Six Empty Words To Avoid In An Interview

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In this tight job market, getting an interview is a chance to let an employer know you’re the best person for the job. It’s all about communication skills at this point—how well you express yourself, word choices and your ability to persuade an employer to give you the job. 

One of the best tactics is to be specific when you describe your work experience, skills and accomplishments. An interview isn’t a friendly chat with your Facebook friends or texting on your status. There are some words that are so overworked in everyday conversation that they just don’t mean anything anymore and can be annoying to an interviewer who wants to get some real information. Here are six overworked, tired words to take out of your interview vocabulary.

  1. Amazing. Was your last job really amazing? Is your work experience amazing? How about your communications skills? What does amazing mean? Stupifying? Unreal beyond belief? If your last job was so “amazing,” why are you looking for another job? Is this one more “amazing?” Used once in the right context, the word isn’t bad. It can be maddening when used 25 times over the course of an hour interview to describe just about everything. After the first one, it doesn’t really have much effect except being annoying.
  2. Awesome. This word really doesn’t say much at all. It’s filler, overused and just sort of thrown out there. The Grand Canyon is awesome. A shuttle launch could be described as awesome. The Taj Mahal is definitely awesome. But few of us can describe ourselves or our abilities as awesome. Your skills may be exceptional or superior, but awesome? And pairing it with "Dude" doesn't make it better.
  3. Whatever. You may be tempted to use this word when answering a “…tell me about a time when…” questions. Used alone as a comment on a situation or as a response to someone comes across as lazy and rude. It conjures up the old “valley girl” stereotype of someone who is clueless and a little arrogant. Like the first two words, it really doesn’t convey any specific meaning. 
  4. Totally. The total of what? If you mean you agree, say that. It is used as an affirmation. Interviewer: “That project seems like it was very rewarding. You: "Totally!”  Or, intensity. You: “I was totally amazed at the awesome opportunity!” (Sorry, I couldn’t help myself.) You can see what happens when you string them all together. A lot of nothing!
  5. Great. This word is so overused and has lost its punch. It’s supposed to show a high level of something, but the word great is really lukewarm. With the wrong voice tone, it can be a negative. On a scale of one to 10, great is around five or six. Be specific and find some other descriptive adjectives that show proper intensity and relation to the situation.
  6. Freaking or Fricking. We all know what you really want to say, and using these substitutes don’t lessen the effect of the word they represent. They are still rude, inappropriate, borderline vulgar and don’t have a place in an interview. 

If your vocabulary is limited, buy a thesaurus or find an online version. Find specific words to describe your work experience, values, education and accomplishments without using any of the above words. Impress the interviewer with your command of the English language and yourself as someone who will be a professional and respected company representative.

