonuses or benefits packages too early. While compensation is understandably important to you, bringing it up before the interviewer does can communicates that money is your chief or only concern. You want to avoid seeming greedy or presumptuous.

Let the interviewer be the one to bring up salary and benefits first. If you’re asked what kind of compensation you’re looking for, defer the question by saying you’d be open to discussing it once a job offer is on the table. Don’t jump the gun and start negotiating before you’ve had a chance to prove your value.

Don’t Act Desperate

It’s understandable to be eager about landing a job, especially if you’ve been searching for a while. However, you want to avoid seeming overly desperate. Comments like, “I’ll take any job right now” or “I really need this job” will undermine you.

Interviewers want to hire confident candidates who genuinely want the specific job, not just any job. Convey enthusiasm for the role but avoid sounding like you have no other options. Stress what you can bring to the table rather than what you hope to gain.

Don’t Get Too Personal

While you want to establish rapport with the interviewer, getting too personal or informal is risky. Now is not the time to bring up your family problems, health issues, relationship status, political views or other private matters. The interviewer isn’t your friend or therapist.

Keep the discussion focused on professional topics relevant to the job. Don’t overshare personal details or make inappropriate jokes. Maintain an amiable but businesslike demeanor. You can build more rapport if you land the position.

Don’t Act Like You Know Everything

Confidence is key in an interview, but cockiness will sink your chances. Don’t go into the interview acting like you have all the answers or can do no wrong. Adopting a “know-it-all” attitude will alienate the interviewer.

If you’re asked about weak points or mistakes you’ve made, own up to them tactfully. Demonstrate that you’re willing to learn and take feedback constructively. Interviewers want someone coachable, not a stubborn know-it-all.

Don’t Dress Inappropriately

The way you present yourself physically will make a strong first impression, for better or worse. Dressing in a sloppy, provocative or overly casual manner will undermine you. Overdressing can also be off-putting.

Aim to dress professionally and neatly in classic business attire. Research the company dress code in advance if possible. When in doubt, err on the conservative side. Make sure your clothes are clean, wrinkle-free and well-fitting. Pay attention to hygiene too.

Don’t Be Late

Tardiness is inexcusable for a job interview. Arriving late will immediately tarnish the interviewer’s opinion of you. Punctuality is a must. Plan to arrive at least 10-15 minutes early to demonstrate reliability and respect for the interviewer’s time.

Allow extra time to account for traffic, transportation delays and other potential obstacles. If an emergency causes last minute delays, proactively contact the interviewer to explain the situation and discuss rescheduling. But aim not to let it come to that.

Don’t Have Your Phone Out

In today’s digital age, cell phone etiquette remains crucial. Having your phone out during an interview is a cardinal sin. Silence your phone completely beforehand. Do not check or use it at all once the interview begins.

Give the interviewer your undivided attention rather than glancing at your phone. The only exception is if you receive an important call you absolutely need to take – but explain the urgency and step aside briefly. Phones should stay stowed away otherwise.

Don’t Bring Up Discriminatory Topics

It should go without saying, but avoid raising any discriminatory issues related to race, gender, age, religion, politics or other sensitive topics. Any comments that could be perceived as racist, sexist, ageist or otherwise intolerant or ignorant will destroy your chances.

Keep the conversation focused on your qualifications and interest in the job itself. Now is not the time to air any social or political views that could polarize or offend. Don’t risk coming across as prejudiced or narrow-minded.

Don’t Be Cocky or Arrogant

You understandably want to impress the interviewer and convey confidence about handling the responsibilities of the job. However, arrogance and bravado will backfire. Adopting an overly cocky, egotistical attitude will make you seem conceited and unlikeable.

Tout your qualifications and strengths tactfully without bragging or putting down others. Use “we” rather than “I” when discussing achievements to demonstrate teamwork. You want to convince the employer you can deliver value, not that you’re God’s gift to the world.

Don’t Be Too Nervous

It’s natural to feel some nerves before and during an interview. However, visibly displaying your anxiety will undermine you. Fidgeting, sweating, stuttering, giggling and other nervous habits detract from the confident image you want to project.

Learn some relaxation techniques to keep anxiety under control. Arrive a few minutes early to get settled. Take a few deep breaths before entering the building. Make eye contact and smile naturally to help manage nerves. Most of all, focus on your qualifications rather than your fears.

Don’t Give Vague Answers

Interviewers look for specific, concrete examples that showcase your qualifications for the job. Answering with vague generalities will fall flat. Avoid responses like:

  • “I’m a hard worker.”
  • “I’m a people person.”
  • “I have great attention to detail.”

Back up claims like these with real evidence and illustrations. Discuss projects demonstrating strong work ethic. Share examples of providing great customer service. Cite accomplishments showing sharp attention to detail.

Come armed with stories that reinforce the image you want to project. Vague claims without evidence will fail to convince the interviewer.

Don’t Ask No Questions

Most interviews will conclude with the interviewer asking if you have any questions for them. Never say no. Failing to ask questions will make you seem uninterested in the job and oblivious about the company.

Come prepared with thoughtful questions that demonstrate your engagement. Ask about challenges facing the department, training opportunities, the corporate culture, new products and initiatives, etc. Just don’t bring up salary or benefits yet.

Don’t Lie

Resist any temptation to embellish or outright lie on your resume or during the interview. Getting caught in a fabrication will immediately destroy your credibility and chances of employment. Even small white lies are risky.

Be honest about your qualifications, skills, experience, education, criminal record, reasons for leaving jobs etc. If there are gaps or issues in your background, have a tactful explanation prepared. Honesty proves integrity, which all employers value.


Avoiding major blunders is just as important as making a great impression in an interview. Steer clear of toxic topics, behaviors and answers. Be professional, polite, punctual, positive and truthful. Don’t create any red flags. Rely on your qualifications and let them speak for themselves. Now get out there and ace that interview!