7 Things You Can Never Say to a Potential Employer

Interviewing can be a nerve-wracking experience for even the most seasoned job-seeker. Even confidence can become a pitfall if you become too relaxed. Learn from other people’s mistakes instead of making them.

1. Ask What the Hiring Manager’s Role Is

You can ask about the details of the hiring manager’s role to better understand how the company works, but you should understand the broad strokes of his or her role going into the interview.

The reason is that you should have an idea of what the company does, what your potential team does, and—by extension—what the hiring manager oversees. You need to get that information before meeting face-to-face.

Research is a part of every interview process. Over-preparation will give you the confidence and knowledge to impress the hiring manager.

2. Criticize Your Last Company

There’s a good chance that you’ll be in another interview after your time with this employer, and the hiring manager in front of you knows that. Bad-mouthing your previous or current employer will not get you anywhere for that reason.

It’s not that they know each other, and it’s not some kind of unspoken manager’s code. It’s all about culture and fit. You won’t fit in if you speak ill of others just because you disagree with them. What can the hiring manager expect of you when you’re sitting in front of your next potential employer?

With that said, your exit from your previous company may warrant an explanation. Your old boss may even deserve worse than you say, but it’s not worth letting it get the best of you. Devise a story in which you left due to style differences, or just say “it was time to move on.”

3. That You’ll Do Anything

Showing an employer that you’ll go twice as far for any paycheck is a bad idea. You don’t want to set a bad precedent in which you’re expected to do everything.

No one likes to talk about it, but employment has its own power dynamic. Some employers will test your limits by continually asking more of you:

  • Staying late, then extra-late
  • Working weekends when you should be recharging
  • Taking on projects way out of your scope

It also puts you in a terrible position to negotiate your salary if you end up being the lucky candidate… but it may not get to that stage if you’ve given the wrong impression, because it just sounds desperate. Nobody trusts desperate job-seekers.

People who say they’re willing to do anything seem untrustworthy, plain and simple.

4. “I Don’t Know”

It’s perfectly okay not to know the answer to a question, but that’s not the point.

The real point is that you shouldn’t stop there. Employers are aware that you haven’t spent months or years working with the company to learn its detailed operations. But they do want to see you solve a problem in your own way.

Interviews aren’t multiple choice tests where the teacher docks marks for the wrong answer. They’re exercises in strategy, creativity, and mental agility. Getting halfway through a problem is a good thing in this context. You can always ask the interviewer more specific questions about the question.

That’s how consultants do it, and they get paid. You’re just interviewing! Don’t hesitate to pick the interviewer’s brain for more details.

5. Ask About Opportunities for Advancement

Ambition is great, but asking this kind of question in the interview gives people the impression that you’re over-ambitious.

People interested in doing the work don’t ask about advancement early on. They want to tackle challenges and do what they love. Perhaps you don’t consider your line of work to be fun, but you need to frame your job search in non-financial terms to make a convincing case.

Asking about advancement might seem like you’re projecting an air of confidence that you’ll surpass expectations and get a raise in six months, but it comes off as disingenuous. Trust us on this one—as NYC recruiters, we’ve seen a lot of fumbles happen with the best intentions.

6. How You Went Rogue to Save the Day

Don Draper is a great character for Mad Men, but he wouldn’t be great in real life. Going off the proverbial reservation to find your inspiration or to get into the right head space doesn’t make you look like a genius.

It only makes you look dysfunctional. Somebody who can’t engage with team members or clients is going to look like a managerial nightmare to the person sitting on the other side of the table. Don’t try to be the lone-wolf superstar.

Instead, talk about how you’ve collaborated with others to bring out the best in the team or a project. You’re joining a team, and that team needs to be greater than the sum of its parts.

7. I Don’t Have Any Questions

If you don’t have questions, then you weren’t paying attention. Businesses aren’t well-oiled machines, despite what they’d have you think. More often than not they’re just scrambling to get it all together for a big deadline.

Every business is a place for you to grow, develop new ideas, and try to implement them to fix the business. That’s why you should always ask questions, even if you think you have everything figured out. Ask enough to hit upon the business’ pain points—you’ll be in great standing.

But most job seekers don’t have it all figured out, and they’re nervous during interactions that could decide their career path—we’ve all been there. That’s where you ask for clarification questions and say:

“We’ve covered a lot today, and I’d like to sleep on it and review my notes to dig into some deeper questions about the role and where it’s going. Can I send you shoot you some questions at this time tomorrow?”

Sidestep those pitfalls and you’ll be well on your way to getting the job. Knowing when not to say something is half the battle, and this covers most things you’ll need to know aside from obvious missteps relating to alcohol, politics, or action figure collections.

Building your career is a long road, so take the right path with the New York Recruiters who can help you get there.

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