Nine words to avoid in an interview

Avoiding certain words can boost your chance of interview success.

Avoiding certain words can boost your chance of interview success. Photo: Getty

Clear communication in a job interview can make a big difference to the success of your interview.

The key, according to career coach and workplace expert Leah Lambart, is to avoid words and phrases that don’t make sense, are overused or downplay your skills and abilities.   

According to recent SEEK data, 37 per cent of candidates are looking to change jobs in the next six months, and 50 per cent in the next 12 months, so if you fall into this category, here are some important words to avoid in your next interview:

1. ‘Stuff like that’ or ‘that sort of thing’
“These phrases are often tacked onto the end of a sentence when a candidate is trying to articulate a list of tasks that they are responsible for, or a list of skills that they can offer and then they run out of things to say at the end of the sentence,” said Leah Lambart of RelaunchMe. Finishing off the sentence in this way doesn’t exactly sell them as a candidate. 

2. Perfectionist
Telling a potential employer you’re a perfectionist is eye-rollingly cliché. They’ve heard it many times before and know it’s not always genuine.  

Try using the word ‘efficient’ instead of ‘perfectionist’ to avoid giving the impression you slave over tasks in minute detail. 


Make your message clear and succinct. Photo: Getty

3. You know
“Some candidates might say ‘you know’ up to four or five times in a sentence without realising it,” said Lambart.  “I would recommend doing practice interview responses on Zoom and recording yourself. You may be surprised how many ‘you knows’ you can fit in one sentence.” 

4. Only
Add the word ‘only’ into any sentence and it can immediately downplay your abilities. For example, ‘I only worked there for one year’ and ‘I only used that software for a short time’.  

If you feel you have limited experience or skills, be upfront about it and ensure you communicate how you plan to upskill in the future. 

5. Obviously
“Using the word ‘obviously’ at the beginning of sentences is a pitfall and can be frustrating for a recruiter or hiring manager to hear regularly, particular when what the candidate is saying is not ‘obvious’ at all,” said Lambart.  

6. Workaholic
Avoid describing yourself as a workaholic because it immediately raises red flags for employers and recruiters.  

Most employers are searching for people with a healthy balance between their professional and personal lives who can manage their time effectively. Instead of ‘workaholic’, try the words ‘hard working’ or ‘focused’. 

7. Literally 
“Another word that is overused by children these days and adults,” said Lambart.   “Overusing this word can also be annoying when it is not necessary in a sentence.” 

8. We
We naturally tend to speak in the collective and use the word ‘we’ even when we really mean ‘I’. So when you describe how you overcame a problem at work use ‘I’ because the interview panel is interested in your positive impact.  

You can talk about being in a team, but be sure to relay your personal contribution to a successful outcome. 

9. Just
Similarly to ‘only’, the word ‘just’ can devalue your responsibilities and achievements. For example, ‘I just assisted with the project’ or ‘I just have basic Excel skills’.  

Be honest about your skills in an interview, but avoid the word ‘just’ so you don’t underline a skill you’re lacking or not confident in.  

Looking for further interview tips? SEEK Career Advice has everything candidates need to stay up to date with career advice and finding the right job.

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