I believe that in certain stressful situations, our language reverts to a set of stock phrases that have carried us through life. If these patterns of our language tend towards pessimism and self-deprecation, it can cause issues. Particularly during a job search.
During an interview, we know that we should choose our words carefully, but there are other distractions. We are so hyper aware of our body language and facial expressions, that we risk losing focus on what comes out of our mouths. We are so intent on listening to the question that we don’t always take the time to properly formulate the answer.
If we have a habit of slipping into patterns of negative language, it can have a genuinely detrimental effect on how we are perceived.
I would like to share seven words, which (while you don’t want to sound hopelessly positive) should be carefully rationed during an interview:
Sorry. When you need to shine, why would you choose a word that diminishes your thoughts and actions. If you want to come across as intentional and deliberate in how you go about things, sorry should not be in your vocabulary. I know that us Brits love to use it as a tool to ingratiate ourselves to others, but this pseudo politeness is often misplaced.
Never. Showcasing yourself as a balanced and rounded professional is harder if you are interspersing your thoughts with extreme language, positive or negative. Using the word never in a professional context is relevant in certain situations, but it is safest to avoid if at all possible. It conjures up the image of an inflexible approach and a closed mind.
Hate. Negative language is one thing, but negative emotional language is even worse. While emotions do play a part in an interview, any sort of negative emotional language should be used very sparingly as it can easily stick in an interviewer’s mind and be remembered out of context. You may have hated the commute, but what else might you also hate or despise?
Shit. Don’t swear. It is the ultimate indication of disrespect to your listener. Shit, you can’t be bothered to find suitable words to express your emotions, so you resort to lazy (and often offensive) swear words. They will think that you can’t communicate, that you are totally unprofessional, and that they want you to leave the interview room right now.
Honestly. Why would you ever need to say that? Is much of what you say so dishonest that you need to preface certain sentences with the word? Together with actually and genuinely, these “framing” words only serve to make the listener think what lies behind your other words. It is the sort of word a politician might use, and not a very good one.
Mistake. Interviews should not be centred around your mistakes or your weaknesses. No one is perfect, but your future employer will hire you based on what you are good at and what you can contribute, rather than what you can’t. You might want to discuss a mistake in the context of what you learned from it, but try to avoid the word itself.
Nervous. This type of language is interesting. It is tempting to describe your feelings to an interviewer as they have never met you before and you want to give them a window on your world, but when you talk about nervousness you automatically make them feel uncomfortable. No one wants to make someone else feel nervous.
Artificially changing how we speak for an interview is a tall order, so maybe we could all try to say these words a little less frequently in everyday life? What do they really add to conversations, in any case? What do other people think of us if we say these words a lot? Do they reflect our inner world, or are we simply intentionally diminishing ourselves to make others feel better?
Avoid these words. Talk yourself up at interview. You know that you are worth it, and your interviewer will know it too.