The Smartest and Stupidest Things You Could Say in a Job Interview

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The interview is your biggest chance to prove yourself to an employer and show that you are the perfect fit for the job. In one short conversation, you need to convince a complete stranger that you would be more of an asset to his company than any other candidate. To do so, you have to be on top of your game and present yourself as a competent, intelligent professional. The words you choose will make or break your opportunity with a company.

There are a lot of possible good and bad things to say in an interview, but here are some of the most deadly and most favorable. Let’s start with the bad and then move on to the good.

The stupidest things you could say


Say whatever you want in your personal life, but the fact of the matter is in the professional world, profanities make you sound dumb and unprofessional. A 2012 CareerBuilder survey reported that over half of employers said they would think an employee who swore at work was less intelligent. Avoid curse words and vulgar language in your interviews (including ‘Oh my God!’), and replace them with better, smarter, and more creative ways to express yourself.

Asking questions you should already know the answers to

Few things will make you look dumber than asking questions like, ‘What does your company do?’ or ‘What’s your name again?’ You need to do your homework before, be very familiar with the organization, and pay attention when you meet people. Otherwise, you will come off as absentminded, foolish, and unprepared.

‘Like’, ‘uh’, etc.

These stutter words are often said without realizing it. If you have a bad ‘um’ habit (or anything similar), practice interview questions with a friend and have him point out every time you let the word slip. Practice pausing instead; while short pauses still aren’t ideal, they are better and less distracting.

Big SAT words no one knows the meaning of

Don’t pull out big fancy words to try and sound smart. You’ll seem like you’re trying way too hard to impress, you’ll mispronounce a word, or you’ll use the word incorrectly, only making you sound worse. If you’re at all unsure of a word’s meaning or usage, just don’t use it.

People unknowingly make mistakes all the time; check out cognitive scientist Steven Pinker’s list of most common words and phrases that people use incorrectly. However, help yourself out when possible by avoiding those unnecessary questionable words and speaking plainly in your interviews.

Bashing your current employer

When asked why you’re quitting your job or why you were fired, complaining about your employer will only make you look bitter, whiny, and negative, even if it’s all true. Avoid complaining, and instead give the impression that you are a good team player.  Employers see how you talk about your last job as a good indicator of what kind of employee you will be at your next. That’s not to say you should lie, but rather frame your answer in a more positive light and focus on what you like and look forward to about the company you’re interviewing with.

“No, I don’t have any questions.”

Going to an interview without questions to ask is another sign that you are unprepared. Almost every interviewer will ask what questions you have (usually at the end), and that is your chance to show your interest in the company, learn more about the position, and impress with your preparedness. Saying you ‘don’t have any questions’ is a very bad way to end an interview.

The smartest things you could say

“I’m very familiar with what your company does.”

Researching a company before interviewing with them, and then showing your preparedness in the interview tells the interviewer that you have serious interest in the business. Read the company’s website and their social media pages in detail, search for news articles about recent happenings in the organization, and learn all about their products and services. This information will help you sell yourself in the interview and have intelligent conversation regarding the position with the interviewer.

[Insert original and insightful question here]

As discussed in the “Stupidest” section above, you need to be prepared with questions to ask your interviewer. An insightful question that shows that you did your research and listened carefully during the interview can impress the interviewer just as much, if not more than, your answers to his/her questions. It’s wise to come prepared with a few options, then see what’s covered in the interview. You may come up with new questions because of what is discussed, but don’t rely on that. Go prepared!

“I’m constantly seeking to learn and increase my knowledge in this field.”

An employee that’s always learning is an asset to his company. Explaining and showing that you are a proactive learner says that you will strive to be the best employee possible, you will be a positive influence on your coworkers, you’re adaptable, and you’re on this career path for the long run. In your spare time, read articles about industry trends and talk to more experienced professionals in the field to increase your knowledge, and then refer to these proactive activities in your interviews.

“Let me tell you about a time that I solved that problem.”

Stories and examples of your experience are key in showing the interviewer you are the best fit for the job. Never just answer a question with a “yes” or “no”; instead, you need to take every opportunity to highlight your unique qualities that would be valuable to the company. Learn about the STAR technique, a helpful way of answering questions and telling stories, here.

“Thank you for your time.” 

This phrase alone isn’t a make-it-or-break-it thing to say, but it represents being a kind and appreciative person. Show that you are respectable, gracious, humble, and friendly through the things you say and do in your time with the interviewer. Be positive, give a good handshake, and smile. Be sure to resonate with the tone of the company culture (meaning, research what the culture is like beforehand as well). If you are hired, you will represent the company as one of their employees, so you need to show some good manners and give the impression that you are a nice person.



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