Work & Career
10 Words to Never Say In a Job Interview
You’re smart enough to avoid saying “like,” “kinda,” and any swear words, but can you guess the ones on our list?
Don’t say: ‘Whatever’
“Whatever” was voted the most annoying word of 2015, according to a Marist College poll of 1,500 adults (note: 43 percent of respondents chose it as the worst). So unless you want to be voted the most annoying job applicant by an employer, delete it from your interview vocab. And while you’re at it, why not remove it from your speech altogether?
Don’t say: ‘Stuff’ or ‘Things’
These words share a trifecta of negative traits. They’re juvenile-sounding, vague, and dull. Thrown into a sentence, they act like mini black holes, sucking out all the life around them. Instead of “stuff” or “things,” use specific words, such as responsibilities, tasks, challenges, hobbies, passions, collections, and media, to communicate exactly what you mean.
Don’t say: ‘Honestly’
Using this word is like holding up a flashing-red CAUTION sign, signaling (a) you’re going to share an extremely candid (and probably regrettable) observation; and b) everything you’ve said up to that point in the interview was NOT true.
Don’t say: ‘Self-starter’
A “self-starter” is someone who does not require hand-holding or motivating, but these qualities should already be evident. So if you feel the need to say it to reassure an interviewer, you’re in trouble. Same goes for “hard-working.”
Don’t say: ‘Ma’am’
While you may think you’re being polite, addressing an employer as “ma’am” will instantly make her feel ancient, a feeling nobody wants to have. It also makes you sound old-fashioned, and not in a quaint, refreshing way but in an alarming, what-century-are-you-living-in way.
Don’t say: ‘Democrat’ or ‘Republican’
Unless the job under discussion is in politics/government or a related sector, refrain from bringing up politics. It’s always a contentious topic, but especially so this election year.
Don’t say: ‘Addicted’
Declaring you’re “addicted to X”—even though X may be as admirable an activity as reading books about your industry, mentoring younger colleagues, or watching documentaries—makes you sound immature. Plus, if your interviewer knows anyone with substance-abuse problems or psychological disorders, she may consider “addiction” to be a serious matter and not one that should be applied to, say, bingeing on Making a Murderer.
Don’t say: ‘No’
To be clear, it is entirely acceptable for you to use the word “no” at any time in your conversation—except to the query “So do you have any questions for me?” Answering “no” makes it seem as if you took the interview just because you were bored or wanted a reason to wear your new suit. And even if the interviewer has addressed every single question that you had prepared, come up with some aspect of the job or company you want to know more about. Here are the answers you should prepare in case you’re asked one of these tricky but common job interview questions.