Did you ever think that the reason you didn’t get the job is because of the things you said in the interview?

As a recruiter, I’ve conducted thousands of interviews in my career and heard every good, bad, or indifferent response you can imagine to the questions I pose.

Here are just a few examples and comments around situations I’ve experienced in interviews over the years that took a candidate from the penthouse to the outhouse within a matter of seconds.

1) No matter how comfortable you are and how well you feel the interview is going, one or two inadvertent f-bombs/s-bombs will certainly take you out of the running especially if its close between you and the other candidate(s).  New York Times bestselling writer Harvey Mackay wrote a recent column about this subject entitled, “Clean Up Your Language!”  Do you really think an employer is going to risk hiring someone who is prone to slip and let profanity creep into conversations with their clients that are so hard to come by?

2) When you refer to other people as references, mentors, and friends during the interview, make sure you do you research and understand if they have any negative history with the people or company you are interviewing with.  About 4 years ago I had a situation where I interviewed a candidate who kept referring to a mentor of his who had taught and continued to teach him advanced internet security skills.  What he didn’t know was the fact that his mentor had been fired 6 months earlier by our biggest client for hacking.  Needless to say, I did not move him forward in the interview process and what’s worse is that he was the #1 candidate by far.  My bosses felt it was too risky to move forward with him given his association with someone our client felt was a security risk.

3) In the past 10 years we have seen downturns in hiring, most notably after 9/11 and most recently since mid-2008.  This has forced people to be open to relocation more than ever before as a way to obtain a job.  In addition, national recruiting has become more common and so has cross cultural recruiting.  On a number of occasions the following situation appeared during financial negotiations with one of these candidates.  Just remember to keep your language simple, professional, and slang free.

Me: “Do you have a salary range in mind?  I want to make sure we are in the ball park before we continue because I don’t want to waste your time if we’re far apart”.

Candidate: “We’ll be fine as long as the rate is competitive and you don’t try to Jew me down”

Regardless of whether this type of comment is acceptable in certain circles, it’s never acceptable in an interview.  In this case the candidate had no idea whether I was Jewish or not, and had no clue his slur was offensive.  Although he was a great technical resource, he was never going to be hired by my company after using that language.  From region to region, slang terms may be acceptable. However, in an interview you should do your best to remove it from your vocabulary so it won’t hurt you (easier said than done).

4) Speak in language that you are comfortable with during the interview when you are answering questions.  If you don’t use $10 words in every day conversation, you shouldn’t use them in the interview as a way to impress people as it has a tendency to backfire.  It usually ends up sinking your chances when the interviewers recap after you leave.

These are just a few examples that resulted in the decision to reject highly qualified candidates from contention for job opportunities.

Interviews are tough enough to come by given the competition that continues to occur in most employment situations. So remember, Once you say it, you can’t take it back.