5 Things Not to Say in a Job Interview

shaking hands

With unemployment hovering near 8 percent, even landing a job interview can be difficult these days. So once you do, you want to make the most of it. Being prepared helps, of course, but the words you choose during the interview can be equally important.

Use the wrong ones, warns “Success for Hire” author and career consultant Alexandra Levit, and you can kill your chances at advancement—even if you’re well-qualified for the job. We asked recruiters for five of the most common culprits, and what to say instead.

“I can do anything.”

Saying this shows you’re an up-for-anything go-getter, right? Not so, say recruiters. If you’re one of many candidates for the position (and you probably are), this vague response will just get you lost in the shuffle. “It doesn’t give the recruiter a clear idea of what you can do to meet the needs of the job,” says talent consultant Carol Watson, founder of recruiting firm Tangerine-Watson. Instead, be specific. Try: “You said you’re looking for someone who can do X. Let me tell you about my experience with that.”

“I can try…”

If a hiring manager asks if you feel comfortable doing something you’ve never done before, it’s tempting to respond: “I can try.” Resist the urge. It suggests that you don’t feel confident that you can pull it off, says executive coach Marc Dorio, author of “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to the Perfect Job Interview.” Opt instead for more decisive phrases like “I do” or “I will” and keep the focus on what you know you can bring to the job.

“I remember we used to…”

Whether you’re 25 or 55, reminiscing about the way you used to do things in your industry can make you seem inflexible and dated, says Dorio. To prevent a hiring manager from assuming you aren’t adept at adapting, and assure her (or him) that you’re up-to-date with the latest innovations in your field, try saying, “I think [insert new technology here] is the best thing that’s happened to our industry.” Then you can give an example of the way you used to do things—and how you transitioned to the new technology.

“Why do you…”

It may seem like it shows initiative to ask a hiring manager why the company does things a certain way, but to her it can sound judgmental and put her on the defensive, says Dorio. A better way to get the answer you’re looking for? Try: “I see what you’re doing with X. What’s the reason for doing it this way?” This will also give you more insight into their strategies and processes—and an opportunity to let the recruiter know how you could support or improve on them.

“I didn’t get an opportunity to grow.”

Sure, it sounds like a diplomatic way of explaining why you want to (or did ) leave your job; but to a recruiter it can suggest that you weren’t proactive in seeking out new challenges or a promotion, says Watson. That can raise questions about whether you’ll jump ship at their company if you feel bored or frustrated. Even if you’re unhappy in your current job, always avoid any negativity when you talk about why you want to leave, says Levit. Instead focus on the positive. Say: “I’m interested in growing in this area…” That will also give you the chance to explain why you find this opportunity so exciting.

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