As a sales leader, I’ve interviewed hundreds of potential sales and sales support candidates over the past ten plus years. Seeing a wide variety people and styles absolutely gives you a sense of what works and what doesn’t. I’m of the belief that you learn more by understanding what not to do rather than being told what to do, and in an effort to help at least one person avoid a disastrous interview, I’ve put together a list of things NOT to say in an interview. Included in the list is the interviewer’s interpretation of what’s actually being said so that you can learn to understand your audience a bit more.
Question: When can you start here?
Don’t say this: I didn’t give any notice when I left my last job / I don’t plan on giving notice when I leave my job.
Interviewer’s take: This candidate is capable of doing the exact same thing to us, putting our company in a bad spot.
What to say instead: I fully intend on giving standard two weeks notice to my current employer, but if you need me to start sooner I’m happy to begin training/preparation before or after hours.
Question: How is your relationship with your current boss/team?
Don’t say this: I’m leaving my current job because I don’t get along with my boss / colleagues.
Interviewer’s take: This person is a culture killer and will cause problems here, too.
What to say instead: (focus on the positive) I am looking to join a company that values X, Y, and Z. (Yes, you may be implying your company doesn’t have these values, but you’re not actually bashing them.)
Question: What are your salary requirements?
Don’t say this: I would like to make $x.
Interviewer’s take: Did they pull this number out of thin air? What is it based on? I’d like to make a million dollars per year, but it’s not about what I want; it’s about what’s realistic.
What to say instead: I would need to make a minimum of $x to make a move, and the offers I have been receiving are in $x – $y range.
Question: Why are you leaving your current job?
Don’t say this: I get bored easily and I am not stimulated at my current job.
Interviewer’s take: This candidate is going to want a promotion in six months. I need someone to do this job and do it well for awhile.
What to say instead: I am looking to join a company that will give me the opportunity to grow within the organization over time. I am the type of employee that offers to help other people with tasks once I’ve completed mine.
Question: What do people say about your current company? Why do they work with you?
Don’t say this: My company’s product sucks / doesn’t work / etc.
Interviewer’s take: The moment this person is unhappy, they’re going to bash our company in the marketplace and write negative reviews about us on networking and job sites.
What to say instead: I pride myself on representing products and services that deliver real value to my clients, and based on my research about your product/service, it’s something I’d be excited to represent.
Question: What is your biggest weakness?
Don’t say this: I don’t have any weaknesses.
Interviewer’s take: This candidate is either arrogant, out of touch with reality, or not coachable.
What to say instead: (before your interview, do some reflection on areas you can improve, and have a set answer for this question) Over my X years of working, one thing I’ve always strived to improve upon is ___ . I have made improvements, but I am eager to learn some different styles / techniques from new leadership.
Question: Where do you see yourself in five years?
Don’t say this: CEO of the company / in your role / etc
Interviewer’s take: Cocky, threatening, disrespectful, not a cultural fit.
What to say instead: Ideally, working for this company (or a similar company) in a role that gives me the opportunity to expand upon what this role would ask of me. I am looking to grow within an organization and be part of a great team.
Question: What do you like to do for fun?
Don’t say this: drinking, partying, smoking weed
Interviewer’s take: immature, no discipline
What to say instead: have a couple interesting and mature hobbies that you can have a conversation about: traveling, foodie, sports, art, etc. If you lead an interesting life, this should be easy.
Question: Why should we hire you over someone else?
Don’t say this: I’m better than everyone else.
Interviewer’s take: How can they compare themselves with people they don’t know? This person is arrogant.
What to say instead: (assuming you’ve asked them what they’re looking for in this hire) Based on what we’ve discussed as being the ideal candidate, I am confident I can meet and exceed these expectations. The role is completely aligned with what I am looking for in my next opportunity, and I have a track record that shows I am capable of succeeding in the role. I will not let you down if you give me this opportunity.
Question: What would your last boss / clients say about you?
Don’t say this: I’m the best person they’ve worked with.
Interviewer’s take: Cocky, arrogant.
What to say instead: Pick something meaningful that you’ve been complimented on as it pertains to the business process / workplace. “My clients have said that they appreciated how I was always very quick in responding to them. It made them feel top of mind” OR
“My last boss frequently complimented me on my problem solving ability. Whenever we faced a new challenge with ___, I embraced the opportunity to dig in and find solutions to the problem. EXAMPLE”
Make sure you follow up with a thank you email within 24 hours of the meeting.
– Your Big Bro