What NOT to say in a job interview (don’t tell them you see dead people)
PUBLISHED: 09:00 11 February 2018
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As Channel 4’s fly-on-the-wall series The Job Interview returns for a second series, we look at what you definitely shouldn’t say at a job interview of your own - such as teling an interviewer your weakness is that you’re a bit of a perfectionist
It is a known fact that job interviews are fertile ground for disaster.
Nerve-wracking and anxiety-inducing, a job interview combines the dry-mouthed horror of first-date jitters with the biting reality that failure may well mean an inability to pay the rent and another grovelling phone call to the Bank of Mum and Dad. They also make great TV.
Like The Apprentice kicked through First Dates via The X Factor, The Job Interview on Channel 4 is the latest fixed-rig reality show to take us to the heart of some of life’s most difficult moments – relationships, giving birth, casualty departments and now job interviews, it’s only a matter of time until we all find a fixed-rig facing our toilet in the bathroom and discover a family member has signed us up to eat nothing but kale for a week.
Each episode of this second series of The Job Interview will track two employers as they interview candidates for a range of jobs in front of the nation.
Candidates are interviewed in an office building in Westminster in front of hidden cameras before being debriefed by the show’s producers as the reactions of their interviewers are also seen, from high-fives to sliding down a doorway in grateful relief that a loud interviewee has left the room.
There are things we all know we shouldn’t say at job interviews: how much is the salary? There’s no room in my head for all of the chaos (one of the candidates on the last series, Vicki, said this in an interview on this programme). My weakness is that I’m a bit of a perfectionist. There’s a foreboding ugliness deep within my soul. I see dead people.
Ahead of the new series of The Job Interview we look at 10 things you definitely shouldn’t say at an interview of your own: leave it until you’re clutching a pay cheque before you hit your employer with the fact you were fired from your last job for keeping rabbits under your desk. By then, it’ll be a quirky, loveable anecdote. Hopefully.
What not to say at a job interview:
1) That you were fired from your last job: This assumes that you’re not offering the last employer as a referee and that you are, effectively, editing your work history to make you look as if you’re not someone who was laid off because you over-shared online and a big client got to see exactly what you think about its CEO. Use terms like “company-wide downsizing” and “my position was realigned” and “the division was acquired” and other phrases which are so woolly that the interviewer will hastily move on.
2) That you are desperate: Desperation is never attractive although it does signpost to an employer that they may be able to knock you down on salary. Let your passion to get the job you’re being interviewed for manifest in a different way – in other words, sound like you’re keen for the opportunity rather than clutching the calves of your interviewer while weeping about unpaid bills and your mother’s forthcoming ‘big’ birthday.
3) That you didn’t get on with anyone at your last workplace: You may have voodoo dolls of every single person you work alongside into which you feed long pins every evening, you may run a Facebook page called I HATE ALL MY CO WORKERS AT (insert name of company) but however you dress it up, admitting that you hate your colleagues is Kryptonite to employers. If they’re achieving above your level, you look bitter, if they’re achieving below your level you look spiteful. Either way, you will look like the kind of person who everyone else hates, which isn’t what any employer is looking for. If you can’t be nice, lie.
4) That you have a long list of personal issues: If your interviewer asks how you are, however you really are, tell them you’re “really well”. No interviewer wants your life story unless they’re an interviewer like me and it’s an interview for a feature in a newspaper. No one cares about your break up/argument with your best friend/doggie daycare issues/rumbling row with next door about the guttering.
5) That you hate the job you’re currently in: We all know that you’re unlikely to be looking for a new job if you love the company you work for, don’t want to earn any more money and can’t bear to leave your friends and colleagues. But telling an interviewer that you hate your job, the company you work for, your measly pay cheque and every minute that you’re at work makes you look difficult, grasping and greedy. You love your job, it’s just time for a new challenge: repeat this out loud in private until it sounds plausible.
6) That you have no weaknesses: Obviously there is a thin line here: you don’t want anyone to know your ACTUAL weaknesses, especially if they involve terrible time-keeping, rudeness and laziness. If you tell an interviewer that you’re a perfectionist, they will smell the manure – go for something fluffy, like saying you’d like to be better at public speaking during presentations. Unless the job you’re going for involves public speaking at presentations, in which case for go for that old favourite: “I work too hard”.
7) That you really need to take this call: No, you don’t.
8) That you’d like to work from home: Lazy mornings without the hellish commute, a desk opposite a TV, access to the toaster 24/7, the opportunity to take important phone calls in the bath – who WOULDN’T want to work at home? This is an issue you need to thrash out after and not before you’ve been offered the role – unless a company makes it clear that home-working is an option, it’s a question to save until you know they want you as an employee and you have a bargaining tool.
9) That you’ll take the interviewer’s job one day: It’s an interview classic: “where do you see yourself in five years time?” No one with any sense answers this question honestly – you might see yourself being fed grapes by a nubile lover on a beach in Jamaica or working somewhere completely different, but what you SHOULD say is that you hope to be helping the company you’re being interviewed at maximise profits. Or whatever it is you know they want to hear.
10) That you don’t have any questions to ask: You don’t want to look as if you haven’t been engaging with what the interviewer has said, but everyone knows that the questions you really want to ask are (1) Is there a vending machine near my desk? (2) No, actually, number one covers it. Make sure you prepare for this question so your last impression isn’t one of a gaping fish desperately trying to think of something meaningful to ask. A trusted favourite is: ‘If I am lucky enough to be given this job, what would you want me to achieve in my first few months in the position?’ Pow. You are WINNING at asking questions.
* The Job Interview starts on Channel 4 at 10pm on Thursday February 14.