My favourite type of job interviews are the ones that feel like you’re having a friendly conversation with a new person you’ve just met at the pub.  They’re relaxed, informal, yet still focused on finding out more about the candidate, what they have to offer and how they would fit the role and the company culture.

It’s certainly a better approach than quizzing the candidate with a list of ill-conceived questions, in a manner better suited to a police interrogation.  Having been on the receiving end of one of those, I can tell you it was no fun.  The recruiter rushed from one question to the next before I’d finished answering, made next to no eye contact, never smiled and berated me for not giving her the answers she wanted to hear.

The problem with the more informal approach however is when candidates feel too comfortable with their interviewer, they tend to say really dumb stuff!  

Now of course from the employer’s perspective this can be hugely insightful.  But if you are interviewing for your dream job (or any job), then let’s be clear about one thing.  No matter how casual the environment or how comfortable you feel, don’t speak too openly.  

Gleefully telling your interviewer how you made a customer cry, how you covered for your work mate when they stuffed up, or how you used confidential customer information to mock them in an after-hours drinking game with your team is not going to do you any favours.  You may not notice a reaction but trust me, your interviewer is taking note and factoring your comments into their assessment.

The goal of the interview is always to get across why you are the right person for the job, so it’s important to know what a hiring manager might consider a red flag.  Apart from the above examples (which you’d have hoped were obvious), here’s a list.

What to avoid

“My last boss was horrible”
No matter how bad your last job was, you should never say anything negative or derogatory about your former manager, colleagues or company.  Maybe it was the worst job you’ve ever had but speaking badly of a previous employer is unprofessional and doesn’t reflect well on your character.

You might be surprised at how often people swear in interviews. There may be times when you can get away with it, but generally it shows bad judgement and is more likely to hinder your chances than help.  Even if your interviewer drops a few S or F bombs, it doesn’t mean you should.

“I just need a job”
While that may well be true, it’s one of the worst things you could say when asked “why do you want to work here?”   While it’s entirely possible you don’t know if you do want to work there – after all the point of the interview is to figure that out – you should know what prompted you to apply.  Employers are looking for someone who is genuinely interested in working for their company, not someone who is only interested in collecting a pay cheque.  Do your research.

“It’s on my CV”
Yes, I know it is but I want you to tell me more about it, that’s why I asked.


“I want to start my own business"

While entrepreneurial ambition is great, it’s best not mentioned in an interview.  Most employers want to hire people who will be around for a while.  Of course there is never any guarantee that you will stay long term, but this alone suggests you won’t.  Depending on what your business ambitions are it could also be an indicator that they will be training up a future direct competitor.

It’s good to be comfortable in an interview but not too comfortable. Remember you are being interviewed to represent the company and your level of professionalism and judgement is being scrutinised.