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Words To Never Say At A Job Interview – For Managers

There are several words and clichés used from the 70s, 80s, and 90s that when used in today’s job interviews will likely cause a manager to lose the job, today.  Some of these phrases can label you as an unqualified management candidate. Their very use ‘slots’ you in the same way using words out of context can peg you to a specific social status.

Meaningless Clichés

Dedicated, Meaningless, Leverage, Work-a-holic, Perfectionist, Synergy, ‘Hit the ground running’, ‘full circle’. All of these phrases are vague, say nothing meaningful, and if you write them out and think about it, they probably did not answer the job interview questions.

One word answers

It doesn’t matter whether the correct answer to my question in a job interview is ‘no’. I never one to hear a single word answer.  There are two reasons. First, giving me a single word indicates that you have no interest in the topic. You are ‘closing’ the conversation.

If I ask whether you went to university and you say ‘yes.’ Then you have dismissed the question, and dismissed your answer.

‘We’, ‘You’, ‘My’ are other words that I don’t want to hear. It indicates that you are taking authority and being dismissive of other people’s contribution. Corporate ‘we’ is a dangerous one to use. If I am listening then you imply that I am part of your ‘collective’ and I may be totally opposed to what you are saying.

Dismissive Words

Whatever, okay, probably, nice, sorry, humm, right, never, sure, cool, guys/you guys, or any slang. A dismissive word ends the conversation. You cannot continue talking without making it sound like you are ‘correcting’ the speaker.

Another word that fits in both the cliché or the dismissive words is ‘work life balance.’ This phrase fits here because you’ve just told the company that their job will not have your full attention. While it sounds like you are trying to tell the employer that home life will not get in the way of work, the phrase often has the opposite effect.

Emotional words

Toxic, potential, I hate, I don’t tolerate, accomplish, initiative, and comfortable. The word comfortable is the same as saying ‘no problem.’ It sounds like you are making concessions. That there was a problem, that other people would have the right to be upset, but you are comfortable. You will tolerate the situation. While this isn’t a big one it does leave a negative impression that you are either above the job/task, or that you are not really interested in the job.

Emotional words always incite an emotion in the listener. Remember that you may be the 30th job interview, so the person hosting the interviews may be stressed. Their tolerance level may be low.

For most professionals in Human Resources, the word comfortable is the kiss of death to a job interview, and maybe even a career. It insinuates you’ve lost your passion and motivation. You are just working for a paycheck.

Accusing words

Should have, could have, You, I don’t…, I never…, or showing any form of non-verbal contempt to a statement. The moment you tell someone else what they should do you are creating conflict. There are many ways to direct another person’s actions without using these words. A manager who uses these words will have a difficult time selling their coaching, communication, and listening skills.

Anyone who has studied coaching, or active listening, will see these words as red flags. They may result in your job application being tossed into the garbage.

When you find yourself using these words you are often giving unsolicited advice. This will throw the job interview off track.

Weak Words

Like, enjoy, okay, simple, perfection,  most of these words can easily be followed by a ‘but.’  I like working in a restaurant but ‘I don’t like working with people.’ You may not add the but at the end of your statement, but many times the listener will add the but, and include their own thoughts on the subject.

All of these words are commonly used by a manager who is unsure, even though most of them know they shouldn’t use them. What you say in the work place, and with your friends, will come out in a stressful situation, like a job interview. We’ve all walked away from a meeting or job interview angry at ourselves because we said something that sounded stupid.

The best way to avoid making these mistakes is to avoid using them in your everyday life.


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