September 13

What NOT to Say in a Job Interview

Are you getting interviews but not offers? While it could be that you’re not bringing a 30-60-90-day plan or failing to close, it could also be as simple as the words and phrases you’re saying. You need to know what not to say in a job interview.

You might be sabotaging yourself in your job interview with the language you use. The smallest words and phrases can have an enormous impact on how the hiring manager sees you as a candidate.

What not to say in a job interview

What words and phrases should you always avoid saying in a job interview? Well, it’s the ones that make you seem as if you don’t have confidence in yourself and your ability to do the job.

Certain words and phrases make you look weak and ineffective in the eyes of the hiring manager. What are they?

I Think

I Hope


With luck


If possible

I will try

If all things go well

The trouble is that these are words that we tend to use all the time in normal conversation. They’re habits that many job seekers I coach (see my career coaching services here) don’t even know they’re using.

But, these words have a dramatically negative impact on your interview answers.

Examples of what not to say in a job interview

Here’s an example:

A weak answer to, “How will you approach this job?” would be:

“I think I would come into it aiming for X, Y, and Z. If things go well, I would be able to accomplish those goals quickly.”

A much stronger answer eliminates those kinds of hedging words (and includes a 30-60-90-day plan):

“Well, I’m glad you asked that. I’ve written up a plan of action for my first 3 months and I’d like to talk it over with you to get your feedback.”

Here’s another example:

A weak answer to, “What will your references say about you?” would be something like:

“Hopefully, they’ll say that I’m great at A, B, and C.”

A strong (and better) answer:

“They’ll say that I’m great at A, B, and C.”

(You may ask how you can possibly know what your references will say about you. Make sure you know what they’ll say by coaching them ahead of your interview on what’s important for them to focus on. See a great article on how to choose and prep your references here. Don’t leave this to chance.)

What words to use instead

what not to say in a job interviewThink about all this from a hiring manager’s perspective. Would you want to hire someone who says they’ll try to do their best? Or would you feel more comfortable hiring someone who says they know they’re ready?

As Yoda said: “There is no try…only do or do not.”

Train yourself to use words and phrases that make you seem more confident and capable, like: I will, I have, I can, and I know.

Practice incorporating these words into your interview answers.

I’d love to work with you on it as your interview coach.

Find out about job search and interview coaching here.


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