Job Interview Advice: Don’t Be Afraid to Say “No”

July 4, 2024

When you’re speaking with a recruiter or hiring manager, sometimes it pays to say what you aren’t good at. 

On the Argentus blog, it’s part of our mission to provide solid career advice for supply chain and procurement professionals, no matter where you are in your career. That includes big-picture advice for how to build your career, how to build your personal brand, how to write a killer resume, and how to nail job interviews.  

To that last point, today we’re bringing you some job interview advice based on our recruitment practice. 

As recruiters specialized in the supply chain space, we speak to a lot of job candidates every day. And there’s something that comes up over and over again that candidates do in our pre-screening interviews. It’s also something that many hiring managers experience when they’re doing job interviews. It’s a tendency that candidates have that’s very understandable, but can also be very damaging to the overall impression that they give: 

They’re too afraid to say “no” to a question. 

Anyone who’s recruited or hired before has had the following experience: you begin a conversation with a candidate about a role, and ask them about their background. They describe their work experience, and you follow along with the resume, assessing their communications skills and fit. Then, you begin to ask them more pointed questions about the role:

Have you worked with (a particular software tool)?


How about this (other software tool)?


Have you managed a particular function (say sales and operations planning)?


Have you done procurement of a certain commodity or service?

“Yes, or, not directly, but something very close.” (which may not actually be that close).

Have you managed a team before?

“Yes. Well, no, but I’d be very good at managing a team.” 

And so on. 

The conversation continues and you have a sinking feeling in your stomach. You get the sense that, no matter what you ask the candidate, they’ll say they’ve done it before. That they can do it. If only you give them the opportunity. It doesn’t matter if they only have two years of experience, in a different subject matter area.

The problem is, that approach rarely works. 

On some level, it makes sense why some candidates want to say “yes” to every question. So much job interview advice encourages candidates to project confidence. We encourage candidates to be positive, to show value in every answer that they give. Saying that you haven’t done a function, or that you have less-than-complete expertise with a piece of software, may give off the impression that you aren’t right for a role. You want to check all the boxes, so you find a way to check those boxes, no matter what.

The point may seem obvious: Don’t lie to a job interviewer. But it’s more subtle than that. Often, these candidates aren’t directly lying. Rather than saying that they haven’t done something, they try to fit the square peg of their past experience into the round hole of the question. It ends up sounding like gobbledygook. In their attempt to be confident, they come across as insincere. It almost always creates the opposite impression than the one the candidate is hoping to convey. No one wants to feel like they’re being spun. Or like they’re being talked around in circles, instead of having the person speak to the heart of the matter. It speaks to an indirect, avoidant communication style. And it doesn’t leave a good impression.  

So here’s our advice: sometimes, a frank admission that you actually don’t have a certain piece of experience is refreshing.

As recruiters, it makes us sit up and take notice when an obviously accomplished candidate readily acknowledges what they haven’t done. Or what they’re weaker on.

In our experience, the more senior and accomplished a candidate is, the more likely they are to acknowledge a gap in their experience. If you readily acknowledge a shortcoming—in the midst of a wider conversation where you show your strengths—it speaks to a confident communication style. It shows that you’re self-reflective. It shows that, in a role, you’re going to seek out support where you need it, and aim to learn. The candidates who talk in circles, who say yes to every question, are often at the more junior end of their careers. They come off as someone who’s trying to get a break, rather than someone who’s confident in what they can contribute.

There’s an age-old job interview question (bordering on a cliché) where a hiring manager asks a candidate, “What’s your biggest weakness?” That type of situation isn’t what we’re talking about. It’s more about acknowledging gaps in experience and knowledge organically, as they come up in the conversation. 

No one is good at everything, and no one has done everything. If you can acknowledge that, it builds credibility and trust. It shows humility. And, as an interview continues, the interviewer is more likely to take you seriously when you highlight what you are good at. 

Sure, there are situations where a candidate really does check absolutely all of the boxes. And in those cases, by all means be up front about it. But if you check all the boxes for the role, it should likely come as a surprise to you, the candidate. It shouldn’t be a matter of course. Even if you feel like you can do anything, that doesn’t mean you’ve done it before. 

It pays to be frank and transparent. Because if you aren’t, your interviewers can tell anyway. 

We hope you found this article useful! If you’re in Supply Chain and/or Procurement, why not head over to our Hot Jobs page and check out some active roles we’re currently working on?

And as always, if you have any immediate or upcoming hiring needs, please reach out to us at to learn more about how we can augment your internal search process with our stellar supply chain and procurement talent base.


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