We all have to do job interviews--either as the candidate or as the boss interviewing candidates. (We've all been the candidate at one time or another, regardless of where we sit now.) Lots of different topics come up in job interviews, and conversations go all over the place, but there are 20 words and phrases that should never, ever, come out of your mouth.
1. Retarded. You may have grown up in the era where saying, "That's so retarded" simply meant something was silly or dumb. For instance, "Mom says I can't go to the prom because I failed chemistry. That's so retarded." Ban this word from not only your job interview vocabulary but your everyday vocabulary. It's not acceptable. Say what you really mean instead. For instance, "Mom says I can't go to the prom because I failed chemistry. That's great parenting!"
2. Almost. "I almost got promoted." This means you did not get promoted. While almost is a great word for many things, in a job interview, talking about what you "almost" did takes away from what you did do. Focus on actual accomplishments, not things you almost did.
3. I know more than you. So what if you do know more than the interviewer, you look like a pompous jerk if you use this phrase, or the similar, "I'm smarter than you are." Demonstrate your abilities by answering questions correctly. If you're smarter than the interviewers, they'll figure that out on their own. Additional hint: If you're a new grad, no matter that you got straight As, your interviewer still knows more than you.
4. Gay. Like No. 1 above, you may be in the habit of saying something is "gay." No. Things have no sexual orientation, and if you want to go old school on a definition, things aren't happy either. And even if you are speaking of sexual orientation, this isn't an appropriate topic of conversation in a job interview. You're there to talk about your achievements. Straight shouldn't come up either. It's just not relevant.
5. I'm a single mom so... I've heard this one a lot. People say it in order to emphasize how much they need the job and to try to get the hiring manager to be compassionate. But this is the wrong emphasis. You should be focusing on how you'll help the company out. Everyone needs money. You're no exception.
6. Irregardless. Even though the Oxford English Dictionary is willing to concede it's a legitimate word, you still shouldn't use it. The word you want is regardless. Always.
7. Stuff. What did you do in your last job? "Stuff." "I worked with clients and stuff." Ban that. You never did "stuff." Actually tell them what you did.
8. In high school... Unless you are still in high school or are under 21, no one cares about high school. You look rather pathetic if you are referring back to your teen years. If an interviewer asks about high school, by all means answer, but otherwise, that door is closed.
9. My parents (family, spouse)... Granted, if you're trying to get a political job and your last name is Kennedy, Bush, or Clinton, milk those family connections. Everyone else, knock it off. Your interviewer should not care one whit what your parents accomplished. The interview is about you and your accomplishments.
10. Can I have some feedback? While feedback is great, the job interview is not the place to ask for it. If you don't get hired, you can ask for feedback, but not before. Don't be shocked, though, if they don't give it. Most places won't.
11. Whatever. What type of career path are you looking for? "Whatever." How do you feel about working weekends? "Whatever." Not a proper answer. Answer the question. This isn't a time to be polite and defer to what the interviewer likes. It's a time to shine through. Even, "What would you like to drink?" has a better answer than whatever. (And if you're in the office, limit your answer to coffee, tea, or water. Asking for a soda in an office seems pushy and they may not have it. Almost every office will have the other three things.)
12. Pregnant. So, your interviewer looks like she's eight months pregnant. Don't congratulate her. Don't ask if it's a boy or a girl. Just don't. She'll bring it up if she wants to. Likewise, it's illegal to consider your pregnancy in a job interview, so you don't have to tell an interviewer that you're pregnant. You can discuss your impending bundle of joy during the negotiation phase.
13. Are you married? Or any other personal question. If your interviewer wants to talk about her family life, she'll bring it up. Rings, or the lack thereof, mean nothing. Don't ask. You can talk about your own family life only if you are discussing whether or not you're willing to relocate, because that involves the whole family.
14. Drunk, high, stoned, wasted, etc. No, just no. Remember, this isn't high school and we don't brag about these things. They make you look stupid.
15. &*(!!! Bad words should not appear in a job interview. Even if the hiring manager swears up a storm, it's not a good idea. Show your language skills by using actual words to describe your feelings and situations.
16. I don't have any weaknesses/I'm a perfectionist. Stop it. Just stop it. You do have weaknesses, and one of them is lying in job interviews. Perfectionism is a real problem, but most people who say that are just trying to suck up. We know this.
17. Nothing. If you've been unemployed for a while, the interviewer will ask, "What have you been doing?" The correct answer is never, "Nothing." And even if it's true that all you have been doing is binge watching Netflix, sign up with Khan Academy and learn something. Then you can truthfully answer that you've learned a new skill.
18. I'm the top candidate. You don't know that unless you've personally vetted the other candidates. Since you haven't, don't say that. Even if your rÃ©sumÃ© is a perfect match for the job description, there may be another candidate whose rÃ©sumÃ© is also a perfect match, plus that person can do five things you can't. This phrase just makes you look naive and arrogant.
19. Boring. I don't care how boring your old job was, don't use this word. It's the kiss of death. You can say you're looking for new challenges now, but not that you were bored by your last job.
20. Not my fault. I totally get that things happen that aren't your fault. Sometimes bad things happen. But when you're in a job interview, a candidate who says, "I was fired, but it wasn't my fault" immediately sends up red flags. It makes you look defensive. Even if it wasn't your fault, using that phrase is not helpful. Try explaining what happened instead.