No two interviews are identical, which makes it difficult to find a one-size-fits-all script guaranteed to snag you your dream job. That said, there are some hard-and-fast rules about what you should say in an interview — and what you shouldn’t.
While you’re preparing for your one-on-one with corporate and wondering what you should say in your interview, study up on these statements that are candidate-tested and HR-approved.
9 Things to Say in Every Job Interview
1. Demonstrate That You Know the Company Inside and Out
Doing your research on a company before you interview is a sure-fire way to show your level of interest and curiosity. Plus, researching in advance can inform your answers to all kinds of interview questions.
When the hiring manager asks you why you want the job, you can either deliver a generic response, or you can launch into specifics about the company and role. Saying something like, “I’d like to work for the company that is leading the field in innovation and emerging technology, and your department’s work is truly inspiring.” Offer specifics wherever possible to show the depth of your research.
Enthusiasm is contagious, and a positive attitude is just the kind of emotional virus employers can’t wait to see spread. Begin the interview with a firm handshake and a smile and end it by indicating how jazzed you are about getting to work.
2. Flaunt Your Relevant Experience
You’ve learned how to write a resume that grabs the reader’s attention, so your interviewer already has some familiarity with your work history and skill set. However, there’s nothing more valuable that discussing your experience in an interview, too. Expound upon your key responsibilities from past positions that are relevant to the current job opportunity, and emphasize how the abilities you’ve mastered will help this company achieve its goals.
3. Show That You’re a Team Player
The ability to work in a team is the number one most important quality employers look for in a new hire. Highlight those times you paired up with colleagues to produce an award-winning ad campaign or when you and your officemates put your heads together to pull off a last-minute project in record time. This is your time to show off your critical soft skills, like collaboration and project management, but make sure you recognize that other people have played a part in helping you achieve your goals.
4. Reveal Your Passion for the Industry
Hiring managers tend to be gung-ho about the companies they work for, and if you’re interviewing with an owner/operator, you can expect even more loyalty and fervor. You’ve already demonstrated your familiarity with the brand (see above), but here’s where you talk up all those industry publications you subscribe to and the influencers whose social media feeds you scroll through every day.
Simply say in an interview, “I was looking at Bob the Plumber’s LinkedIn article the other day and loved his insight into the future of mechanical drain uncloggers,” and you’ll deftly illustrate that you know your stuff and are ready to be taken seriously. Something to avoid: too many buzzwords. All the newfangled vocabulary in the world won’t matter if you don’t have the understanding and vision to back it up.
5. Reveal Your Ambition but Show You Have Staying Power
When companies lose an employee, it can cost as much as double that employee’s salary to find a suitable replacement. That hefty price tag factors into:
- The cost of advertising, interviewing, and screening a new employee
- Training and management time
- Loss of productivity while the position is unfilled
- Negative impact on morale (which often means a dip in productivity and overall employee satisfaction)
It’s no wonder, then, why employers want to gauge a candidate’s level of commitment before putting any offers on the table, which is why it’s important to measure what you say in an interview.
It’s okay — even great — to show you have ambition, but it’s best if that ambition is to move up within the ranks of this company rather than elsewhere. Tell the interviewer you’re after a career, not just a job, and you’re willing to put in the time necessary to make this situation work.
6. Make It Evident That You Can’t Wait to Start
Enthusiasm is contagious, and a positive attitude is just the kind of emotional virus employers can’t wait to see spread. Begin the interview with a firm handshake and a smile and end it by indicating how jazzed you are about getting to work. There’s no need to lay it on too thick but mentioning your availability and articulating your optimism about the position and what you’ll bring to the team is a fantastic way to wrap up the meeting. Bonus points if you follow up on what you say in an interview with a handwritten note or personalized email to the recruiter echoing those sentiments and thanking them again for their time.
7. Express Your Curiosity and Eagerness to Learn
Yes, you’ve come to this company already equipped with all kinds of experience and talent, but there’s always room to grow. By indicating your willingness to learn more about your role, the company at large, and the entire industry you’ll be working in, you’re letting your flexibility flag fly. Rigidity is not an attractive quality in an employee, but workers who are limber enough to bob and weave when unforeseen challenges rear their ugly little heads are very valuable indeed.
8. Hint That You’ve Already Been Brainstorming
You think you’re the bee’s knees, but so does every other candidate. Why should the company care about you? Why are you worth its time? One way to differentiate yourself is by coming armed with a plan for how you’d excel at your role and what you’d do differently to address any existing pain points and help the company achieve its goals.
Of course, you won’t have too much detail in place until you have access to proprietary information that you’re definitely not going to get before the interview even takes place. Still, you can offer up general ideas and discuss why they would work. From the team-building exercises that made you a stronger leader to the accounting change that revolutionized your former company’s spending habits, the lessons you’ve learned in the past can now be put to very good use.
9. Express Your Gratitude
Gratitude is a powerful thing. Being appreciative of the positive events and relationships in your day-to-day life can increase your mental, emotional, and physical well-being. What’s more, being grateful for landing a meet-and-greet can increase the likelihood you get hired, too.
Rather than acting like your presence is a gift, treat the interview like the opportunity it truly is. Out of the hundreds of people who send in resumes for a given position, only 2 percent actually land an interview. There are a lot of people who could be in your place. Say thank you and balance your confidence with some humility.
Two Things You Should Never Say in an Interview
Profanity and slang. It’s okay to throw in some more casual turns of phrase if those tidbits are still professional — after all, you’re not a robot — but lingo you’d only find listed in Urban Dictionary is not a good choice for an interview.
You don’t want to widen a generational gulf or seem immature (or overly mature, as the case may be) by using strange colloquialisms, and even an accidental curse can alienate a recruiter faster than you can slap a hand over your mouth in dismay.
What you say in an interview can make or break your case for employment. Follow the tips above, and you have a great shot at getting a job offer.