What you say in an interview and the body language you use are two essential parts of selling yourself to get the job. But what you don’t say can be just as important. Hiring managers are practiced at spotting red flags in the language candidates use and the sentiments they express. The following list of things you should never say in an interview include many of the most common such warnings that interviewees often let slip.
Avoid Saying These in a Job Interview
- Curse words. It should go without saying, but just in case: Don’t swear in an interview, or even use “lighter” terms that many people still consider crude.
- “What do you do here?” Interviewers want to see that you’ve already taken an interest in the company and done your research. Asking questions like this that demonstrate you’ve come to the meeting fairly clueless are one of the fastest ways to get ruled out for an opportunity.
- “I need the money.” It’s one of the worst possible answers to “Why do you want this job?” but you might be surprised how often people say it. Employers look for candidates who want to be with the company—not ones who are just desperate for income. This question comes up in almost every interview, so have a strong answer ready that demonstrates you understand what the job and the company are about, and that you’ll excel with enthusiasm.
- “I know I don’t have experience…” Sometimes you go for a job that’s a bit of a reach. But just because you don’t have experience in the industry or field, that doesn’t mean you don’t have relevant experience using skills you’ll need to succeed in the job. Find ways to frame what you have done to fit the demands of the position.
- “I hated my last job/boss.” While this is sometimes the case, you can’t say it. And rest assured, many interviewers try to bait you into ranting about previous positions or bosses. To a hiring manger, this indicates a strong negative streak, an inability to find positives in any situation, difficulty getting along with others, and a willingness to badmouth your employers.
- “What are the perks?” This sort of inquiry casts you as someone who’s just there for self-interest, rather than someone looking to enter into a mutually beneficial situation that allows you and the company to grow together.
- “When do I get a raise/promotion?” Similar to the previous entry, this focuses too much on what’s in it for you. It also comes across as entitlement, and that you may think you’re too good for the position/pay you’re applying to get. Beyond that, the interviewer will assume you won’t be content in the job you’re seeking at the moment.
- “I’m exhausted.” Whether in response to opening small talk, or as part of your discussion about where you are in your life, don’t make complaints like this. Always keep things positive, and don’t make yourself sound like a complainer, someone who doesn’t handle stress well, someone with an aversion to a lot of work, someone who often doesn’t feel well, etc.
- “I don’t know.” You may not have an answer ready to go for every question, and that’s OK. Interviewers are happy to see you pause and think to give a good response. They’re not so happy to see that you’re unwilling to even try.
- “I don’t have any questions.” Expect to be asked whether you have any questions at the end of the interview. And the correct answer is always yes. Otherwise, you seem uninterested in the job and the company. Go in prepared with some questions about how things work and how you’ll best be able to succeed; if they’re answered in the course of the interview, come up with at least one or two new ones.
There are plenty of statistics about what percentage of communication is nonverbal. While nobody can really give an exact number—and surely it varies among different people and by the situation—we do know that body language, tone of voice, and other nonverbal cues play a significant role in how we and our messages are received.
Even without being able to precisely quantify it, there is a science to how nonverbal cues work. Many experts have dedicated careers to studying and reading body language. Obviously, it’s an application that can be very useful, especially when you’re trying to determine whether someone is being truthful.
Body language sends strong messages, and these messages are generally considered authentic and reliable. Your body language in an interview is a major factor in how well you sell yourself. An experienced interviewer understands how to read an applicant’s body language. But even one who doesn’t do so consciously is affected by it subconsciously, and it bears strongly on their overall impression of each person they meet with.
Here are some fundamental tips about using body language in an interview to communicate that you are open, honest, personable, respectful, confident, competent, and otherwise deserving of the job.
Using Body Language in an Interview
- The interviewer’s first impression of you sets the tone. Walk into the room with confident strides, standing up straight with your chin up and your eyes fixed on the interviewer.
- Your handshake should be moderately firm; it shouldn’t feel weak, but it’s also not a strength contest. Stick to three pumps of the hand, and hold eye contact for the duration of the shake.
- After the greeting, let the interviewer lead the way and wait for them to invite you to sit. This is respectful and mindful of business etiquette. Of course, if the interviewer leads you to a chair but doesn’t indicate that you should sit, take the initiative rather than stand there awkwardly.
- Sit with straight posture, your back straight against the back of the chair, shoulders back, chin up, eyes forward, knees pointing forward, and the soles of your feet flat on the floor.
