5 Phrases to Stay Away From in Job Interviews



Kimberly Schneiderman, NCRW, CLTMC, CEIC
Owner, City Career Services

Have you ever given thought to the little phrases you use, probably out of habit? Well, I do. If you have ever had a one-on-one coaching session in the Career Connection with me at the ACFE conferences, you know that I will often stop you to point out ineffective language you are using or language that you can use to come across more confidently.

In my last blog post, I gave several ideas for scripts you can use in your job search. In this post, I will demonstrate some of the ineffective phrases I hear and will propose alternative language to help you communicate in a positive way. Ready? Here we go:

  1. “No problem” This seemingly innocuous phrase is supposed to tell someone you are happy to take on a task or project. The problem is, it can be negative. Sometimes, it can even come across as dismissive. Instead, try, “Yes, I’m happy to do that.” And, try not use, “No problem” in place of, “You’re welcome” when someone says, “Thank you.”
  2. “If I have to do that as part of my job, it’s OK.” This phrase always reminds me of a scene from the sitcom Friends, when Monica’s boyfriend Richard (Tom Selleck) uses a similar phrase when he agrees to “have children if he has to” so they can get married. You see how it comes across negatively and resistant to what is actually being requested? Instead, try a more positive statement, “Yes, I understand I will travel a good deal if hired for this position and am ready for it.”
  3. “I’m looking for a new challenge.” The idea of wanting to be challenged at work is one we are quite familiar with; sometimes a similar phrase is even used in job advertisements to tell applicants that they will be learning new skills. The problem is that when you (the job seeker) use the phrase, you are basically asking someone to pay you to learn something you have no idea how to do. A better strategy is to point to ways that your skillset aligns directly with the requirements.
  4. “I think…I believe…I feel.” These three introductory phrases are rife with problems. They are soft; each one makes you sound unconfident and non-committal. I coach my clients to attach strong, concrete language to their messages. Which sounds better to you: “I feel like my experience is a good match” or “I can see that my 10 years’ experience in IT security and internal investigations is a direct match for the primary needs of this organization.”
  5. “I’m open to anything really.” When a job seeker uses this phrase, it translates directly to “I have no idea what I want to do with my career, could you please tell me?” Most people that use the phrase actually do have an idea of what they want, they just need help saying it. Try something like this: “My ideal position will include elements of global fraud investigations, risk management program development and anti-counterfeiting initiatives.” By naming a few things that you do want, the person understands that you are ‘open’ to options within a defined window and that you have clear direction in your career.

Notice that I am not encouraging you to be arrogant or stuffy, just clear about what you can actually do for a company and what you will be particularly successful with in the job. By ensuring your word choice conveys competence, confidence and motivation, you will come across as the candidate that a prospective employer truly needs in their organization.

Try these ideas in your search and let me know how they turn out at the Career Connection at this year’s ACFE Global Fraud Conference, June 14-19, 2015.