When you walk into an interview, a potential employer has already acknowledged that you’re qualified for the position, at least on some level. You’ve shown through your resume that you can walk the walk. Now that you’ve landed some face time with the organization, it’s time to talk the talk.
The interview process is, of course, about selling your potential to the employer, but it’s also very much about not selling yourself short. Put yourself in the right mindset and an interview will feel more like a conversation than a trial. But keep in mind that just like in any other conversation, there are a few things you definitely shouldn’t say. Here are a few that spring to mind:
"What I'm really looking for is..."
The interviewer is (or at least should be) interested in what they can offer you, but they’re probably much more interested in what you can do for the organization. Keep the conversation geared towards how you fit well with their needs, not the other way around. It's important to acknowledge your must-haves but pick and choose your battles so that you aren't creating barriers that can be hashed out later on.
"I've never used that software before"
In many situations, employers aren't as concerned about whether you're proficient with an application as they are in whether you can learn to be proficient with it. Instead of broadcasting your lack of experience as a deficiency, try to reframe by relating it to a process, software or experience that you are comfortable with.
This is a great way to sell yourself short… not just in job interviews, but in general. If the interviewer acknowledges a sacrifice you made in order for the interview to happen, whether it be driving a long way to be there or agreeing to reschedule, don’t let deflect the compliment. “No problem” implies that it was actually at no cost to you. A more appropriate response could be “I’m happy to have the opportunity” or “I’m really glad to be here”. This shows the employer that you’re willing to make sacrifices without being rolled over.
“Is there opportunity for promotion in this position?”
This is an important question for most interviewees but will send chills down the spine of the person on the other side of the table. The implication is that you aren’t satisfied with the job you haven’t even landed yet. Instead, you can often find the answer to this question (and a glimpse into the interviewer’s vision) by framing it differently. Instead, ask the interviewer something like “If the organization were to find the perfect candidate for this position, what would that look like a year from now? Do you envision other ways that this role can help the organization?”
“My last job did that all the time”
It’s important to not complain about your previous employer, the work you did or the people you worked with. In fact, if you don’t have something nice to say… well, you know the rest. The interview table is not a place for venting. Complain to your spouse, complain to your dog, complain to your trusted friends. Never complain to your interviewer.
If you noticed a trend in this list, then you’ve discovered the secret ingredient in the perfect interview recipe: framing. It’s not always about what you say or don’t say, it’s more often about how you say it. Just as it is with cooking, a wonderful recipe and all the best ingredients can go to waste if you accidentally throw in a dash of the wrong seasoning or a cup of spoiled milk. The interview process, in all of its awkward glory, is a chance for you to frame and structure how the organization views your potential as an employee. If you prepare diligently, think of the interview as a conversation and frame your responses well, that job opening won’t stay open for long.