The WORST things to say in a job interview 🙅♀️
Sorry I’m late. My phone ran out of battery, I wanted to call.
No, no questions. I’m pretty keen to get out of here.
This is really important. Might just take this. Do you mind? Hello? Oh hi mum!
Hello I’m Emma from mmmEnglish. Today we’re going to be talking about going to a job interview. Now if you’ve ever done this before, I want you to think of one word that describes the experience. An adjective. Just one that summarises the experience of going to an interview. Or maybe you can share an emoji that summarises the experience.
The interview is just like a conversation but there’s the added pressure of being professional, saying all of the things that your future employer wants to hear. And of course, doing all of this while being true to yourself and authentic. So doing all of this is stressful enough in your own native language but doing it in your second language must take things to a whole new level.
But the tips that I’m sharing today are really relevant to anyone who’s preparing for a job or for an interview. Now of course, planning and practise helps you to prepare for an interview.
It’s excellent to have an idea of what you’re going to say but in an interview, there are also plenty of things to steer clear of, right? There are plenty of things that you definitely shouldn’t say or do.
Today we’re going to talk about three of the worst things that you can possibly say or do when you go to an English interview. We’re going to talk a little bit about your interview strategy and practise some phrases that you can use to make a really good impression.
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Alright now I want to talk very quickly about the two roles that people play in the interview. The first is the person who is asking all of the questions. We call them the interviewer, the interviewer.
And then there’s the person receiving the questions and answering them. We call them the interviewee. Okay that’s you, the interviewee.
So when I interview a new teacher to join my team, I’m the interviewer and they are the interviewee. So you’ll hear me use these words throughout the lesson so just remember which one’s which, okay?
#1 Don’t be unnecessarily apologetic
One of the worst things that you can say or do in an interview is be apologetic, to be sorry about something that you just don’t need to be sorry about.
- Sorry, I’m late.
- Sorry, my English is really bad.
- Sorry, I’m feeling really nervous.
- I don’t, I don’t know, sorry.
And although being sorry is polite in many other circumstances and being vulnerable and honest about your feelings is also important sometimes and even though the interviewer may understand, in English, using the word sorry changes the tone of a conversation and especially in the context of an interview, it just adds a negative perspective to things that you’re talking about and it makes you look bad or worse than you need to.
So in an interview, any kind of apology really makes you seem unsure of yourself, flustered, it can even make the interviewer feel a little uncomfortable.
Sorry, I think I forgot to brush my teeth this morning.
The interview should be a positive experience for everyone, for you and for them so you may not realise it, but in English you can be late or you can be nervous without apologising for it.
So I want to show you some alternative expressions to try. Thank you so much for your patience. I made it. My English tends to get a little shaky during interviews so I might ask you to repeat every now and again, if that’s okay?
Well, I’m excited about this interview. What should we talk about?
To be honest, I don’t know the answer right now. I need a little bit more time to think about it.
Can you see the difference? We’re responding to exactly the same situation but we’re doing it in a much more positive way.
So practise these expressions a few times so that you’ve got them ready for action just in case you need them during your interview. And if you’re really, really feeling like you need to apologise for something, then don’t say sorry. Use “My apologies” instead. It’s just a little more formal and a little more appropriate for an interview.
#2 Don’t put yourself first
Now the second worst thing that you can do during an interview is to make yourself during an interview is to make yourself the most important thing in the room, especially when the interviewer is trying to understand why you want the job.
Interviewer: So tell me, Emma, what motivated you to apply for this position?
- Well, my grandma’s really sick and I have to help pay for her hospital bills so I really need the job.
- My current boss is a total nightmare. I just, I can’t wait to get out of there.
- Well, I want to learn more about marketing because I want to launch my own business and I feel like I can do that sooner if I, you know, learn from you guys and you guys have got such great marketing.
- Actually I’ve already got a job so it’s not that I need it but I’ve got a bit of spare time during my week and this job could be a good filler.
Now maybe you do need the cash. Maybe you are really desperate to learn a particular skill. Maybe this would be the perfect job to fit your schedule but please don’t tell them that, right? Save these kinds of comments for the conversations that you have with your friends after the interview. Try to avoid saying, “I want” or “I need” during an interview. It’s not about you, okay?
The interviewer is a lot more interested in what you can do for them rather than how the job is going to benefit you.
So when you’re talking about why you want the job, make sure you talk about how your goals and your ambitions can be valuable to them and what they want.
So let’s look at a few different alternatives.
- I just love the story and the concept behind this brand. I’d love to contribute to the growth of such an exciting company.
- Well, I learned a lot from my last employer and I really think that I can apply those skills to this role and get a great outcome for you guys.
- Actually, this place seems like somewhere where my skills would be a great fit and I’m excited to take on some new challenges too.
- This position seems really interesting. I’d literally rearrange my schedule for the chance to be involved.
Can you see the difference? When you express these types of attitudes, most interviewers would feel excited and optimistic about the contribution that you can make to their team.
#3 Have some questions prepared
And finally, the third worst thing that you can say or do during an interview.
Interviewer: Alright, well before we wrap things up, do you have any questions that you’d like to ask me?
- No… no questions.
- No, I think I’ve got a pretty good understanding.
- Questions, questions, no, not really, no.
- So what exactly do you guys do around here?
Never ever go into an interview without at least one or two great questions prepared so that you can ask them to the interviewer yourself. This is your chance to become the interviewer for a few minutes and even if you don’t have any specific questions, that shouldn’t stop you from at least showing interest in asking questions. This is how we show interest in other people and in the context of an interview, that is exactly what you need to be doing. You want to show interest, you want to be curious about the job.
So are you married? You got kids?
That’s too curious but curious and interested enough to generate some good discussion about the interviewer, about the company that they work for or about the position. So the best way to do this is with open-ended questions. An open-ended question is one that the person answering can’t answer in just a few words, okay? They need to explain or express something, give an opinion, a perspective or a reason. Closed questions are answered with yes or no.
Do you like working here? This is a closed question, right? It’s limited but, “What motivates you to keep working here?” is an open-ended question, alright? Can you see the difference?
The answer is going to be much different so I want you to practise these ones with me.
Sure, I’ve got a few questions.
- What’s the work culture like here?
- Actually yes, how would you describe the management style here?
- Yes, I was wondering what the company’s five-year plan is and how does this role fit into it?
- Yeah, I’ve got one more question. What kinds of opportunities are there to learn and grow in my role?
- What’s the company’s position on professional development?
So questions like these open-ended questions allow you to direct the conversation to the interviewer and give yourself a bit of a break from being under the spotlight.
So that was three things that you should definitely avoid during interviews. So while you’re preparing for an English job interview, I want you to make sure that you consciously try to avoid those different scenarios.
Now have you got any advice about what to say or do during an interview? I’d love to hear about it so make sure you share it in the comments below and if you enjoyed this lesson, make sure you let me know by giving it a like and leaving a comment down below. I’m thinking about making some more videos to help you perform better at interviews so if you like the sound of that then let me know.
But in the meantime, you can jump right into another professional English lesson right there. I’ll see you in there!
Links mentioned in the video
Powerful Vocabulary: English Words To Sound Smart
40 Professional Phrases To Host A Meeting in English
Be Professional! Never say this at work! ❌