- Keep your arms open, either on the arms of the chair or out pointing slightly away from your body on the desk or in the air while you gesture. Never cross your arms across your chest, as this comes across as defensive or stubborn. In general, if you physically close yourself off in any way with your arms, it communicates that you’re not open, honest, and receptive; alternatively, if your arms are open, you seem open. Also, tilt your palms upward while you speak to convey honesty.
- The same goes for crossing your legs; don’t do it. It doesn’t only make you seem closed off, but it’s also informal.
- Don’t put your briefcase, portfolio, or other objects on your lap or on the desk between yourself and the interviewer; a physical barrier like this also has the negative effect of closing you off.
- Refrain from touching your mouth or face, holding your hand in front of your face, or doing other things that obstruct the view of your face while you speak. Such actions communicate dishonesty and uncertainty.
- Gesture naturally in moderation, but avoid abrupt, sweeping, or otherwise dramatic gesturing. Never point at the interviewer or make chopping motions, as this is rude and perceived as aggression.
- Maintain eye contact with the interviewer most of the time. Lack of eye contact portrays a lack of interest, attention, and respect. But it’s normal to break eye contact occasionally and briefly; a constant stare is unnerving. Just don’t get lost staring out the window or at your feet.
- Lean slightly forward and nod every once in a while when the interviewer is offering an explanation to seem engaged and interested. Don’t, however, lean forward while being asked a question, as this can come across as aggression.
- Refrain from drumming your fingers, fidgeting, or playing with something in your hands or on the desk. This makes you seem nervous or disinterested and bored.
- At the end of the interview, shake hands the same as when you first came in, and leave similarly poised. Walk out confidently, but without looking like you’re hurrying. If you seem to rush, it says that you were uncomfortable or unhappy during the meeting.
Knowing how to answer “When can you start?” in a job interview may not be one of the questions you’re most preoccupied with preparing for, but you do need to tackle it professionally. It seems simple enough, and it’s probably not the toughest question you’ll get, and generally the interviewer’s motives are mostly just to see if your timeline matches the company’s needs. But how best to answer this query still calls for some thought.
As is usually the case, there’s no one-size-fits-all right answer for everyone. A lot depends on your situation—particularly if you’re currently employed. Plus, you want to show your enthusiasm for the position, but you don’t want to come across as desperate.
So, here are some things to think about and some recommended approaches when deciding how to answer “When can you start?” at your interviews.
Tips for Answering “When Can You Start?”
- Don’t just blurt out “Tomorrow!” or “As soon as you want me to!” Again, you don’t want to seem desperate, and you also don’t want to look like you aren’t giving the question any thought.
- If you aren’t currently employed, say you can begin working the following week. This avoids an air of desperation, but is accommodating. It also shows that you understand the company may still be meeting with other candidates and probably needs a little time to make a decision.
- Know how much notice you intend to give your current employer. Two weeks is standard, but in some roles, it’s better to give a little more. Hiring managers expect and understand that you need to give notice, and they definitely don’t want to see that you’re willing to leave your current employer high and dry without adequate time to find and train your replacement.
- If you have a job, state how much notice you’ll provide, explaining that you want to give your employer time to find your replacement and that you want to stay on to help with a smooth transition. So, say something like, “I will give my employer three weeks’ notice from the time I get an offer, and would be available to start the following week.”
- If you’ve just left a job and would like a bit of downtime before starting a new position, there’s certainly nothing wrong with that. Simply explain that you have some prior commitments that you made after leaving your last position, and give a start date within two or three weeks.
- Relocation for a new job can complicate matters, but the interviewer will understand that. Ask what sort of timeline they allow for when a new employee is moving from another city. If it’s common at their company, or if they offer relocation assistance, they should have standard answers. Even if it’s not common, they should be able to give you an idea of how much time you’d have to make the move, and you’ll need to make the determination as to whether you can manage it.
- Regardless of how you answer, ask the interviewer if it works for them. You don’t want to miss out over the starting date if it’s avoidable. If you have flexibility—especially if you’re just taking some downtime between jobs—and the employer needs someone who can start sooner, tell them you’re excited for the opportunity and will work something out to meet their needs. If you can’t leave your old job soon enough, express your excitement for the opportunity but explain that you’re not willing to make things unmanageable for your current employer and coworkers; ask if there’s any way the timeline can be figured out.
It’s common these days for employers to winnow down the number of job applicants and in-person interviews with an initial round of phone interview screenings. It’s a useful time-saving measure for human resources personnel or hiring managers, and it can spare candidates unnecessary effort when there are clear reasons they’re not a strong fit for a particular position.
