What not to say in a travel job interview: International travel recruitment tips

It’s easy to get flustered in a job interview. It’s not an everyday situation to be in, and nerves can cause people to say things that are somewhat out of the ordinary. Sometimes candidates are so keen to make a good impression, they start talking before their brain has engaged. As an international travel recruitment specialist, I deal with clients who are interviewing and candidates going for interview every day. I’ve seen the best and the worst, and I have plenty of honest feedback from clients about what works and what doesn’t.

So, read on for expert advice on what you definitely shouldn’t say in a travel job interview, along with handy tips about what you could say instead.

1. First impressions

what not to say in a travel job interview progressive travel recruitment 1This sounds obvious, but remember this is the first time your potential new boss is meeting you. Before the interview, imagine yourself in the client’s shoes. What would you think of you? Make an effort to look smart and well-groomed and start off with a confident handshake, a smile, and a ‘Pleased to meet you.’ Nothing more, nothing less. No jokes, no explanation of your journey there, or how tired you are for whatever reason. You’re not trying to make friends, you’re trying to get a professional job.

Stay composed, settle yourself, and let the interviewer lead. Watch your body language, too. No slouching or looking too casual, as this creates an impression of at best laziness, at worst contempt.

2. Talking about the role

If you’ve done your research about the role and the company (which you should have – if you haven’t, don’t expect to get the job), then you shouldn’t need to ask, ‘What does the role involve?’ Definitely don’t ask, ‘What does this company do? You should know these things before you go in. Instead, ask something like, ‘What does a typical day in the role look like?’ The answer will give you a good idea of how the job slots into the whole company, too.

Also, avoid these clangers: ‘What other jobs are available here?’ or ‘How quickly can I get promoted?’ You may think these make you look ambitious, but interviewers are trying to fill the position you’re interviewing for, so they make you look uninterested in the actual role.

3. Office hours

Don’t ask if you’re allowed to arrive or leave early. At this stage it sounds like you’re more interested in your hours than in doing the job well. Of course, flexible conditions are increasingly common. But it’s something that could be discussed further down the line.

4. Flirting, joking, and swearing

Flirting may seem like an obvious no-no in a job interview, but you’d be surprised how often it happens! Just don’t hit on or make personal references to anyone; it’s extremely unprofessional. For example, if the interviewer were to say, ‘Did you meet Jane/John at reception?’ Don’t say, ‘Is she/he the attractive brunette?’

Steer clear of jokes. You may think it will ease tension, but you have no idea if your sense of humour will work here. It can put people off hiring you as they may think you’re not taking the interview seriously. And if you get a tumbleweed moment, it’s likely the job won’t be yours. Why risk it?

Likewise, no swearing. While some don’t mind, many find swearing extremely offensive.

5. Telling lies

Don’t lie. Just don’t. Lies about your career always come out eventually and always make you look bad. Focus on truthful positives.

If you’re asked if this company is your first choice (and it isn’t), you can simply point out all the positives that drew you to the company without actively stating that it’s not your first choice. It’s all about nuance.

6. Talking about your current role

OK, I just said don’t lie – but you don’t have to tell the whole truth, either. I had feedback from a client who didn’t hire a candidate because they complained about issues with their current line manager. Even if this was a genuine complaint, it simply created the impression that the candidate was difficult to work with and manage.

I’ve had other clients reject candidates who expressed negative comments about their current employer, too. It isn’t the interviewer’s business whether you get on with your employer (however bad they are). The best reason to give for moving on is that the new job will allow you more opportunities, and you’ve heard they’re a great place to work.

Instead, concentrate on talking about the good things in your current job. Talk up successes – in fact practice talking up your successes before you go in. Find a friend or family member (or even just a mirror) to do a mock interview with. This helps unjumble your thoughts before the real interview.

7. Butting in

Don’t just insert positive comments at every moment; find the appropriate time to say what needs to be said, and try and weave good points about yourself into your answers – don’t butt in. If there’s something you feel is important that you haven’t said, you can mention it at the end. You could say, ‘I didn’t get the chance to tell you about something I accomplished that feels relevant to this position.’ Then go on to briefly explain what it is.

8. Being modest

Job interviews aren’t the time to be modest. It can come across as a lack of confidence. If you’re a self-effacing person, practise talking yourself up before an interview. Don’t say, ‘I know I’m not the most qualified person for the job.’ You don’t need to mention your negatives.

9. Think ahead and plan

Generally, candidates don’t recognise that negative words in an interview will impact the outcome. The way to combat this is to think before you speak. Imagine what your reaction would be to someone saying something negative to you. Practise phrases, and write down keywords to spark points that you’ve rehearsed.

I heard about a candidate, who, when asked if they could think of a situation where they were out of their comfort zone, said, ‘I drank too many shots on a night out and had to have my stomach pumped, which was uncomfortable.’ This is a bad answer! Instead, you could mention a tricky problem at work that you and colleagues had to solve.

10. Show your knowledge

Don’t ask, ‘What’s the office culture like?’ You should know this from your research. Display your knowledge by saying something positive about the office culture and why you think it would suit you. Always show the interviewer that you’ve researched the company by mentioning facts about it in your answers.

You need to display your suitability for the role, so mentioning transferable skills and examples is helpful. Don’t say, ‘There’s nothing left to learn in my current role.’ Instead say, ‘These are the things I’ve learned in my current role, and I’d like to bring this knowledge to this company so that I can continue my development.’ Spin is important.

A good international travel recruitment consultant will be able to advise you on the office culture and company structure, too. Applicants who come through us tend to have a better understanding of what is required.

11. Lost in translation

As an international travel recruitment specialist I have had the odd situation where a cultural divide has led to a misunderstanding in an interview. Someone didn’t know that a British slang phrase was actually quite derogatory (he said ‘I don’t want to feel like a bell-end’!). If you’re in this situation, stick to phrases you’re 100% sure of, if possible!

12. Questions

Have a couple of questions ready. But don’t ask about salary. A recruitment consultant will give you a good idea of salary, and the interview isn’t the place to start negotiating. A good question is, ‘What is the training process for this job?’ The answer will prepare you if they intend you to be away from home while training. And if they don’t offer training, you’ll know that you will need to hit the ground running.

Never ask ‘So, have I got the job?’ It seems pushy and will always get a negative response. Instead, you can ask, ‘Is there anything that concerned you about my interview today?’ This is a strong final question, and shows that you’re open and willing to learn and address any concerns straight away.

13. Chasing for feedback

As an international travel recruitment specialist, I tend to be the one giving an unsuccessful candidate feedback. One unsuccessful candidate who had already received feedback, then messaged the interviewer on LinkedIn, which wasn’t appreciated by them. Don’t burn bridges – you never know when you may come across people again in your career.

If you have comments about the interview, feed them through your travel recruiter and they will pass them on. It’s easier for us to do this and we get more frank feedback than you’re likely to. If you’re invited to contact them, a simple, ‘It was lovely to meet you today and I look forward to your feedback’ is enough. Otherwise, bypassing the recruiter could look like you are trying to cut them out of the process and may be taken negatively.

Looking for a great new travel job? Connect with international travel recruitment specialist Lee on LinkedIn here. Want to see our latest travel vacancies? Click here >