20 Words to Avoid in an Interview

Here is a list of words candidates commonly use during an interview that project the wrong impression to the interviewer.  Avoid them and take the time to discover alternatives to improve your chances of a favourable outcome.

1.       Actually – this is a crutch word that can become a verbal tic over time.  It should be used to signify something that exists in reality, but it is often used as a way to add punch to a statement as in “I actually have no idea”.  Don’t use it this way.

2.       Um, Ah, Er, Uh – this crutch mumble is ok when you are chatting with friends but it has no place in a job interview.  It makes it difficult for the Interviewer to focus on the point you are trying to make.

3.       Well – this is a “hedge” word which means it is used to soften and weaken the force of a statement.  The information you are giving in an interview is important and its impact should not be diminished by prefacing it “Well …”.

4.       So – this is another “hedge” word “So, that’s a great question”.  Sometimes this word can be used for stylistic effect if you are trying to appear more down-to-earth but in a formal interview it gives the impression that you are nervous and you lack confidence.

5.       Literally – this is one of the most famously used crutch words.  It should be used to describe an action that has strictly occurred but it is often used inversely to emphasize a figurative statement, “I literally stayed awake for 4 days”.  Using this word in an interview suggests you have poor verbal communication skills.

6.       Look – this is a candidate’s invitation for the interviewer to “see and understand” but it can sound aggressive and may cause the interviewer to switch off.

7.       Fantastic, Great, Awesome, Super – these are usually used when a candidate is wanting to deliver a compliment but it is usually mindlessly regurgitated.  Look up a Thesaurus and find some alternatives that will demonstrate some original thinking.

8.       Honestly – is used to assert authority or express incredulity “Honestly, I have no idea why they let me go”.  Using this word usually indicates a lack of honesty so don’t use it in an interview.

9.       Seriously – the misuse of this word can cause confusion as to whether something is serious or not serious at all.

10.   Totally – use this word correctly to describe the whole of something.  Used incorrectly it is boring and can make you come across as uneducated and lazy.

11.   Basically – should be used to signal truth, simplicity and confidence but often it is used in the context of things that are far from basic in order to create a sense of authority and finality “Basically they made a bad decision”.  Using it in this manner can make the interviewer question the legitimacy of the information you are offering.

12.   Essentially – is a slightly upgraded form of basically.  Eliminate it from your vocabulary to make your statements more succinct and help you stand out from the crowd.

13.   Really, Very – these indicate something is more than average.  Replace these with less common words to help you stand out from the crowd.

14.   Like – is a lazy word used to by the candidate to gain more time to think or it is simply used out of habit.  It should only be used to describe something of the same form.

15.   Just – is used to signify a simple action but over-use of it indicates the opposite and suggests effort is required.

16.   The thing is – what is the thing?  Prefacing a statement with this crutch word dilutes “the thing” you are about to talk about.  Don’t water down “the thing”, state it outright.

17.   For what it’s worth – is a lead-in that indicates to the listener that whatever you are about to say will probably not be worth much at all.  It dilutes the strength of what you are communicating.

18.   Obviously – should be used to signify something that is readily observable, recognised or understood but it is often misused to emphasize something that isn’t necessarily obvious.  Use it in the correct manner.

19.   In a weird way – is a subjective preface to a statement.  Carefully consider the outcome if the interviewer doesn’t agree with you that any peculiar connection has been made. 

20.   You know, right? – is often used in a quest to be more inclusive but to convey confidence, assurance and expertise remove it from your vocabulary.