A job interview is a time for optimism, honesty, and enthusiasm. But it’s not the place for venting or unfiltered chatter. A successful interview can be as much about what you don’t say as what you do say.
You’re going to be faced with questions about your past experience, your skills and abilities, and what you hope to get out of this new position. Keep the following guidelines in mind as you answer. Remember—once it’s out there, you can’t take it back!
Avoid Negativity About Your Last Job or Boss
If you’re looking for a new job, it’s pretty likely you’re leaving a previous job. And sometimes, that means your last job was not a good fit. Whatever the reason you’re looking for something new, avoid speaking negatively about your employer or boss. It makes you sound like a complainer, and that’s never a good look!
Instead, focus on the positive. You could say you learned a lot, but you’re ready for a new challenge. Or maybe you felt like there wasn’t room for growth at your last job. If you were let go, don’t play the blame game. Instead, you can express what you learned from the situation and how you’ll be a better employee going forward.
There’s a difference between pride in your accomplishments and boasting about how great you are. While you should absolutely be proud of a job well done, remember that in hospitality, you’re part of a team. So when discussing your previous work achievements, relay them back to how they helped the group.
If you were a line cook, for example, you could say, “At my last job, I was a lead line cook for an incredible kitchen crew. We pulled together to serve a large dining room every night with very high service standards. We got great reviews from the local food critics, and I helped mentor some of the younger cooks…”
Don’t Tell Lies (Even Little Ones!)
Improving the truth, padding your resume…whatever you want to call it, it’s lying. Dishonesty in your interview can get you fired down the line. If you don’t have the experience that the employer asks about, be honest.
You could say, “No, I haven’t done that particular task before. But at my last position, I started without knowing how to do X, and I had mastered it within just a couple of weeks. So I’m a quick learner.”
Hold Off On Questions About Pay, Vacations, or Benefits
Naturally, you’ll need to know about pay and vacation time before you agree to take on a new position. But unless the interviewer brings it up, you shouldn’t ask these questions at the first interview. The offer stage is the appropriate time to have these conversations.
But you should know a) what rate of pay is common in the industry at your level of education/experience, and b) a range that you would be happy with. So if the interviewer does bring it up, you won’t be unprepared.
Avoid Vague Descriptions (vs. Specific Numbers)
When describing your past experience, numbers are always best. Instead of saying the hotel where you worked was “large,” you could say you were the F&B Manager for a 550 key hotel. Instead of saying you worked in a high-volume bar, you could share how much you rang on the average Friday night.
Numbers help the interviewer to get a clearer picture of your experience and capabilities. (This advice applies to your resume, too!)
Don’t Say “No, I’ve Never Heard of This Company Before”
Do your research before the interview! For a bar or restaurant, that means you should come by for a meal before your interview so you can speak intelligently about your experience. If you’re applying at a hotel, you could simply walk through the lobby to get a feel for the space.
And you should always look for any recent articles or media mentions. If the company has big news, you’ll want to be armed with that information before your interview.
Don’t Say “No, I Don’t Have Any Questions”
At the end of your interview, you will most likely be asked if you have any questions. Have some! Asking questions shows that you came to the interview prepared and that you’re truly interested in the company and the job.
Here are some sample questions to get you started.
- I saw that you hosted some fun events last year. How often do you do that kind of event? Do you have any coming up?
- What does your training schedule look like?
- Do you do employee reviews? I like to get feedback from managers so I know where I can improve.
- What’s your favorite part about working here?
- What are the next steps after this interview?
Questions show your interest in the company and position. Come prepared with 5-10, so if some get addressed in the course of the conversation, you’ll still have a few ready to go!