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Words Never To Use in a Job Interview

Any management candidate will tell you that it is hard enough to survive the job interview process without making blunders which can alter the meaning or intent of the message you are trying to convey. The problem is that there are many single words that are easily misunderstood, or create a personal perception in the listener’s mind which you are unaware of, until the interviewer’s attention wains, and their interest cools.

In most cases, this leaves the management candidate walking away from the job interview bewildered by what they did wrong. They console themselves that it just wasn’t their job. But the problem goes one step farther.

Even if you do get the job, these words can cause problems in business meetings, when negotiating with general managers, kitchen staff, and suppliers. An excellent manager can have their plans derailed, their management techniques sabotaged, and their goals stalled, all because they use these common, every day words.


Used incorrectly these single person words result in credibility loss that is impossible, or time consuming, to win back. The incorrect use of this innocent word isn’t in grammar style or diction. It is in the unqualified target audience. The seaker ‘implies’ they know something about the listener. They are imposing something on them. Or when using ‘my’ there is an unspoken intent that you feel your views are more important than the listeners.

If you’ve studied ‘active listening’, negotiating, or coaching then you will understand the point being made. There is in inherent authority given to the words in a very narrow context that diminishes any concerns, impressions, or thoughts held by the listener.


In the 80s and 90s these terms were tossed around by people who wanted to appear amicable. They wanted to imply they had a horizontal management style. Everyone wanted a team player. Everyone wanted to collaborate. We were all team players and spent so much time being a ‘team’ that the work wasn’t completed in a cost effective, timely manner.

While we still need this, we also need to define boundaries and responsibilities. What we really want to convey is that we are able to follow leadership, carry our own weight, collaborate instead of having our own way, and meet deadlines.

Full Service/Solutions/Passion

What do these words have in common? They are all over used cliché’ that have a different meaning for everyone hearing them based on their individual experiences. Lets’ say the person hosting the job interview had a position that they really enjoyed.  They hired managers who used these words, they sounded good, they said the right things at the right time – but they couldn’t do the job. Now this individual has a bad association with the clichés.

These words are very subjective. How many times have you heard someone talk about their passion only to find out that they will talk, argue, and rant for hours on the subject, but they don’t invest their time, money, or efforts into their passion. Sports is a good one. I love football, but the person has never played football.

How does this translate when someone is in a job interview and says ‘Marketing is my passion.’ It can leave a negative impression.

Strategic/Full Service/Forward

Most uses of these words are positioning language that are meant to convey another meaning. They are so over used that no one really hears them anymore.  If you’re using this you unconsciously realize that your claim is too broad. If I am listening to you I hear ‘I’m really not qualified, but I know enough to sound good, and I think I can learn the rest on the job’.

Using it when describing your abilities and skills is a sign that you didn’t push hard enough when developing your ability, and you don’t have enough education or skills to be able to say exactly what you mean.

Thank You

When my first coach suggested I stopped using this word I actually drew in a surprised breath. I use this word several times a day. After hearing why I totally understood. I now show my appreciation in other ways.

Thank you implies that you understand that the listener received little benefit listening to you, and that they did you a favor. It is a submissive term.  In today’s work environment it is no longer the polite term it once was. Today the term is almost a dismissive ‘closure’ to a conversation.

There is a Chinese saying that states, “Watch your thoughts, they become your language. Watch your language, it becomes your deeds. Watch your deeds, they become your behavior.” You can convince yourself that these seven words is harmless, but the truth is, they have an eerie accuracy in predicting your behavior in a negative context.


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