Things You Should Never Say in an Interview?

| 4 min read

Interviews can be a really tense experience for you as a candidate. Regardless of how many interviews you have done in the past, each new one presents an opportunity to land a job of interest. What are the things you should never say in an interview establish when you want to stand out as the best candidate for the position?

No matter how tense or unsettled you are before you go in for the actual interview, take a long breath, stay calm and look at it as a conversation. Here’s is a list of things you should avoid saying in an interview.

1. Responding With ‘Yeah’ During an Interviewinterview-jobberman-nigeria

Is this something you are guilty of? If this is something you do, you need to stop it and the reason is simple. Interviewers find this irritating. Sometimes, it is so bad that the look of irritation becomes visible on the face of the interviewer.

The word ‘yeah’ is a casual form of ‘yes’ and it is a word you would usually use when hanging out with friends or having a conversation with friends at a party.

No matter how qualified you are for the job or how much experience you have, using the word ‘yeah’ instead of ‘yes’ can ruin your chances of getting hired.

A rule never to forget is; all interviews are formal meeting and you should go in with a serious mindset. Never replace your “yes” with a “yeah” when fielding questions at an interview.

2. Avoid Saying ‘I Have it on My CV’interview-jobberman-nigeria

The HR manager definitely read your CV but if he/she is asking, it’s an opportunity for you to go into detail; beyond what you have written on your CV. Be simple, clear and concise while you communicate your answer because your ability to do so is what is actually being tested here.

3. Don’t Say ‘I Can Think Outside the Box”Things_Not_to_Say_at_An_Interview_-_Out_of_the_box_-_JBM

Anyone can say this. Any candidate can actually stake their claim on being able to think outside the box but in actual terms, what is thinking outside the box? Rather say this, find challenges and scenarios that show how you solved a task or took up a challenge by thinking outside the box.

A rule; avoid cliche terms and remember to communicate and share scenarios and examples rather than give vague cliche statements.

4. Avoid Answering an Interview Question With ‘I Don’t Know’Things_Not_to_Say_at_An_Interview_-_I_don_t_know

If you reply a question with this answer, you will have words like rude, clueless and lack of initiative written all over you. This sits right on top of the list of things you should never say in an interview.

5.  Never Say ‘Allow Me to Answer This Call’ at an Interview


You should never put yourself in a situation when your phone rings to distract you from the interview. This will directly threaten your chances of getting hired. You should also avoid allowing your phone ring to the point where you have to ask for permission to answer the call. If it’s not the interviewer before you calling you, it can wait till you walk out. The best thing you can do when going in for an interview is to switch off your phone.

6. In an Interview, Don’t Say ‘I am Going Back to School Soon’interview-jobberman-nigeria

This doesn’t mean hiring managers don’t want you to get upgrade your degree or improve your skill-set with a certification. You must remember that interviews are quite tasking and cost organisations money. Having to recruit for the same role over the next few months is not ideal or cost-effective.

When you finally get the opportunity to attend a job interview, do not speak negatively about your previous supervisor, colleagues or boss. Avoid telling the interviewer how you hate your last job. In every way, be civil, positive, do not lie and be formal. We would like to hear more things not to say in an interview – Be kind to share with us.

Princewill Akuma
Princewill is a marketing maven, who is passionate about user-centric marketing. His experience spans Tech service, Recruitment, Media and Entertainment sectors across Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana and Tanzania. He's a career adviser, mentor, hobbyist DJ and a lover of cardio exercise with a personal record of 23.49 km. Let's connect, i'll love to hear from you.


  1. Well interviewers should be smart on their own part too; with the questions. How can you ask where else have you worked when you already requested the résumé or CV. Read it! In fact it shows the employer is looking past the role to the individual, that he’s actually concerned.

    They should also ask practical questions not what’s your horoscope how well can you do this and that. Can you sale an ice to an Eskimo very archaic

    • Hello Adini,
      I quite agree some questions can come across as archaic but being interview puts you in an advantaged position of ignoring whether these questions are or not especially when the end goal is landing the job.
      Best regards.