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  • Tiffany B
    Tiffany B
    I have two interviews tomorrow. This is good to know. I will avoid the word Great as much as can. Didn't know the other words would even be use.
  • Judith Deane
    Judith Deane
    I think this was helpful but I would not use any of these words in a interview.
  • Matthew Coleman
    Matthew Coleman
    I have two interviews tomorrow. This is good to know. I will avoid the word Great as much as I can. I am surprised people would use Totally, Freaking or Amazing in an interview.
  • Mary Ellen Rizzo
    Mary Ellen Rizzo
    Its amazingly awesome if I were 25!  I am 51, seeking  employment in my profession as a Mammographer.Otherwise it is totally great for the right grouping of candidates.Email me back, or whatever, so I know you received this!(my sense of humor carries me)
  • Ronald R
    Ronald R
    Very good info....I have an interview today..will utilize this....wish me luck!!
  • Raymond D
    Raymond D
    Well identified words, to be cautious in not using the above words with an employer.A fair, honest, and transparent discussion to the point will certainly help to go closer to the interviewer mind in short listing the candidate.
  • Bernard S
    Bernard S
    Fortunately for me I am college educated with a Masters Degree and do not find any of these words necessary to use in an interview.  I am a professional and looking for a professional job, so if an interviewer is communicating to me from this slant, I would leave the office soon thereafter.   I do not find this article meaningful in any way to assist a professional in a job interview.  Probably great info. for West Coast Dudes, or high school graduates, or those less educated individuals to digest and be on guard about in their interview.  I would be interested in interviewing tips you recommend for professionals, unless of course, you do not have us in mind.  Thank You!
  • ANDREW c
    ANDREW c
    this seems to the full vocabulary of what i hear many 20 somethings say in the street and on the phone...what will they do?learn english would be a start
  • Tracy D
    Tracy D
    Dump the word like.  It is so annoying to hear people say "I was like happy...."  NO, NO, No!  If you're happy, then just say "I was happy".  Using LIKE many times in a sentence makes one sound like a valley girl or guy, and sounds very childish - and dumb.
  • Ada L
    Ada L
    Interesting that these six (6) words are considered overused.  The one word that is irritating and overused these past eight (8) or so years, is "NICEEEEEEEEE"!  I agree that we should steer clear of using Freaking/Fricking, Totally, and Whatever, but I don't think using the other words equals lack of education or earmarks the person as simpleton. Not one interviewee in the past three (3) years at the software firm that I managed, ever used any of the above words, in fact they misunderstood the suggestion to use the Thesaurus and did not sound natural or sincere.  Brush up on your elocution, but don't try too hard.  THAT alone will turn the interviewer off.
  • Jackqulin Buchanan
    Jackqulin Buchanan
    I think this information is very valuable.
  • Julia Luber
    Julia Luber
    I thought the words presented would beslightly more specific and professional to employment agenda: these words displayed are obviously 'too loose and generic' for any real meaning. But so perhaps are there buzzwords which one might 'think' sound professional but have ended up so overused that they end up with empty meanings:
  • Kedine Knight-Cheswick
    Kedine Knight-Cheswick
    Its in my opinion that great is an O.K. work to use if it is sentensed structured.Freaking or Fricking as far as i am conserned is a curse word or a mild curse word for the 4 letter F curse word. so using this word in an interview would be the end of an interview. I cant believe people really use these words to express themselves in an interview.!!!The other 4 words are considered slangs which  I would never dared use in an interview.
  •  Phyllis Morneau
    Phyllis Morneau
    I hate to reveal my age, but as a "mature" job seeker, I would never, ever think of using the words "Freaking or Fricking", "Awesome", "Totally" or "Whatever" during an interview.  It's sad to think you would have to write an article reminding serious jobseekers not to use these words during an interview especially "F or F.
  • jamie l
    jamie l
    I really would like some suggestions on how to become a better interviewee and I'm having slot of trouble with this cuz I freeze up and then loose my words. So can you please help me email me so tips on how to speak  in an interview. Thank you look forward to hearing from you.
  • Helen A
    Helen A
    I think that these are pretty obvious for most of us.  Young people, wow, I hope it helps you.  You might add, "Oh my Gosh" or the other version.  Also remind them not to chew gum and come in with lots of tattoos and nipple piercings. :)
  • Milton W
    Milton W
    I had begun to think that I was the only one seeing through the superficial verbiage that passes for effective communication these days. Good article! I hope all interviewers stand their ground for these standards.
  • ISTERAJ K
    ISTERAJ K
    AMAZING,GREAT,AWESOME,FREEKING are the words normally used by the people in countryside,not very social and having poor exposure.I myself had been using these words when I was studying in a secondary school of small village.Now,at this stage of having 34 years of experience as Engineer in an airline of repute,it seems very strange to think of my several years of schooling.Thanks for the guidance!  
  • Shirley G
    Shirley G
    First of all, I would NEVER use any of those words in an interview or a resume. Those are words my 15 year old grandaughter uses when talking with her friends.
  • Daniel M
    Daniel M
    I agree with the article. We all can get into bad habits when speaking especially with our friends. This can roll over into moments that can be embarrassing. I have found myself saying words like great, awesome, amazing when trying to describe an experience. Thanks for the tip. I'll be more careful. Now I'll have to google new words.
  • DeAnna S
    DeAnna S
    Are you kidding me?  I was shocked to see the 6 words to not use...  Call me old school, as that is what I apparently am.  These words seem to be the new generation of employees.  Heaven help us.  
  • Phillip B
    Phillip B
    Grow up people!! These words are used by kids not professionals. Unless you're a rock star, sports star or someone who wants to show someone they know nothing but these words!!!Why do we all have to dress, look and talk like kids or someone else? Be yourself!!!
  • John K
    John K
    Sir;    Very good information. I will try to apply the "9 words" information to my resume. I don't use the "six words" but it is good information to know.Thank you
  • Andrea C
    Andrea C
    Thanks - cracked me up! On what planet would anyone interviewing for a professional position think these words acceptable? Except "great" - nothing wrong with that one, as long as it's not overused.
  • Timothy E
    Timothy E
    The trick is keeping the job.  Chances are, if one applies temporary adjustments to mannerisms or vocabulary, the employment, too, will be temporary.  Apply to companies and/or environments that fit your work ethic and personality.  There are positions within companies where these words may not be considered a negative.  Always know your audience.

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