When preparing for a job interview, there are many tips and tricks to help you make a good impression. However, what is often overlooked is the importance of avoiding certain comments or phrases that can be detrimental to your chances of success. Here are some things not to say in interviews:

Here my tops five dont’s

1. “I don’t know” or “I’m not sure”

Interviewers expect you to have done research into the company and position so it’s important to come across as confident and knowledgeable. If you don’t know an answer, focus on what you do know rather than saying ‘I don’t know’.

2. “This isn’t my ideal role”

Interviewers want to know that you are interested in the job and will be a committed employee. If the role isn’t your ideal choice, talk about what attracted you to the role rather than focusing on what you don’t like.

3. Negative comments

Interviewers want to see enthusiasm for the role so avoid making negative comments about past employers or colleagues as it could reflect badly on you. Instead, focus on how you overcame challenges and why this job appeals to you.

4. Discussions of salary

Discussing your current or past salary can be off-putting for an interviewer and although they may ask about your expectations its best to save detailed conversations surrounding money until later in the process when an offer is made.

5. Over-familiarity

Interviewers want to get to know you but it’s important to maintain a professional distance. Avoid using slang or jokes as they may feel inappropriate and keep your body language and gestures professional too.

“So, what questions do you have for us?”

It’s the inevitable question that comes at the end of nearly every job interview — and yet it’s the one question job seekers rarely have prepared an answer to. And when people do think to prepare for this part of the interview, they often ask bland stock questions that aren’t truly important to their job hunt.

People get so hung up on preparing for the question they might get asked that they often forget to answer important questions they should have and need answers to.

Unfortunately, in a down economy, job hunters tend to adopt a scarcity mindset. If you need work, you may not be able to afford to be picky about which offer you accept, but that doesn’t mean you have to approach the interview from that frame of mind, LIKEWISE in a candidate’s market you need to avoid posturing in a verbal sense, the mindset should be the same in both a candidate’s and client driven markets, always the same preparation and process and understanding your power of right of refusal once offered.

Rather, if you ask questions as though you are weighing the offer of this job against other offers (whether you are or not) you’ll be in a better position to know if the job is a good fit for you and how you can best succeed with the company.

Remember: The power in these situations is with the listener, so you can end on a powerful note by asking thoughtful, insightful questions that not only make the interviewer think, but give you answers you need to make a choice about whether or not to accept the job.

Here are my top five do’s:

1. Which of my skills do you see as most important for the challenges that come with the position? 

2. How will the company help me develop? 

You don’t want to simply apply your skills; you also want to improve and learn new things. Make sure there is a plan or a support system to ensure this happens before you accept the job. This can come in form of support for continuous professional development or other support such as coaching or mentoring schemes. Asking this question also shows the interviewer that you’re interested in self-improvement and growing with the company.

3. Can you tell me a little about the team I’ll be working with? 

This is an excellent question to address the culture of the company — without actually asking about the “culture” of the company. You might find you get a very different answer than what’s printed in the company’s mission statement or on their website. It will help you to understand how well you fit in with the company, and psychologically it’s a great question to ask because it gently assumes you’ll be getting the position.

4. What constitutes success with this position and company?

 This is a great way to demonstrate that you’re interested in succeeding (not just punching a time clock) but it also gives you key insights into the expectations of the position and the culture of the company.

5. Do you see any gaps in my skills or qualifications that I need to fill? 

This is a bold, gutsy question. Not everyone is going to be confident enough to ask it, which is going to set you apart from the competition. To the interviewer, it shows that you’re a bold thinker and demonstrates that you’re willing to fill any gaps that might exist. For you, the worst-case scenario is that there are gaps that will preclude you from getting the job, but that’s valuable information to take into your next interview. In the best case, the interviewer won’t have any answer, and hopefully you’ll be shortlisted for the position!

Some interviewers may consider this portion of the interview a “throwaway,” answering easy questions about salary, benefits, time off, etc. But for the applicant, it’s an excellent opportunity to stand out, get important answers you need to know if you’re a good fit for the job, and demonstrate that you’re an individual, not just a resume in a pile.

Of course, you don’t have to wait until the end to ask your questions. In fact, it is much better (and much more natural) if you cover these questions during the interview.

As always, I’d love to hear your views. Have you got any other key questions a job hunter should ask the potential employer in an interview?