  2. God write up. Please, how can someone negotiate salary with a company he/she has no clue of their salary structure?

    • Hello Peter,
      Yes, you can, especially when you know your skills and the job description compared to industry standards and organisation in similar space.
      Best regards

  3. Dear Princewill,
    Have you ever been interviewed by people who knew nothing about your job?
    I sat for an interview with a consultant who has no engineering background.
    And the interviewer broke all your rules!
    He kept saying ‘yeah’
    ‘Please, allow me to take this call’
    ‘Can’t you think outside the box?’
    ‘Do you have your contacts on your CV’
    ‘I am sorry ooo, I don’t know much about this your…’
    ‘Ok, I will recommend you to the selecting panel,
    expect a call from us. Congrats!’

    • Hello David,
      I’m glad it wasn’t you the candidate breaking the rule in this scenario. Being interview by someone who knows nothing about your job can be tough, but it is entirely up to you convince them that if selected you can get the job done.
      Best Regards.

  4. Good Day, I appreciate and enjoy your article as it touches my upcoming needs. However, I need your inputs on some challenges where I work.
    * How can one work fluently and efficiently with multiple bosses…?
    * What are the simple techniques in satisfying a heart hardened boss.

    Thanks, as I await your prompt response.

    • Hello Amao,
      Having several reporting lines can be challenging, this means so many management styles and egos come to play. You can actually handle this situation by studying their individual traits and know how to approach engaging with each of the bosses, align with them individually first then as a whole. Ultimately make sure to the best of your ability and above what is required you to get the job done. You can only adopt a better approach rather how you can change the next person, make it all about getting the job, the best way, this will set you apart.
      Best regards.

  5. Thank you very much for this tips sir. Sure it will really help me when I go for one. Because am yet to attend any interview.

    • Hi Angela,
      This means the interviewer is asking what are your beliefs, personal traits, worldview, work ethic etc as relating to the job that you’re being interviewed for and that will ensure you’re a top performer if you’re selected for the job. I hope this explains it for you?
      Best regards.

  6. Please, i want to know, if an interviewer asked you “how much do you want us to pay you ” how can one tackle this question?. cos i have been in an interview in the past where an interviewer asked me same question, i tried to evade the question but she insisted i say it, and i told her #80,000 with backing reasons and that was the end of my road to securing the job. Please address this sir. Thanks

    • Hi Nelson,
      There’s no one rule to salary negotiations, what company or industry A might value as salary for a customer service personnel might differ for the same role in company and industry B. If you have put your qualification, skills, etc into perspective and still the recruiter doesn’t agree with your demands, it’s your call to take, ask for an improved offer or reject the offer.
      Best Regards.

  7. Thanks for this piece.please I have a question to ask.what will be the right thing to say if an interviewer asked a question of why you left your former place of work,what will be the right answer to give.thanks.

    • Helen,
      The truth, let the truth always win. Even when the scenario might have the candidates fault it’s best to say the truth but sharing from the perspective of a lesson learned and experienced gained. If it wasn’t the candidates fault still say the truth, don’t apportion blames and still share lessons learned. Integrity and truth will help you win in the long run. I have seen a situation where a candidate lied, the company found out and this lead to a sack, ‘back to square-one’ like our elderly ones will say.

  8. Wooow…tnks Princewill fr this writeup…
    My challenge most times is salary negotiation…especially when am clueless about the,companies standard..
    As I most times tend to “overprice” my self, based on my experiences..but in all, am glad I stumbled on and got some real good facts from ur writeups…kudos!

    • Hello Chinwe,
      Nice words, thank you. On your challenge with salary, always ask for industry standard from people in similar fields before attending an interview. You might never get specific answers but it will give you great insight and you can decide based on how well you rate your skill.
      Best regards.

  9. Thank you for the tips Sir…. very helpful. But what should a person do if he/she walks into an interview room to find a relative; family friend, an uncle or any relative/familiar figure among the interviewers, and how to respond to questions in such circumstances?

