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Ace Your Next Job Interview: Words to Avoid for Success

Whether you’re gearing up for your first interview or are a seasoned professional seeking new opportunities, Ryan Recruitment is here to help. Today, we’re focusing on something that might surprise you: the words you choose during your interview. The right words can paint a picture of a confident, skilled professional, while the wrong ones can leave the interviewer with the wrong impression.

We’re not talking about memorising a script—it’s all about being aware of some common pitfalls and making sure your natural personality shines through. So, let’s dive into some words (and speaking habits) to keep an eye on.

Why Words Matter

In the world of job interviews, every word counts. The language you choose can shape the interviewer’s perception of your competence, confidence, and fit for the role. Murphy’s Leadership IQ study found that interview answers rated poorly by hiring managers use the word “you” almost 400% more than good interview answers. Bad interview answers also contain significantly more present and future tense verbs. So, let’s explore the words and phrases to avoid, and what you can say instead.

Words to Avoid in a Job Interview


It’s tempting to shift focus away from yourself by using “you,” especially when describing general scenarios or hypothetical situations. However, interviewers want to hear about your specific experiences and actions. For example, instead of saying, “You know how sometimes you just can’t meet a deadline?” say, “There was an instance when I faced a tight deadline, and I managed it by prioritising tasks and delegating when necessary.”


While teamwork is crucial, overusing “we” can dilute your contributions. Be sure to highlight your role within a team. For instance, rather than saying, “We launched a successful marketing campaign,” say, “I led the creative strategy for a marketing campaign that increased sales by 20%.”


This word can signal uncertainty or a lack of confidence. Instead of saying, “I try to meet all deadlines,” say, “I consistently meet deadlines.” This demonstrates reliability and commitment.

“Like” and “Um”

These filler words can make you seem less professional and prepared. Practise your answers to minimise these interruptions. Silence is actually better than fillers, as it shows you’re thoughtful and deliberate.


This word implies doubt and uncertainty. Instead of saying, “Hopefully, I’ll be able to improve the sales numbers,” say, “I plan to improve the sales numbers by implementing targeted marketing strategies.”

Negative Words and Phrases

Avoid phrases that carry negative connotations, such as “I hate,” “I don’t like,” or “That was a failure.” Instead, frame challenges positively. For example, “I didn’t enjoy that task” can be reframed as, “I learned a lot from that challenging task.”

Jargon and Acronyms

Using industry jargon or acronyms can be risky if the interviewer is not familiar with them. Aim for clear and concise language that is easily understood.


As we mentioned above, you want to be as specific as possible when giving answers to interview questions. You also want to avoid overused phrases like “I’m a hard worker” or “I’m a team player.”  These are clichés and tend to come across as too general.  Use specific examples to demonstrate your work ethic and collaborative spirit.

The Future Tense

Remember, the interviewer wants to learn about you and your past experience. Instead of saying, “I will be a valuable asset to your team,”  talk about the value you’ve already brought to previous roles:  “In my last position, I consistently [past achievement] which led to [positive outcome].” This showcases your proven track record.

How to Prepare for a Job Interview

Now that you know which words to avoid, let’s discuss how to prepare for a job interview effectively.

Research the Company and Role

Understand the company’s mission, values, and the specific requirements of the role you’re applying for. This knowledge allows you to tailor your responses to align with what the employer is looking for.

Practise Your Answers

Prepare responses to common interview questions, focusing on your past experiences and accomplishments. Practise speaking these answers out loud to build confidence and reduce the use of filler words.

Use the STAR Method

Structure your answers using the STAR method (Situation, Task, Action, Result). This approach ensures your responses are well-organised and relevant. For example, instead of a vague answer, you might say:

  • Situation: “In my previous role, we faced a decline in customer satisfaction.”
  • Task: “My task was to identify the root cause and improve our service quality.”
  • Action: “I conducted surveys, analysed feedback, and implemented new training programmes.”
  • Result: “As a result, customer satisfaction increased by 15% over six months.”

Be Ready for Behavioural Questions

Employers often ask behavioural questions to gauge how you handle various situations. Prepare examples from your past that demonstrate your skills and achievements. Remember to stay specific and focused on your actions and the outcomes.

Show Enthusiasm and Confidence

Employers want to see that you’re enthusiastic about the role and confident in your abilities. Speak clearly, maintain eye contact, and don’t be afraid to show your excitement about the opportunity.

Support is Only a Click Away

Remember: An interview is a two-way street. You’re interviewing the company just as much as they’re interviewing you.  So relax, be yourself, and use these tips to showcase your skills and experience with the right words. 

And don’t forget: If you’re on the hunt for your dream job, get in touch with the friendly team at Ryan. Our Christchurch recruitment agency has a wide range of exciting opportunities across different industries, and we’re here to help you find the perfect fit.

To learn more about preparing for a job interview or writing a CV, check out our great job seeker resources. And if you need a bit of support throughout the job hunt, get in touch with our friendly team today.