Building a good rapport with your interviewer is key. And you should always find ways to break the ice and make both of you comfortable right out of the gate. But if you step a toe too far in any one direction, you can risk blowing the whole thing by making someone uncomfortable, or worse, offended.
Here are 13 terrible ways to get the job interview conversation going. If you were considering any of them, get to work on Plan B! (i.e. safer, more neutral conversation starters).
1. “How about Trump/Clinton’s speech yesterday?”
Unless you’re interviewing for a job in politics and you can be sure this question won’t lead you astray, stay away from anything political. Especially the polarizing nature of a presidential election. You’d be much better off with the weather.
2. “The craziest thing just happened to me!”
No one cares. Also, they’re going to be looking for signs of what sort of coworker you’d be. If they think you’re going to be the one running in every morning on a rant of drama about your coffee order, they’ll hesitate to hire you.
3. “A priest, a rabbi, and Superman walk into a bar…”
Even if your jokes are hilarious and everyone says so, don’t tell them at an interview. The chances are too good that they would go awry. Besides, it’s unprofessional.
4. “Did you have a good dinner at Nobu with your pal Steve?”
While an interviewer will appreciate your having done your homework, looking into them on social networking sites and such, you don’t want to sound like a stalker. Stick to professional achievements or widely documented hobbies.
5. Questions with one word answers
Do yourself a favor and don’t set yourself up to get a one-word answer. Give yourself some room to work and let the conversation build.
6. “How do you know Bob?”
If you have a mutual contact, either know before you go, or don’t bring it up.
7. “I’m hired!”
You may think this is cute and confident. But it could backfire and come across as overconfident, brash, or even aggressive.
8. “Friday at 4 p.m.? You must be ready to get out of here!”
No matter whether your interview is the very last of the week, don’t suppose or comment on your interviewers wants or activities after the fact. Who knows, they might be working until 8 p.m. and then you’ll look like a slacker.
9. “Which position is this again?”
No matter how many jobs you’re applying for, never go into an interview unprepared. Always know the title, the responsibilities, the salary, and anything else you could know—including your interviewer’s name and role.
10. “I’ve got another appointment after this”
Even if this is true, you can’t say it. They’ll likely not hear anything you say after you make it clear they aren’t your top priority.
11. “You look great in that outfit.”
Just say no to comments about personal appearance. Compliments like “I like your earrings” are fine, but when you reference someone’s appearance or physique, that comes too close to sexual harassment for (not even) your first day.
12. “Where do you get your hair/nails done?”
See above. Also… just… focus on the job you’re interviewing for.
13. “Here are my deal breakers.”
While there is an appropriate time for you to share your salary needs and specifications—and even to inquire about certain aspects of the job that would make or break it for you, never open with this. And never be too assertive with your demands. Wait to be asked and frame it less aggressively.