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Two things you probably shouldn’t say in an interview

SurprisedIf you look online you can find thousands of pages of advice on interviews as well as people asking for questions to ask or looking for answers to common questions. If you are looking for those things right now stop reading this and go elsewhere, this post isn’t really for you. For me this is a bit of nostalgia about some silly things that I have said which you might find amusing, but more importantly why I said them in what most people would find a high pressure scenario.

I’ll repeat the message from the title, these are things you should not say, they may not help you at all. Do not blame me if you try something like this and it doesn’t work, it’s all about reading body language and the environment you are in at that precise moment.

As a disclaimer the questions and answers may not be word for word, but hey what would you know, it’s unlikely you were there! They are pretty close though, none of this has been made up.

Line 1 – Factually correct

This took place in a first interview with an IT Manager if I recall correctly.

Question: What is inheritance?
Answer: It’s a new form of tax that the government have decided to introduce.

Why I said it

This was maybe 15 minutes in to the interview and the interviewer really didn’t look comfortable, I think that this was the first person he had interviewed for the position and SQL Server was not his speciality. This made him nervous, if I wanted to make a good impression and change how the interview was going to continue then I knew that I had to do something to change the route it was going. After the answer he looked confused, then smiled and I gave the real answer. If you don’t know what the real answer is you should probably go and look that up.

Outcome? I was offered a second interview which I declined as the company did not seem like a good fit for me based on the conversations that were had.


Line 2 – Did he just say that?

This took place in a panel interview as part of a day long interview process.

Question: Is there anything that would stop you taking the job if you were offered it?
Answer: I’d find it very difficult to work for an Arsenal fan.

Why I said it

This was my last chance to make an impression and I wanted to differentiate myself from the other candidates. A previous question that I had asked was what was the team like that I would be working with, note that I said “I would”, not “I could” which shows that I am confident in my ability and in being employed by that company. Football (soccer) was a theme that came up as part of that, therefore if I could tie in an answer which fitted with a theme already in place at the company culture I would be seemed as a good fit and may swing things if it was a close call between two candidates. In case you are wondering the manager was not an Arsenal fan.

Outcome? I was offered the job.


There are of course times when these answers would not have been appropriate. I like to think that I know when it’s a good time not to say something smart, although my wife would definitely disagree there. What I am trying to convey here is that interviews are a two way process and if you are not getting anywhere with the interviews you are taking maybe you need to try something new. Maybe you need to open up more and let the interviewer in, you will find the whole experience a lot more enjoyable.

After rereading the last sentence I noticed that it could be taken the wrong way. If you thought that then shame on you, but it does mean we share a similar sense of humour. On a serious note, it is OK to be witty, it is not OK to joke about religion, sexuality or race. These are lines that you should not cross.

Have you ever said or heard something outrageous in an interview? Is this something that you have tried in your own interviews, did it work for you? I’d love to hear your opinions.

Richard Douglas

Richard Douglas is a SQL Server Professional working in the UK where he recently worked as a DBA in women's clothing, not literally he hastens to add! He is certified in SQL Server 2008, runs the Maidenhead SQL Server User Group Pass Chapter and is on the organising committee for SQL Relay. In his spare time plays the trumpet in local symphony orchestras.

His online presence includes:


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