These phone conversations don’t usually get too in depth, and often only last around five minutes. The interviewer (often not the same person who conducts the next stage of in-person interviews) is mostly trying to expand a little on what they glean from resumes to get a better idea of how well qualified each applicant is, whether they have experience with the most important aspects of the job, how they present themselves, and what prompted their interest in the opening.
Because of the brevity of phone interviews, because they’re frequently not conducted by the final decision-maker, and because they’re typically more casual than in-person meetings, some job candidates don’t take these initial screenings all that seriously. But remember, this is an essential step to getting your foot in the door for an on-site interview. It’s not the last hurdle between you and the job, but the prospect is still over if you’re eliminated at at this stage.
So, below are some tips for having a great phone interview to help you ace the initial screening and get called back for an in-person meeting.
How to Have a Successful Phone Interview
- To reiterate a point we made above, take the phone interview just as seriously as you would take an in-person interview.
- Do basic research on the company and position you’re applying for before a phone screening. Be prepared to talk about the job, why you want it, and why you’re a good fit for it. Also, your desired salary may come up, as it’s an effective way to narrow down candidates, so have a number or reasonable range in mind.
- Have a few questions ready about the company and the position that show you’re genuinely interested; make sure they aren’t questions easily answered by looking at the company website, job description, etc.
- Know who’s calling you, their job title, what time they’re calling, and which phone number they’re contacting you on (if possible, provide a land line number to reduce the risk of connection issues, missing the call because your cell is muted or in the couch cushions, etc.). Make sure the phone is fully charged.
- Ensure that you have a quiet place for the conversation where you won’t be distracted or interrupted, and where the interviewer won’t hear loud or strange sounds in the background.
- Keep your resume and the job description visible for easy reference during the phone interview. If you like, jot down some short, easily skimmed notes to help remember things you want to cover.
- Get dressed in professional clothing, even if it’s tempting to chat in your pajamas. What you’re wearing affects the way you feel and sound; dressing for an interview helps you come across with more confidence and professionalism. And for the same reasons, sit up with good posture in your chair while you talk.
- Speak enthusiastically and clearly, and don’t rush your speech. A lot of people talk in a monotone drone, or talk faster on the phone. You don’t want to sound lifeless, and you don’t want the interviewer missing what you say or having to ask you to repeat yourself. It also helps you sound better if you make your natural facial and hand gestures while you talk, even though the interviewer can’t see you.
- Pay close attention to the interviewer. Just like you’re at risk of being hard to understand or follow, so are they. You don’t want to have to ask the interviewer to repeat things, as this makes you seem inattentive.
- Wait just a second before answering when the interviewer asks you a question to be sure they’re done. Without visual clues, it’s harder to tell when somebody is finished talking, and you don’t want to interrupt. If you get interrupted, though, stop speaking and let the interviewer proceed.
- Don’t eat, chew gum, suck on a cough drop, etc. during a phone interview. No matter how hard you try to hide it, it’s bound to make sounds and affect the way you speak. Keep a glass of water on hand in case you need it, but be sure to move the phone away from your mouth when you take a sip.
- Remember to send a thank you to the interviewer afterwards. Follow up if you don’t hear back within the time you expect to; if the interviewer doesn’t specify a time, follow up a week after the phone screening.
Do you want the best possible chance of getting “the job”? Let’s start with a truthful resume. And in particular, let’s start with your Education.
Past candidates have lost out on interviews and even job offers after it was discovered that they falsified their Education on their resumes. All candidates eventually go through a background check process, and that is the ‘great equalizer’ no matter how prestigious you want your Education to look on your resume. Please, for your own sake, follow this simple rule: If you did not earn it and complete it, do not list it. And if you earned/completed some of it, specifically say so. For example, if you attended but did not earn the degree, list the institution and say “courses taken, degree not obtained”. This way it is clear up front to the employer/recruiter, and you will not be faulted later on for listing a degree you did not obtain. Because believe us, you will be faulted for lying. The truth always comes out.
This article from Monster.com explains a little more in depth the risk and consequences of lying on your resume.
The Biggest Resume Lies to Avoid
Lying on your resume? You are bound to get caught. Don’t fudge facts—instead, this is how you make the truth sound better.
Finding a job is challenging enough, but when your competition is beefing up their resumes with flat-out lies, it can make standing out even tougher. Almost half of workers (46%) polled by staffing firm OfficeTeam, a Robert Half company, said they know someone who included false information on a resume. Maybe you’ve even done it!