    • Hi Amina,
      Respond to questions as professional as possible, ignore the presence of the family member being comforting or disturbing. Try as much as possible to focus on winning over everyone on the panel.

  10. Hello,
    Great interview tips there. However I would like to add that the interviewee can put his/her phone on vibration, not on ring tone, as there could be other necessities or emergency in these days of uncertainties. Putting the phone completely off may spell a kind of lose/danger to the interviewee or even the interviewer. Overall, efforts should be made not to distract the interview time. Thank you.

    • Hello Pat,
      Great idea, some phones their vibration mode can also be very distracting. Putting the phone on silent or switching it off especially for the candidate I believe is the best move. Thanks for contributing.

  11. I have made some of this mistakes in the past even in my last interview, i always answer a question with “yeah” rather than saying “yes” but with this your article, it a great help to me and surely i will keep them at heart. Thanks for this piece.

    And also concerning Saying ‘i don’t know’, what if you actually don’t know the answer/reply to a particular question(s) being asked, what will you say in such scenero?

    Looking forward to your reply…

    • Hello Samuel,
      Great to learn you have figured this mistake now. When you don’t actually know make some effort, but more importantly, prepare to know. Having so many ‘i don’t know’ replies won’t position you as a favourite for the job.
      Best regards

  12. Thank you very much for your enlightenment bout various positive responses during a tasks, this are common mistakes done by 80% candidates, yuo are a light in a dark world, appreciates Thanks.

  13. Thank you so much for the good information you just passed on here. So many of us has made all these mistakes in time past. With all these i have lean a lot. Thanks

  14. Well, while I agree with your points, I think most of these come into play because in most cases, interviewers are clueless. I have interviewed in the past and what I look out for are core values: Respect for self and others, ability to do the job you are being profiled for and to improve and do greater things, knowledge and the wish to gather more knowledge. I quite disagree with your view about saying “I don’t know”. I think it is better a person tells me he does not know than taking me through a rigmarole. I once attended an interview where they were reading from a manual that tells me it is just a stereotype. Interviews should not be stereotyped. They should only have one goal: Get the right fit for the job!

    • Hello Okey, I do agree with you but if it’s really about the job one should know but interestingly, you’ve made a very good examples of traits here and listed very important pointers. Thanks

  15. Thank you very much for this educative article.
    If you were asked how much you would like the company to pay you (as your starting salary), please how can you answer such question when you don’t have any idea about the salary structure.
    Can you say anything or just give a random figure…

    • Hello Opeyemi,
      Don’t put yourself in such position, don’t throw a random figure, you can really let the HR make an offer and ask for an improved offer. Thanks

  16. This is really good, i appreciate reading it. but in a situation an organisation is asking the interviewer to give them the figure he/she is looking up to and the interviewer have tried everything possible to make the HR offer something but it doesn’t work ,what did you think someone can do in that aspect?

    • Hi Bola,
      In this scenario, if the candidate has some work experience, I believe s/he should ask for a not so outrageous upgrade from their last salary and also putting into consideration of the new demands for the possible new job i.e Is it farther than your present or past job, will you be spending more or less hours, are their perks for personal development etc.
      Best regards.

  17. Thank you so much for the tips. I believe Okey made very good points and you also made yours regarding the ‘ I don’t know’ . We should try not to say that too often. Make as much research as you possibly can before your seat.
    Pls, will it be nice to just answer that ‘ I believe your company has an industry standard salary structure’ and go on to ask for an improved one if/after an offer an offer?

    • Hi Francis,
      Very valid points you’ve raised and on your reply to the question on salary, I believe that is also a great route to go if avoiding over or under-pricing yourself.
      Best Regards

    • Hi Ali,
      I would ask you again, what do you think you’ll become based on your career dreams? Best way to answer this question is to bear in mind the best version of you and working hard to attain those goals. This helps interview understand your career values. Best Regards

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