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Career & Money

6 Words and Phrases to Steer Clear of During Your Next Job Interview

Watch your language (your interviewer sure is)

There’s a lot riding on the first impression at a job interview. In reality, you only have somewhere between five and seven seconds to make it. That’s right: in around the time it takes to sing “Happy Birthday to You,” your overall character has been judged and you’ve been sized up. Your potential employer will have already made immediate assumptions that you will either prove right or wrong from this point on.

Fortunately, a good first impression means nothing if that’s all it is—good at first. This is precisely why the follow-through is far more important than the greeting, handshake or anything else that occurs in the first part of your meeting. Land the good first impression? Great. Now your job is to make sure it lasts. Off to a shaky start? Focus on recovering with finesse.

Your fate in this new company lies in the conversation, the dialogue you create with your potential employer. The Q&As in the interview, as you already know, are where it’s at. Here, you’ll be tested not on trivia or general facts (though some companies do this), but how you can sell yourself without being arrogant, how you can establish a warm relationship yet keep things professional, how you can stand out but work harmoniously with others.

There may not be a single right way to go about this, but here’s a great place to start: Leading up to interview day, put your communication skills to the test and hold a mock interview. Another viable approach is to record yourself as you rehearse your elevator pitch. It’s an excellent way to pinpoint the mannerisms or nuisances you will want to hold off for this crucial next step in your career. Finally, practice minding your language. Job interviews are about what you deliver at the Q&A, yes, but it’s also about the things you don’t say. With that, we’ve rounded up the words and phrases you should definitely steer clear of during your next job interview. These words aren’t bad, per se, but certainly won’t help your case when it comes to the job search.


Eliminate filler expressions such as: “um,” “like,” “ah,” “yeah, “so” and “you know?” What use is buying yourself time as you think of your next response when it’s done so overtly?

“I hated it/her/him/them”

Should your previous workplace come up, do not make the mistake of divulging personal issues, should you have any, with the people there. A general rule to keep in mind: avoid talking about people, period. You’re there to show your potential employer how amazing you are…not to sound off on who you don’t like and why.

“I work better alone”

Though this may be true for you, now’s not the time to broadcast this piece of information. What’s the point of doing so anyway? At job interviews, you should present yourself as a team player, someone who can work with all types of people in all types of settings. What you should be expressing at this point, in fact, is your willingness and excitement to collaborate with others.


Responses like “hopefully” to questions that require certainty can easily turn off the person interviewing you. “Hopefully” is not a sound game plan for anything and using the word implies that you leave some things to chance…worse, that you aren’t proactive.

Anything synonymous to “I don’t know my strengths”

Questions regarding your skills serve as an open invitation to discuss your strong suits, so take it. Now is not the time to feign modesty. Go ahead and walk your interviewer through the successful campaigns you may have mounted in the past or projects you’re particularly proud of. More importantly, give credit where it is due regardless of whether the person you’re speaking with is familiar with the people mentioned in your anecdote. More “we,” less “me” is alright in this arena.

Anything synonymous to “I don’t have weaknesses”

Conversely, don’t parade around like a candidate incapable of introspection. That in itself is a weakness. Companies are looking for people who are self-aware, humble and can admit their faults so they know what to work on next. Restructure this part of the Q&A and replace “weaknesses” with “challenges” if the discussion permits it. This tells your interviewer that you have a realistic but glass-is-half-full perspective, ready to take on hurdles.

Your words—specifically, the kind of language you use—matter. Mastering this is a pretty tricky form of self-training, but it’s the brush-up before the interview that comes with great pay-offs if you play your cards right.

Words Nicole Blanco Ramos

Art Alex Lara

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