Top 8 Word Mistakes Made in Job Interviews

November 19, 2012 |

1. Using informal language

Too much familiarity can hurt your chances by making you look unprofessional. It is important to remember that you are interviewing for a job, not trying to make a new best friend. Too much familiarity can hurt your chances by making you look unprofessional.

  • Poor Phrase:
  • “I’m sure you guys are aware that the job market is in the dumps right now. It’s been one heck of an uphill battle for me for the past year.”

  • Perfect Phrase:
  • “Unfortunately, as I am sure you are aware, the job market is still tight, and there is a great deal of heavy competition for the same jobs.”

2. Using vague words

    Words such as “a lot,” “various/multiple,” and “great deal of” are vague and don’t give the interviewer the needed information.

  • Poor Phrase:
  • “I have had a lot of experience with various lines of multiple products. I am proud of the results I’ve had in saving the company a great deal of money.”

  • Perfect Phrase:
  • “With over eight years experience working in the paper industry and primarily selling photo paper, I consider myself an expert on the subject and have saved my clients as much as 20 percent on orders over $5000.”

3. Misuse of pronouns

It can be very confusing and words can be misinterpreted when pronouns are misused. Be especially alert for this when you are using the pronouns “we,” I,” and “you.”

  • Poor Phrase:
  • “We were behind in our project, and we decided that we would stay and finish the job rather than miss our deadline. We pulled it together, and we were able to meet our deadline.”

  • Perfect Phrase:
  • “I worked with a team of designers to bring a project in on time. We each took responsibility for a particular area. We worked closely, but at the same time we were completely disconnected from one another. This seemed to work because my four counterparts and I managed to pull the project together on time.”

4. Using company-specific words

Each company has certain terms that are indigenous only to that company. Outsiders will not know what you are talking about if you use these terms. This is especially true if you have worked for a public organization or the military. You should use as many specific words as possible in your interview so that the hiring manager knows you are familiar with your industry.

  • Poor Phrase:
  • “While I was working on the 767 project, I discovered an error in the “whichamaculit” used to produce our 656 product line. This was a really costly mistake.”

  • Perfect Phrase:
  • “At my last company there was a particular marketing project that involved a software conversion. Because of my strong attention to detail, I was able to catch an error that would have cost the company millions of dollars.”

5. Assuming everyone knows the acronym you are using

Acronyms are used at every company — shortcuts used internally to eliminate a lot of words. Avoid using these in an interview because the hiring manager may not be familiar with the acronyms used at our current company.

  • Poor Phrase:
  • “I was considered an SAR and supported three line reps who were in the SWSC area.”

  • Perfect Phrase:
  • “My position title was sales associate representative, and I supported the sales representatives who were responsible for the southwest area of South Carolina.”

6. Using “weak” words to describe skills

Beware of small words that can sabotage your credibility — words like “pretty,” “most of the time,” and “kind of.”

  • Poor Phrase:
  • “I’m pretty good with computers — at least most of the time I am. I kind of taught myself most of the programs.”

  • Perfect Phrase:
  • “I am very knowledgeable about Unix software. When I was unfamiliar with programs in the past, I taught myself in less than two weeks. I am a very quick learner.”

7. Use too few words to answer the question

One pet peeve many interviewers have is not getting enough information. When a candidate answers a question with one or two words, it’s impossible to make a judgment as to whether this person is the right person for the job.

  • Poor Phrase:
  • “Yes, I have had experience in that area.”

  • Perfect Phrase:
  • “I have over 10 years working with biotech testing. If you were to ask any of my coworkers, they would tell you that I hold the record for the least number of mistakes when using testing equipment.”

8. Talking too much — not getting to the point

When you fail to prepare for the interview, you can easily ramble and go off the subject down some other road. A rule of thumb is, “Your answers should be no longer than two to three minutes long.”

  • Poor Phrase:
  • “My last company was developed software to support government enforcement of firearms violators. This nationwide project will be the first of its kind and will allow users to investigate firearms traffickers and purchasers. The software is able to track violent offenders and unscrupulous federal firearms licensees. This product will allow users to investigate and prosecute violators and felons by tracking their activities from remote locations. The product has been developed in cooperation with the U.S. government and will hopefully be purchased and used by all branches of law enforcement agencies that could use this tracking method. The company has invested over two years in developing and perfecting this product and has invested a great percentage of the company’s revenue in it, betting that this is going to have a big payoff long term. Short term it has put a considerable squeeze on the finances needed…

  • Perfect Phrase:
  • “At my last company I served as lead in getting a new tracking product launched nationwide. The product will be used to track firearms violators and bring them to conviction through evidence collected. I worked closely with the U.S. government and followed the regulations necessary to develop such a product.”

Job interview expert Carole Martin has been a prime contributor to our Veteran Jobs blog, and now she’s offering her advice to veterans and service members who have questions, general or specific, about tackling the civilian job interview process. Send Carole your questions at interviewquestions@interviewcoach.com, and moving forward, we’ll feature her answers in this blog.

The Interview Coach, Carole Martin, is a celebrated author, job coach, and speaker on the subject of interviewing and recruiting. She is also a contributing writer at Monster.com and featured on talk radio. Carole is using her proven methods for coaching job seekers on competitive interviewing skills in technical and non-technical industries. You can download her free worksheet for determining your Values Exercise at the Interview Coach website. Follow The Interview Coach on Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin to learn about current workshops and seminars Carole is offering.

About Carole Martin

The Interview Coach, Carole Martin, is a celebrated author, job coach, and speaker on the subject of interviewing and recruiting. A contributing writer at Monster.com and featured on talk radio, Carole is using her proven methods for coaching job seekers on competitive interviewing skills in technical and non-technical industries. Learn more about her Federal Agency Interview Coaching and Coaching for Business Interviews at www.interviewcoach.com.
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