Words you should avoid using in interviews
Using the right words in an interview can improve your chances of landing a job. Source: Shutterstock

Whether you’ve already graduated or not, you should start preparing as soon as possible for what comes after education: a job.

Interviews can certainly raise stress and anxiety levels, so it doesn’t hurt to be prepared ahead of time. You don’t want to be tongue-tied or say the wrong thing, since making a good first impression is essential when it comes to job interviews.

A handy tip is to be mindful of what you’re going to say and how you’re going to say it. Winging it in an interview is not recommended, especially when you’re still new in your career.

While it really depends on the job, your employer, and the individual, there are a few words that generally aren’t favoured by employers.

It goes without saying (hopefully) that you should never use swear words in front of a future employer, but there are also other words you should avoid using in an interview.

We don’t mean that you might lose out on a job if you use any of these words during an interview (the occasional slip-up happens!), but it’s a good idea to steer clear of them as much as you can to improve your chances.

Can’t, don’t and won’t

These are negative words that can give the interviewer a negative impression of you and your capabilities.

Of course, being a fresh grad, there will be things expected from you in a job you cannot do or haven’t learnt how to do yet. But you should show an interest to learn these things if the job requires you to.

For example, if your interviewer asks whether you can use Adobe Photoshop, instead of saying “I can’t,” or “I don’t know”, say “I am willing to learn how to use it”, or “I look forward to learning how to use it.”

Similarly, other words and phrases like “I don’t want…” or “I won’t be able to…” give off a negative vibe, making you seem like a person who is unwilling to learn.

Ideally, you want to show the employer that you’re ambitious and can take on any job given to you.

You guys

This is an expression that may come naturally to young people, but refrain from using it in front of an employer.

It’s too casual and is not recommended for use in an interview setting, giving off a bad first impression by implying you’re too laidback.

Barry Drexler, an expert interview coach, told CNBC that those who use this slang in interviews are often fresh college graduates who have never worked in a corporate environment.

He said, “They talk like they’re talking to one of their buddies. They’re just so used to talking that way. It drives me nuts.”

Instead of using ‘you guys’, Drexler suggested to use terms like ‘your firm’, ‘your company’, or the company’s actual name. Alternatively, you could use ‘your team’ if it’s a smaller organisation.

Avoid slang words and lingo you would use when talking to your friends as much as possible because they are often too casual for a formal interview. Even if your employer seems young and hip, it doesn’t mean he isn’t looking for professionalism in an interviewee.


Generally, employers don’t like the word. Source: Shutterstock

This is one cliche word employers particularly dislike. Recruiters know that hardly anyone is a true perfectionist, and even if they are, that doesn’t necessarily make them a desirable or productive employee.

If you’re asked what your weakness is, never use the word ‘perfectionist’. According to CareerOne, “Saying you are a perfectionist could set off alarms for interviewers and sink your chances. Being a high achiever who always strives to do better is a positive. Perfectionism is a genuine problem that can be treated.”

Instead, give examples about how you are detail-oriented and efficient, without using this overused word employers really aren’t fans of.


It’s hard to keep this word out of our vocabulary because it’s so commonly used. In today’s fast-moving era, we usually just want to get straight to the point in conversation, so we tend to use ‘basically’ so we aren’t wasting anyone’s time.

But in an interview, the employer wants to know more about you and your experience. When they ask a question, they generally don’t want you to gloss over the details and get down to the facts. They want the whole picture.

When you use the word basically, it becomes an overused filler that makes the employer think you’re either covering up important details or that you were unprepared for the interview and didn’t think your answers through.

Jayson DeMersm, Founder and CEO of AudienceBloom, warned interviewees about the dangers of using the word ‘basically’ and how it looks to interviewers.

“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.”

When asked a question that requires a well thought-out answer, take a minute or so to compose your thoughts, and give as much detail as possible without using words like ‘basically’.

Um, err or hmmm

If you’re nervous during an interview, take time to think rather than using filler words. Source: Shutterstock

These are other filler words that don’t make you look very articulate when you are being interviewed. Many people don’t realise they’re using these words and are stunned to realise how much they actually do.

It’s okay if you use these a couple of times during an interview, but if you use them too much, it can be a red flag to the interviewer.

They may see it as a sign of uncertainty on your part that you aren’t capable or confident of the job required, or worse – that you’re trying to come up with a lie.

If you aren’t sure just how much you use these filler words, try doing a mock interview and capturing it on video. You might be surprised to hear yourself.

John Rampton, an entrepreneur, speaker and founder of online payments company Due, cautioned against using these sorts of words.

He said, “Personally, I never realized that this was an issue until it was brought to me attention and I started watching footage of me speaking. Sure enough, I was throwing out a lot of ‘ums.’ To correct this problem, I started speaking more slowly. If there was a question that I had to think about, I would remain completely silent until I could find the right words.”

Worried about an awkward silence? Don’t be. As Rampton says, “It’s better to pause and say nothing-at-all than filling the air with a stream of filler words.”

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