What to Say (and Not Say) in a Job Interview
Even when jobs are plentiful and your credentials are superb, the interview can strongly influence whether you get the job you’re seeking. It’s not just what you say in responding to interview questions that’s important; it’s how you say it.
For example, instead of simply spouting that you have the experience and qualifications required, offer evidence. Describe a problem that you solved, a project that you saved, or an important contribution that you made. Emphasize thorny aspects of the situation that your expertise enabled you to resolve.
Similarly, it’s not enough to claim that you’re flexible. Instead, describe situations in which you willingly worked additional hours, voluntarily took on extra tasks, or in some other way went beyond your day-to-day responsibilities.
And instead of insisting that you’re knowledgeable about the prospective employer, comment on issues you’ve learned about the company from its website and related material. But be just a little restrained in doing this, since you might touch on issues the interviewer is unfamiliar with—and there’s nothing to be gained by embarrassing the interviewer.
Even more important than things you should say is steering clear of things you shouldn’t say. It’s usually unwise to claim you hate your current job, even if you do. If you’re questioned about it, focus your response on aspects of the job that appeal to you. Similarly, badmouthing your boss won’t endear you to any future employer.
And while you’ll certainly want information about salary, benefits, vacation time, and so on—the what’s-in-it-for-me subjects—these are not the topics to lead with. Your emphasis early in the interview process should be on how you can fit in, do the job, and help the organization or team.
In terms of both what to say and what not to say, it’s important to prepare. Think about how you’ll address the above issues. List questions you might be asked and determine how you’ll respond. Strive to avoid the filler words—such as “um” and “y’know”—that permeate everyday conversation but that in an interview might convey a lack of confidence.
Role-play with a friend or colleague to gain experience, especially if it’s been a long time since your last job search. But don’t over-rehearse to the point that you have a canned response to every question. The company is looking to hire a human being, not a robot.