Picture this: you’re interviewing at your dream company, and everything is going great. Your interviewer asks you a question, and you answer with something you think is helpful and appropriate – but you notice your interviewer’s demeanor is slightly more closed off now.
Yes, there are things you should absolutely avoid saying during an interview – things that can cost you your dream job. The below sentences may seem harmless, but the underlying tones can make your interviewer question if you’re really the right pick. Best to err on the side of caution, and avoid the 5 phrases below like the plague!
“My last boss / company was a complete jerk.”
Let’s say your interviewer wants to know why you’re leaving your current company, and you answer with the above gem. How do you think an answer like that makes you look?
It doesn’t matter if it’s true. The bottom line is that you should never, ever say anything that disparages your current / prior company. It makes you come off as whiny, negative, and will make your interviewer wonder how you’ll talk about them in the future, should you be unhappy at their company.
A better answer would be something along the lines of “I feel like I’ve learned everything I can at my current position, and I’m ready for my next challenge.” If you feel so inclined, go for the gold, and point out the positives of the company you’re interviewing at. “I’ve researched your company extensively, the work seems meaningful, and the culture appears to be a perfect fit. I’d love for you to tell me more about what makes you love coming to work every day.”
“So what does your company do?”
I don’t think there’s anything more disappointing to hear from a candidate when you’re interviewing them. It really doesn’t take long to do an appropriate amount of research. You don’t need to know the names of all the executives and how long each has worked at the company – but you should know enough to understand what the company does and how your skills will complement the company. The article I linked above should help you with research and what you should be asking.
Repeat after me: I will do my research on the company. I will do my research on the company.
“Why do I need to sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement?”
Working in certain industries, you’ll be privy to trade secrets. Non-disclosure agreements are a necessity for employers to make sure their property will be protected.
Celine Duvoisin, owner of Valhalla Bakery and Valkyrie Doughnuts in Orlando, was asked by a candidate why he had to sign a non-disclosure agreement. She explained that, as an employee, he’d obviously have access to the recipes for all desserts and doughnuts, and she needed to ensure her intellectual property / trade secrets would not leave the bakery. The candidate refused to sign it, so she refused to hire him.
But wait, there’s more! The worst part is that after the interview, the candidate criticized Celine to another business owner (during another interview, mind you). This business owner refused to hire him, and told Celine what the candidate said. Business owners talk, and disparaging someone is a great way to torch your reputation to the ground.
NDAs aren’t just for doughnuts. Pretty much any tech company will make you sign one. You’ll be dealing with privileged information, so please be understanding of the security measures companies must take to protect their property. Asking why you need to sign a non-disclosure agreement, if you already know you’ll be handling sensitive information (including intellectual property or trade secrets), can be off-putting. It should be a given, really.
“How long do I have to work here before I can take time off?”
Yes, these are important things to know – but not during the first interview! If you’re just starting the process and already asking about when you’ll be able to get time off, you’re signaling a lack of commitment. In tech, it can be expected that you’ll work more than your flat 40 hour week. Depending on the company and role, there may be times where you’ll be on call, or working after hours to meet deadlines. Hiring managers need to know that you’re willing to put in the work.
The benefits discussion should come at the same time as the salary discussion.
“Lol why do you guys use X tech? Here’s everything wrong with X – you should use Y.”
Arrogance, as it turns out, is not a pretty thing – just in case you were wondering. We’ve actually had clients contact us in the past after an interview to let us know our candidate did this. They were immediately disqualified.
Here’s a good rule of thumb to live by: don’t make your future employers feel stupid for running things the way they do. Change can absolutely be welcome by new employees with fresh ideas, so wait until you get hired, then gently bring up what changes you could implement to increase efficiency and productivity.