11 common words and phrases to avoid using in a job interview
Employers use interviews to gauge whether you're the right person for a job. But you could tank your chances with a hiring manager by using certain words and phrases, says Barry Drexler, an expert interview coach who has conducted more than 10,000 interviews.
With over 30 years of HR experience at notable companies like Lehman Brothers and Lloyds Bank, Drexler says these are the 11 words and phrases that should be eliminated from your interview vocabulary:
Drexler hears this phrase most often used by recent college graduates. Typically, they've never interviewed for or worked in a corporate environment.
"They talk like they're talking to one of their buddies," he tells CNBC Make It. "They're just so used to talking that way."
However, saying "you guys" is much too informal and sounds like slang, says Drexler. "It drives me nuts."
Instead, he suggests referring to the company by its actual name or saying "your firm" or even just "your company."
"I wanted to get ill after I heard this [word] so many times," says Drexler. "It's too cliche."
He adds to this list other descriptors like "hard-worker" and "people-pleaser."
Not only do these words hold little weight, says Drexler, but they also won't help you stand out because everyone else is using these words to describe themselves.
"Cliches are awful," says the interview expert. "I'd avoid those."
Don't use the word "comfortable" when answering questions about why you want a specific role, type of job or position.
"The word 'comfortable' is the kiss of death when it comes to careers," says Drexler.
Your potential employer doesn't want a comfortable employee, he says, because it insinuates that you aren't a hard worker and that you'll take whatever comes easy.
Drexler suggests saying that you want a challenging role or a stimulating role. "You want something that's rewarding, not comfortable," he adds.
Companies really don't care about your work-life balance, says the interview coach. It's that simple.
"Companies talk the talk about having a great work-life balance," admits Drexler. "At the end of the day, they want work out of you. It's just talk."
Although it may sound cynical, all your employer truly wants to hear is that you're ready to work and that you'll work around the clock if need be, he says.
"If you say you're looking for work-life balance, that translates to, 'I want to socialize and I'm only going to stay from nine to five, and at five o'clock I'm out the door.'"
No hiring manager wants to employ a "nine-to-fiver" or a candidate who is already thinking about their personal life before joining the company, says Drexler.
"I'm not suggesting that [work-life balance] is not important or that a company should work you to death," he adds, "but don't bring it up in an interview."
Like is a weak word that doesn't really say much. For example, if an interviewer asks, "Why do you want to work here?," you should never respond with a phrase that incorporates the word like, such as "I like doing analytical work," he says.
"It doesn't mean anything," Drexler explains. "I like golf but I suck. I like analytical work but I'm awful."
Enjoy is another word that should be avoided at all costs, says Drexler, because you're wasting an opportunity to use a more powerful word. Instead, use words like "excel" or phrases such as "I do this well" to convey your strengths.
Can't and don't are negative words and negativity has no place in an interview, says Drexler.
Refrain from using phrases such as "I don't like doing this, I can't do this," or "I don't want to do this," he explains. You want to show an interviewer that you are open to taking on any role or task and that no job is too small for you.
Even if you legitimately don't have a skill that the job requires, he recommends letting the interviewer know that you're willing to learn. This gives your interview answer a much more positive spin.
"You don't want to ever be negative," says Drexler.
Drexler explains that interviewees often feel the need to bring up the fact that they were fired just to have it out in the open. However, this dampens the whole interview and isn't necessary.
Plus, there's no way for an interviewer to find out that you've been terminated.
"Get it out of your head. Get over it," says the interview coach. Instead, tell the interviewer that you feel like it's the right time to pursue other opportunities or that it's the right time to find something new.
Also, speak positively about your former place of employment, even if you were fired. Drexler advises saying that you a great career with your previous employer and that you learned a lot, not that you hated the company and the direction it was heading.
"No one is going to hire someone that's going to bash their [former] company because then you're going to bash our company too," says the interview expert.
Avoid giving unsolicited advice. "Never say 'you should' or 'your company should,'" says the interview coach. "You don't work there yet. You're just a candidate."
Conversely, refrain from sharing your thoughts on what they shouldn't be doing. Don't tell an employer that they should stop doing something or that the company is doing something the wrong way unless you're explicitly asked, he adds.
"Candidates do that, I swear," says Drexler. "They're telling the interviewer how to run their own company."
The best way to address a glaring problem, he says, is to start with "In my experience, this is what works."
The interview coach adds that it's perfectly reasonable to not agree with everything a potential employer is doing, but you must bring up your concerns in a diplomatic way.
"It's not what you say, it's how," says Drexler.
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