The small talk you make with your interviewer can be tricky to get right.
On the one hand, research suggests that building rapport with your interviewers before getting into the nitty-gritty details of the job can give you an edge over other candidates.
But on the other, it’s so easy to flub and start the interview off on an awkward note.
“The secret is to have one to two good open-ended questions that require the person to talk – it lets you show you are a good listener,” says J.T. O’Donnell, the founder of the career-advice site Careerealism.com and the author of “Careerealism: The Smart Approach to a Satisfying Career.”
What you shouldn’t do is open with anything controversial, highly personal, or clumsy, Amanda Augustine, an expert in career advice for TopResume, tells Business Insider.
“Stick to safer topics that will help your candidacy, while confidently and comfortably breaking the ice at the beginning of your interview,” she suggests.
Here are 15 terrible conversation starters you should steer clear of in your next job interview:
‘Hey, what’s up?’
“While I’m not promoting a formal, ‘How do you do?’-style greeting, you might consider stepping it up a bit when you’re introducing yourself to the person who will be determining whether you get the job or not,” says Rosalinda Oropeza Randall, an etiquette and civility expert and the author of “Don’t Burp in the Boardroom.”
‘The craziest thing happened while I was waiting for my morning coffee!’
Seer clear of talking too much about yourself, O’Donnell warns.
You may feel a need to fill the silence by telling your interviewer about every little funny detail about your day, but this may make you seem like too much of a talker.
“The rule of thumb is, whatever a candidate does in a interview, multiply it by 10 and that’s what they’ll be like at work,” O’Donnell says. “So, overtalking can be a real interview killer.”
- Joe Raedle/Getty Images
‘Can you believe what’s going on in our country right now?’
“Unless you’re interviewing for a company that’s involved in politics, it’s best to stay as far away as possible from this topic during your interview,” Augustine says. “As a rule of thumb, avoid discussing politics, religion, and any other highly charged, controversial topics that can easily turn into heated debates.”
- Daniel Goodman / Business Insider
‘A woman walks into a bar …’
“Avoid telling jokes – even if your mom tells you you are hilarious,” Randall says.
‘Did you enjoy the Billy Joel concert with your girlfriend?’
While it’s a good idea to do your research on the person you’ll be interviewing with, bringing up personal details could make the conversation awkward.
Stick to the information you learn from the person’s LinkedIn profile, not the interviewer’s Facebook or Instagram accounts, Augustine suggests.
“Avoid inappropriately trying to bond over the details that only their friends should know so you don’t come off as a creepster,” she says.
‘Yes’ or ‘no’ questions
“‘Did you have a nice Fourth of July?’ sounds innocuous, but it could lead to a one-word answer: ‘Yes,'” saysVicky Oliver, the author of “301 Smart Answers to Tough Interview Questions” and “301 Smart Answers to Tough Business Etiquette Questions.”
‘How do you know so-and-so?’
If the person is a mutual contact, you should already know how the two know each other before the interview, Oliver says.
‘I’m here for your job!’
Maybe you think that’s a go-getter, goal-oriented type of statement, or perhaps you think this is funny. But regardless, it will almost certainly be construed as aggressive, presumptuous, and possibly unscrupulous, Randall says.
‘A Friday-afternoon interview, huh? You must be dying to get out of here already!’
Never start an interview with suppositions, Oliver says. You don’t know the interviewer well enough to make that leap.
‘I’m sorry, which job is this again?’
Augustine says that while it can be difficult to keep your job opportunities straight when you’re applying and interviewing for so many, there’s no excuse for showing up to an interview without the basic facts. “Before your meeting, make sure you know the essentials as well as the details,” she says.
- Youtube / Harry Telford
‘I can’t stay long – I’ve got another appointment after this’
“Don’t worry: After that statement they won’t keep you long,” Randall says.
‘Wow, you look great in that dress’
Amy Glaser, a senior vice president of Adecco Staffing USA, says that while compliments are great, it’s best to avoid commenting on someone’s personal appearance – it could be construed as sexual harassment.
‘Where did you get your hair done?’
Similarly, don’t ask any questions that center on the interviewer’s appearance. Don’t ask her where he gets his hair cut or where she bought her great dress, Oliver says. If you want to ask personal questions, stick to ones that involve the interviewer’s work.
‘You’re so fit! What’s your secret?’
You may think that you’re giving a compliment and asking a innocuous question, but this topic is a potential minefield. Apart from the fact that commenting on someone’s physique could be construed as harassment, their secret may be, for example, that they have a serious illness causing them to unintentionally lose weight, which they probably don’t want to discuss.
- Francisco Osorio/Flickr
‘So, let’s save ourselves some time – here are my bottom-line must-haves’
“Aw, how thoughtful of you,” Randall jokes. “You may think you’re saving everyone time by providing a list of your must-haves, but all this shows is that you lack humility, have demanding tendencies, are not open for negotiation, lack patience to find out if these ‘must-haves’ would have been offered, and don’t get how the interview process goes – none of these traits are favorable in the workplace.”