Top 13 Not-So-Obvious Words You Should Never Use in a Job Interview

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Everyone knows that certain vocabulary words are off limits during a job interview. If you really want impress your future boss, profanity, racial slurs or details on your latest drunken escapade are obviously off limits. But even when you're on your best behavior, there's a risk of sending the wrong message by letting one of these 13 seemingly innocuous words slip. Experts give us the rundown on the words that should be left at home the next time you're interviewing or professionally networking.

1. Sure

"If the interviewer asks if you've performed a certain job duty and your answer is 'sure,' then my next question is, 'and...?'" says Sarah Connors, senior staffing manager of HR Contract Staffing at WinterWyman.

You need to give examples and elaborate during the interview, Connors says. Most questions asked in an interview should not be answered with a simple "yes" or "no" — and especially not a "sure."

2. We

Although it may seem completely innocuous, the pronoun "we" can really cost you, says Robyn Melhuish, spokeswoman for medical and pharmaceutical sales job board MedReps.

"When talking about past projects that were with a team or in a group setting, now is not the time to share the credit!" Melhuish says. "While you can certainly acknowledge the team, use the pronoun 'I' when discussing details and highlight your individual contributions."

Unfortunately, using "we" too frequently may suggest that you were not a critical part of the team's success.

3. Amazing

"Candidates don't realize how bad fluffy words like 'amazing' are for their intellect," says Tegan Trovato, recruiting excellence manager for talent acquisition firm Pinstripe.

"People use this word when they're selling their own band or when they get nervous and want to convey positivity," Trovato says. "But if you fire off a fluffy word every other sentence, you lose credibility and start to look overly salesy."

4. Kinda

"Not only is this not a word, it is already putting the interviewer in a skeptical place," Connors says. "If you have done something, say 'yes,' and use examples.

Or, if you haven't, detail how you have not yet had the opportunity to do that specific task but would love to learn, she adds.

5. Um

"Saying 'um' too much could make someone picture you twirling your hair, chomping bubblegum and asking, 'Wait, what is this interview for again?' Connors says. "You want every question to be an opportunity to highlight why you're confident that you are the best candidate for the job, even if on paper you might look too inexperienced."

When you can, practice interviews with your friends, mentors and family, and if you need a moment to think during your interview, just say so, she suggests.

6. Whatever

"'Whatever' is our verbal version of throwing up our hands at a situation," Trovato says. "If you end a sentence during an interview with something like, 'I did what I could, but whatever,' it shows you chose to disconnect from a situation rather than see it through."

Overall, 'whatever' comes across as dismissive or even angry, and all the interviewer will hear is that you never tried, she says.

7. Stuff

When someone asks you what your job duties were at your last position, saying 'Oh, a lot of stuff," is the quickest way to get your resume thrown in the trash, Trovato says.

"We are often overly secure in being able to explain the work we do because we do it every day," Trovato says. "But before you go into an interview, you need to practice telling someone about your key responsibilities."

8. Hate

Never turn the conversation in the wrong direction with negative words like "hate," says Nathan Parcells, co-founder and CMO of online job platform InternMatch.

Even if you're tempted to highlight difficulties in your last position — don't.

"Don't talk badly about former employers," Parcells says. "If you had a negative experience, focus on what you learned and how you overcame obstacles."

9. Age

Although mentioning your age won't always serve as a black mark against you, it can put the interviewer in an awkward position, since they aren't allowed to ask you about age, marital status or any of the other protected categories, Connors says.

"It doesn't hurt anything to offer it up, but it does put the interviewer in a precarious position where they can't really comment on what you've said and need to redirect back to questions regarding this specific role and requirements," she says.

10. Cool

Don't fall into the trap of matching your interviewer's casual tone, says Skiddy von Stade, founder and CEO of financial industry job board OneWire.

"The interviewer is allowed to be casual, but you're the one who has to be professional," von Stade says. "Using slang terms and words used in casual conversation like 'cool' is likely to lead your interviewer to believe you're not taking the opportunity seriously."

11. Dedicated

"Think of it this way: If someone tells you they're dedicated, but lacks an example to back it up, do you really believe them?" von Stade asks.

Besides being grossly overused, words such as "dedicated" are better shown, rather than simply stated. In other words, don't tell your interviewer you're dedicated; highlight accomplishments, hurdles overcome and concrete actions you've taken in your career.

12. Motivated

The problem with "motivated" is that it means different things to different people, says Val Matta, VP of business development at job search site CareerShift.

"Instead of saying you're motivated, give your top reasons why you have the drive to make things happen," Matta says. "You can do so by relaying your plans for the position or how you'd like to turn things around. This demonstrates where your motivation comes from."

13. OMG

"'OMG' makes you hear screeching breaks whenever the term is uttered," Trovato says.

Granted, it is more commonly used with millennials, but Trovato says it can even sneak up on older, more seasoned candidates.

"No one wants to look stiff in front of an interviewer, and in order to form a connection with them, we might slip into more casual speech, but any acronyms are a no-go — especially OMG."

— By Kathryn Tuggle

Show Comments

Back to Top