The 5 things you should NEVER mention in a first interview

We have pulled together some of the most common mistakes for your reference. Here are 5 things to definitely avoid saying in that all important first interview;

1.‘What will my Salary be?’
Increasingly many jobs are not advertised with a firm salary expectation, or the salary guide given is a very wide band. In accountancy practice in particular this is often the case, as skill sets between comparative candidates for the same role will vary wildly.

But bringing up the topic of salary too early in the process can not only appear a bit crass, but also actually put you in a weaker position to negotiate later.

The goal for interview number one is always to impress your interviewer(s) enough that they want to put you through to the next stage/offer you the job. You need to focus on selling yourself well and impressing them, rather than worrying about the detail.

Once you are in the offer stage you are in a much better position to discuss Salary. By this time the employer has started to build a bond with you and they will have already started to envisage you as part of their team. It’s much more likely at this stage that they will consider closing any gap between your expected salary and their offer, rather than losing you as they are emotionally invested.

Equally do not start asking about sick pay, holiday allowance and so on during the first interview. Otherwise your prospective employer may feel that you are planning time off before you have even started work!

2. ‘I want to run my own business one day’
Ambition is a high quality. But in an interview situation we suggest that you keep your plans for world domination (or any other ambitions which involve leaving the company) firmly under your hat!

As much as its common in the current market for Accountants in Practice to move jobs (and firms) much more frequently then was historically so, a prospective employer will not want to take a risk on someone who they know already has their eye on leaving to set up on their own. Not least of all from a client protection perspective they will see you as too much of a risk.

Similarly – I want to move into an Industry role in the next 2 years is not a great opening gambit.

You would think that maybe this one is common sense, but I we have seen many a LinkedIn profile and/or CV which proudly state the intention to run their own company.

3. ‘I had a tough time when…’
We all go through bad patches in life, family bereavements, messy divorces, illness and who knows what. It’s what makes us human, however your prospective employer definitely doesn’t need to know about it all.

It won’t make you look like someone who has won through adversity, or give you the sympathy vote. This person is a stranger, it’s like sitting next to someone on the bus and telling them your life story. Steer clear, at all costs.

4. ANYTHING related to politics or religion
Both complete ‘no go’ subjects when it comes to interviews.

Your political bias has no bearing on your professional ability. So simply just do not bring them up. Passions often stir deep when it comes to political opinion, and making your own views clear to your prospective employer may open a can of worms (particularly if the views happen to oppose that if your interviewer).

Religion may well form a large part of your life, and be a part of who you are. But it’s just too personal to be discussed in this arena. Religion can unite but can also divide. Our best advice is to just avoid the subject altogether.

5. Slang/profanity/verbal crutches
Swear words and profanities have no place in any interview situation, not ever. Remember also that people have different perceptions of what constitutes offensive language, so if you are not sure about certain words just err on caution.

Even if the interviewer swears or uses what you would perceive to be inappropriate language, it’s best not to be drawn into following suit. It could be a test to see how you react. When you think that they are going to let you loose on their hard-earnt clients, they want to know that you will be the consummate professional no matter what or who you are presented with.

Focus on getting your point across in the most professional and articulate manner possible. Showing a little personality is fine, but it’s important to know where to draw the line.

Similarly, slang has absolutely no place in an interview situation, and will definitely leave your interviewer with a bad impression. Avoid abbreviations, street talk and meaningless phrases. Use of ‘whatever’, over use of ‘like’ for example will mean you come off sounding like an overgrown child.

Last but not least, most people have one or two ‘verbal crutches’ that they rely on too much. Oftentimes you will not be aware that you use a particular word or phrase repeatedly. It’s a clever idea to do some interview practice with someone you trust, to weed out any bad habits you might have such as ‘perfect’ as part of any response, ‘Ummm’ is another good example, and the also common ‘that’s great’.

If you feel stuck for something to say, instead of throwing in a filler word, verbal crutch or something completely meaningless use this trick. Repeat the question back to your interviewer slowly, as if you are pondering, take a sip of water, then compose yourself and answer. This buys you enough time ordinarily for your brain to kick in again and the words to flow.

For help with interview technique, and support with finding your next role within practice please call us on 0333 577 7787 or email us via to speak with one of our dedicated consultants.


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