Most of us get nervous at the thought of being judged for our every word. In theory, a job interview should be a mutually investigative event between a potential employer and a potential employee, each thoroughly and unbiasedly evaluating the other to determine the potential professional fit.
However, most of the time, a job interview boils down to how good of an impression you make on your prospective employer. If you say the right things at the right time, you might land the job regardless of your résumé or skill set. Say the wrong thing at the wrong time, and all your experience might go down the drain. The power of a single word can sometimes sway this critical impression, and if you want to be successful, you’ll have to steer clear of some of the worst offenders:
1. Hate. The word hate implies a few things about your character. First, that you carry strong negative feelings with you. Employers want employees who try to find the positive side of things, so even if you do hate something, you can always find a better way to position that sentiment. Second, it shows that you have little tact; an interview is hardly the place to complain about something you don’t like, whether that’s your previous job or the traffic on the highway you used to get in. Try framing your expression in a more positive light; rather than saying, “I hated my old job,” you can say, “At my old job, I felt I wasn’t seeing my true potential.”
2. No. Throughout your career, you’re going to have to say no. In fact, saying no can actually work in your favor when it’s used in the right context and protects your interests. But in the context of a job interview, there’s never a good reason to say no. For example, imagine the interviewer asks you, “Would you be willing to do x for the company?” If you say no, you could immediately disqualify yourself from consideration. If you mitigate your answer with a “possibly” or a “maybe, depending on,” you’ll position yourself more positively and keep yourself in the running.
3. Basically. Basically has become an overused filler word, and using it more than once could make your potential employer believe you don’t think through your sentences. But even more than that, basically covers up details, which will lead to unwanted speculation. For example, your interviewer asks you what your greatest accomplishment was for your previous company. You reply, “Basically, I helped increase sales by x.” That “basically” implies ambiguity. Does it mean you only marginally affected the outcome? Does it mean you were a part of a team that accomplished it? Does it mean that figure is not entirely accurate? These are questions you don’t want to raise.
4. Dedicated. The word dedicated has been used in so many interviews that most interviewers can actually feel their blood pressure rise when they hear it. It’s a buzzword, plain and simple, and if you truly are dedicated, your work history and upcoming performance should be able to show it. Along these same lines, you might want to also avoid the word motivated.
5. Experience. Experience, like basically, is ambiguous, and cloaks the meaning of whatever it is you’re trying to say. For example, if you say something like “I have experience in graphic design,” that doesn’t exactly mean anything. Instead of vaguely describing your familiarity with a topic, specifically outline your expertise. List the credentials you have, or mention a specific accomplishment. The more detailed you are in describing your actual experience, the better. Don’t cop out with a general term.
6. Hard-working. Nobody is going to come to an interview and claim to be lazy. People who want a job are going to describe themselves as “hard-working.” Not everyone is going to be able to prove that. Rather than telling your interviewer that you’re a hard-working individual, show off how and in what context you work hard. For example, you can tell the story about how you worked through a weekend to create a perfect report, or mention how you haven’t taken a sick day in two years.
7. Any filler word. Filler words demonstrate a lack of consideration, and can also make you appear less confident. Whether you mean to or not, injecting an um, uh, or er can damage your credibility and make you appear less capable than you actually are. If you need to think about what you want to say next, don’t say anything at all–silence is far more impressive than a stream of unconsciously uttered filler words. This may take some practice, but eliminating them from your vocabulary is a solid long-term move.
It’s unlikely that one word will destroy any chance you have at landing a new job. However, if you say too many of these words on top of an already shaky impression, you can kiss your chances of getting hired goodbye. Any edge you can get in an interview is significant, so it’s worth your while to perfect your communication skills and eliminate these words from your vocabulary.