9 words you should never say in an interview

Your resume made it to the top of the pile and that laundry list of achievements and job titles impressive. You’re another step closer to landing your dream job, and now it’s time to wow your interviewer…

Make sure that the words you use are words you know and that they are used properly! Sometimes, people will use words that they think make them appear smart or relatable, but unfortunately, they use them in the wrong context and that can sometimes be detrimental in an interview. 

We spoke to executives and HR experts to get their take on the expressions they loathe hearing in an interview. Avoid these words and phrases to ensure your first impression accurately reflects your hireability and passion for the job.

“I don’t know…”

“When asked why you want to work for a specific company, never say you don’t know!” says Stacy Caprio, Founder of Growth Marketing, “You should always have at least one fun fact, trivia, culture comment or any comment specific to the place you are interviewing for you can cite as a reason you want to work there.” Think about it: the interviewer not only wants to see what you would be able to do the job but also that you would be a good fit and that you want to be at that specific company, not just any old office.

“I hate…”

Hate is a strong word with a very negative connotation. By saying you hated a task, team, boss, policy or former company you run the risk of appearing hot-headed, unprofessional and confrontational. “You can also look blameful,” says Sean Dowling, Partner and Manager of Recruiting Strategy for WinterWyman’s Technology group, “Try to find a word that’s as powerful and always back up your statement with what you did to make the situation or experience better.”

“Oh, sh*t.”

“One of the main things to know is that swear words are, of course, not appropriate,” says Debora Rowland, VP of HR at CareerArc, “It can show a lack of respect and sensitivity to the situation.” Using slang words in an interview can also be a negative as it is too informal and likely not appropriate.

“Did you see what Trump said today?”

In today’s political environment, it is far better to stay away from controversial topics. “Words such as Democrat, Republican, Conservative, Liberal can color an interview unless the role being applied to is for a political group of some kind or requires specific experience in that realm,” says Rowland, “Staying away from controversial topics and subsequently words would strongly be encouraged.”

“I’ll do anything you ask.”

While this sentence could indicate a candidate who is willing to pitch in and be a good team member, it can also be seen as someone who is desperate to become employed, explains Andy Thiede, HR Consultant at KardasLarson, LLC. While this is a sentence to avoid in an interview, there are other ways to say it. For example, the applicant might say, “I’m known as someone who is willing to do any task in order to get the job done.”

“How much does this job pay?”

According to Thiede, the timing is important on this one. It’s certainly acceptable to ask about compensation if the interviewer doesn’t mention it first, but it’s a question that should not be asked in the very initial discussion.

“What are the benefits?”

Similar to the question on pay, the timing of this question is key. “Don’t ask this question in the initial interview, unless it’s very clear that the meeting is going so well that there is indication a job offer might be tendered on the spot.” says Thiede.

“I’ve been to hell and back.”

While it goes without saying that you’re ready to move on from your current position, whether for professional or personal reasons, it’s best to remain tightlipped about exactly why you’re leaving or talk poorly about your former employer or circumstances. “I’ll never forget those words, uttered by a candidate in an interview, after she described her personal issues as an explanation of why there was a gap in employment since her last job!” says Thiede.

“That is a great question!”

Avoid filler words. When a candidate follows up and each question you ask starts with “Great question” or “um”. Take a second to pause and think instead of filling the silence. “You will come across more confident if you take those pauses.” explains Ben Christensen, Co-founder and Head of People and Talent at Handshake.

“I have a rare gift/quality.”
“Let your work and experience speak for itself, says Christensen. Focusing on the job and using words that relate to the role applied for is a smart tactic to start. Using some of the wording in the job description as you speak about your experience and skills it shows that you’ve paid attention and done your research without coming off as pompous.

More From Ladders