“It’s an epidemic,” says Scott Samuels, CEO of Horizon Hospitality, an executive search firm. “More and more people feel like they can get away with lying because they think no one is going to check and verify. It’s rampant.”
Newsflash: Companies will check your credentials, and yet, the resume lies are likely to continue. Why? “I think fear is the main reason,” says Kim Isaacs, Monster’s resume expert. “Fear of not being good enough, fear of not measuring up to their peers, fear of not getting called for interviews. Some people will do whatever it takes to get an edge.”
More likely than not, if you lie on your resume, you’ll find yourself skating along that edge. Whether you’re telling a little white lie or a blatant fabrication, getting caught could amount to career sabotage—especially since today’s technology and social media environments make it easier to get caught.
3 of the most common lies job seekers tell
- Education embellishments. Samuels has found that people try to make more of a course or two they took than they should. “We’ve had someone put down Cornell School of Hotel Management on their resume, when they only took one class online,” he says. “[The candidate] didn’t graduate from there or even attend in person.”
Better bet: Instead of fudging your academic credentials, think about what you can add to your resume to demonstrate your education. Other professional development, honors or awards, and extra coursework might be relevant, says Isaacs.
- Date deception. Another common deceit is to cover up employment gaps by “stretching dates for one or two jobs to cover a time gap, or fabricating an interim job,” says Isaacs.
Better bet: It’s sometimes a good strategy to preemptively squash concerns an employer may have about gaps on your resume, says Isaacs. If you took time off to raise a family, care for a loved one, go back to school, or take on an independent project, explain your circumstances in your cover letter and be sure to stress how committed you are to finding a job you can grow with.
- Skill stretching. Many job candidates offer up a laundry list of technical proficiencies, but just because you used a program a few times doesn’t make you an expert. The same goes if you claim to be fluent in a language just because you took a year of it in high school.
Better bet: Only list skills that you are truly prepared to demonstrate on the spot.
How you can get caught lying on your resume
If you think you can pull one over on potential employers, think again. It’s probably true that many job seekers do get away with a slight exaggeration here, an omission there, but eventually, misrepresentations can come back to bite you.
“Hiring managers have their antennae up when reviewing resumes,” says Isaacs, “and they’re relying on background checks, reference checks, online research, social media sleuthing, and in-person interviews to determine the truth.”
Here are a few ways that lies on your resume will get you red-flagged as a fibber:
Skills assessments. Especially if you’re applying for a skilled position that involves writing, coding, or designing, expect that an employer will test you before hiring you. “Assessments can validate that you have the experience, as can asking appropriate behavioral questions during the interview,” Samuels says.
Social media research. If you have a social media profile and a website, you’d better make sure that dates and basic facts match up to the resume you submit. “Because we’ve been in business for 20 years, says Samuels, “a lot of times we’ll even have prior resumes for a candidate on file that are completely different.”
And, of course, there’s Google, so if there is some version of your resume or work history online, make sure it’s in sync with what you hand a prospective employer.
Background checks. It’s very easy for a hiring manager to contact your former employers and educational institutions to verify what’s on your resume. And even if employers somehow miss false or misleading information before an applicant is hired, the job seeker isn’t really ever off the hook. “The resume liar is always in danger of getting caught,” says Isaacs, “and this could happen many years into their tenure.” For instance, say your company goes through a merger and you have to go through a vetting process again—those lies can end up haunting you.
3 easy ways to avoid lying on your resume
Stay honest. It sounds cliché, but honesty really is the best policy, says Isaacs. Instead of using evasion or a complete distortion of facts, try the following strategies:
Rethink your design. “A common way to format dates on your resume is to right justify or left justify them so they’re set apart from text,” says Isaacs. But “lone dates surrounded by a river of white space draws the eye—so it’s not a good choice for someone trying to downplay frequent job changes.”
Instead, place the dates next to job titles or employer names so they blend in with the other content, she suggests.
Get in front of a potential issue. You might be tempted to leave off a job in which your departure didn’t go well, but omissions are like lies and can be just as harmful. “Sometimes bad things happen. If you’re honest and upfront, you can overcome that,” says Samuels.
Source: Laws ban ‘What’s your salary?’ question in interviews
It’s that job interview question you’d love to dodge: What’s your current, or most recent, salary?
A low figure could limit your starting pay. A high number might make you seem expensive.
Now, several states and cities are banning the question as part of efforts to ensure pay equity for women, but some companies say the new laws represent yet another intrusion into their businesses.
