“3 Things You Never Want to Say in an Interview”
By Jason Connors, Co-Founder of AllSearch Professional Staffing – National Search Firm focused on placing skilled Sales Professionals in North America since 2002.
I have been in the staffing industry for almost 20 years. In addition to meaning that I am no longer a young man, it also means that over the past 20 years, I have had literally thousands of conversations both with hiring managers and with my Recruiters, on the topic of “How did the interview go?” for a candidate. And so when I offer the advice below, this is not my opinion. These tips are real world lessons and real world advice. Our mission here at AllSearch isn’t to just pitch you an opening with our client. We are here to help advise you in your professional career in every way possible.
If you are a skilled professional, if you are a recent college graduate, if you are interviewing for a job…step your game up when it comes to interviewing! As we have all heard a million times in life, you only have one shot at making a first impression. Like it or not, what we say in response to every question asked in the interview process is analyzed and dissected, and goes in to the decision to hire or not hire. The list below is absolutely not comprehensive, but is a few of the more common mistakes that we see:
#1 – Don’t Say: “I am always looking for opportunities.”
Situation: As Recruiters, we hear this from candidates often. “So, Mr. Candidate, are you open to considering this Regional Sales role with our company?” Candidate answer, “I am always looking for new opportunities.”
Problem: So think about that answer for a second. You just told a company that is considering hiring you for a critical position, that you are ALWAYS looking for new opportunities. Always? So you mean, even if we hire you, make you part of our team, give you a great salary, you are still ALWAYS looking for that next opportunity?
Solution: You are NOT “always looking for opportunities”. The reason you are at that interview, sitting in front of that Sales Director, is because you have a strong desire to work for THEIR company. You understand what they are all about, you know the role inside and out, and you feel that your skill set would be an excellent fit for their company.
#2 – Don’t Say: “I don’t really know anything about your company.”
Situation: Almost any good interviewer will ask you early in an interview process, “Tell me what you know about our company.” You answer, “Well, I don’t really know anything about your company. But I am a great salesperson, and I can sell anything!”
Problem: This is an interview for an important job with their company. And you didn’t even take 10 minutes to prepare for this meeting? To do any real research? In terms of a first impression, you just blew it. Trust me when I say this, you are not getting the position now. No matter how strong your sales numbers might be, or how dynamic your personality is. And this is not just a random statement, but honest feedback for you based on literally thousands of conversations that me and my team have had with hiring managers over the years. If you won’t take the time to prepare for an interview, you won’t take the time to plan for your workday, your sales calls, and more.
Solution: Simple. Take time to prepare extensively for every interview you ever attend. And not 10 minutes before the meeting, but the night before. Sit down, review the company’s website, review their LinkedIn page, review their products, review the competitors, review their key staff. Don’t just commit that info to memory…write down notes, write down questions, write down people you know in their company. Be prepared. Be a professional. Simple.
#3 – Don’t Say: “Honestly, I want to be a Hollywood actor…but Sales is fine for now.”
Situation: Often in an interview, the question will be asked, “Tell me where you see yourself in 5 years?” And you think for a moment and answer with passion, “I would love to be a Hollywood actor, that is really my life’s dream.”
Problem: This is not usually a problem for the more experienced candidates, but we see a lot of younger candidates get tripped up with this question. Honestly in an interview is important. And you should certainly have dreams and goals in life. And if you REALLY want to be a Hollywood actor, that is great. But then you shouldn’t be interviewing for this critical Sales or Management Trainee position. This is a role where a client is looking to invest a ton of time and energy in to developing you as a long-term member of their team. And if the employer gets the feel that this job is a fallback option for your real career desires, you are not getting the offer.
Solution: So for the purposes of THIS interview, you need to focus your answer to this question relative to both the job you are interviewing for AND the truth. So if you really want to be in sales, and you really want to build in to a management career, then when you are asked the question of, “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?”, the answer should be more along the lines of, “As a key member of the management team here at your company. I hope to have learned the industry, build a competency in what I am doing, driven home huge sales numbers, and been promoted a few times within the first 5 years.”
While less common, and more for comedic purposes, here are a few more Bonus Items in the “Things to NOT say in an interview” category:
BONUS #1 – Don’t Say: “I was out until 3am at the bars last night, but still made it here for this morning interview!”
Yes, sadly, this one really happened. While the candidate intended to impress the hiring manager on his ability to “work hard / play hard”, the first impression this gave was less than stellar. A better idea would have been to spend the evening prior preparing for the interview, and getting a good night of sleep. While he didn’t get the offer, he was left with plenty of extra time to bar hop.
BONUS #2 – Don’t Say: “Thanks for the interview, do you have somewhere I can get changed? I am heading to the gym next.”
Again, a young Sales Trainee candidate made this mistake. Needless to say, this candidate did not get a second interview.