Land the Job

Avoid this common 5-word mistake in job interviews, says HR exec who's interviewed hundreds

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A job interview is the best opportunity to sell yourself to a prospective employer — but one lackluster response could tank your chances of landing the role.

There's one phrase, in particular, you should avoid saying in a job interview at all costs, says Angela Santone, AT&T's senior executive vice president of human resources. 

Santone, who has interviewed hundreds of candidates throughout her 20-plus years working in HR, says she often hears this phrase in response to the common question "Tell me about a time you made a mistake, and what you learned from it."

The worst response to that question, she explains, is giving no response at all. 

"I've always been amazed when I've asked people that question and they say, 'I can't think of one,'" says Santone. "We're all human, we all make mistakes. You want to show your interviewer that you're comfortable talking about those missteps, and, more importantly, that you learned something and grew from that experience."

Angela Santone with AT&T employees
Courtesy of AT&T

Even though you want to convince the interviewer that you're the best person for the job, "there's a delicate line between arrogance and pride," says Santone. "You have to be mindful of coming across in a way that's authentic and real."

Instead, be honest when describing a mistake you've made to the interviewer, but also emphasize how you used that experience to improve your work, which shows that you're self-aware and willing to learn, says Santone. 

You can also appear more confident and competent in a job interview by offering specific examples of how you work with a team, or on group projects. 

Effective collaboration is a "lost art" and important skill companies are looking for during interviews, especially as companies continue to work in a hybrid capacity, she adds. 

If the interviewer explains how you would be expected to work with others in the role, see if you can liken any details to any of your previous work experiences. 

"Echoing back to them what you've heard about success in the role shows that you're actively listening, and that you're really interested and engaged in the conversation," says Santone. "It's a small step that can make a huge difference and set you apart from everyone else." 

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