This week, the city of Philadelphia said it will hold off on enforcing the legislation until a federal judge rules on a petition to block it from the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia. A federal court already had temporarily stayed the law, which was to take effect May 23. And Connecticut recently dropped the “salary history” prohibition from its bill to ensure gender pay equity.
Philadelphia joins New York City and Massachusetts, where legislation was passed this month and last year, respectively, in barring employers from asking job candidates about their salary history or benefits. The laws are scheduled to take effect in New York later this year and in Massachusetts in July 2018.
At least eight other states are considering similar measures — Illinois, Maine, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont, according to law firm Fisher & Phillips. The bills are aimed at closing a long-standing gender-based pay gap that, according to the Census Bureau, has women earning about 80 cents for every dollar earned by men. (Studies that compare men and women in similar occupations and control for other factors, such as experience, find much narrower pay disparities.) By basing future salaries on previous wages, employers can perpetuate the earnings divide, advocates for women say.
“We know that when employers see some past salary, they’re likely to take that into account” in setting the employee’s starting pay, says Emily Martin, general counsel for the National Women’s Law Center. As a result, “Too often, when women are paid less than men, that pay disparity can follow them from job to job.” In fact, she says, the gender pay gap widens as women age, supporting the theory that employers are relying too heavily on previous salaries.
The salary history bans generally are part of, or addenda to, broader laws that prevent employers from underpaying women. The legislation in Massachusetts and some other areas also prohibit employers from instructing employees not to discuss their wages. Such conversation is often needed so a female worker can file a challenge. Generally, the laws allow firms to rely on salary information if the job candidate volunteers it.
More broadly, compensation experts say the measures also address the fundamental unfairness of shackling a new employee to a prior salary. “Our advice to organizations is that they should price the position, not price the person,” says Lydia Frank, vice president of PayScale, a compensation data and software firm. “You’re trying to fill a certain role. What you should be doing is understanding the market rate for that role.”
But Cheryl Behymer, a labor lawyer for Fisher & Phillips who represents employers, says many companies use salary history to set pay and manage their costs. “It’s hard to figure out how to pay somebody a fair amount,” she says. “You’re looking at getting the best employee you can but … there’s nothing wrong with trying to save the company money.”
The prohibition against asking candidates for their prior salaries follows the passage of “ban the box” laws in nearly half the states barring employers from requiring job seekers to acknowledge on applications if they have a criminal record.
“Here’s another point where the government is dictating to an employer how to conduct its business and employers resent that,” Behymer says of the new salary history laws.
While both the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia and Comcast, which is headquartered in the city, oppose the new law, neither would comment. But in a statement in January, chamber President Rob Wonderling said, “Tragically we are finding that when global enterprises are looking to locate their business in America, Philadelphia is quickly falling off the list.”
He said various new restraints are “having a negative impact on job growth.” The chamber also argues the salary-history law violates companies’ free speech rights, and there’s no evidence it promotes wage equity
At a city hearing, Wonderling said a prior salary provided an employer “a better understanding of whether a candidate is worth pursuing based on previous compensation levels as well as the market value or salaries for comparable positions.”
Michael Aitken, vice president of government affairs for the Society for Human Resource Management, says a current or previous salary can indicate whether a job candidate’s current high pay is above the employer’s range, avoiding wasted time and resources. But he says firms can address that issue by including a salary range in a job posting or telling a job candidate early on.
And while a salary history provides some companies a better understanding of pay for comparable positions, Aitken says many firms conduct their own market surveys anyway. Still, for small businesses that can’t afford such surveys, the new laws pose a more formidable hurdle, he says.
Aitken acknowledges some employers use a previous salary as a baseline to determine future pay, but he says that’s typically within the salary range it already has established for the position. Businesses that underpay employees are at risk of losing them to competitors, he says.
Meanwhile, as long as the salary history question is still fair game,job candidates inclined to distort their pay should beware — current or former employers aren’t required to reveal your former salary if asked by a recruiter, though they can if they wish.
SpenDifference, which provides procurement and other services to restaurant chains, asked job candidates for their salary history to help set starting pay until it brought on PayScale as a consultant a year ago, says Carla Williams, vice president of human resources. Now, it has access to a rich trove of market data.
“Getting an employee at a bargain (didn’t) feel great for us,” she says, adding pay disparities between similar workers can hurt morale, prod employees to leave and open the company to charges of gender discrimination.
Now, Williams says the company annually provides its 40 employees market-based salaries for jobs similar to their own to increase transparency, noting many mistakenly believe they’re underpaid. “It’s not that elephant in the room” anymore, she says.