What Not to Say in an Interview

Erin Hovanec

An interview can be incredibly stressful: You often have only a few minutes to show an interviewer how capable, confident and intelligent you are.

And remember: The interviewer isn't just evaluating WHAT you say, but also HOW you say it. She's asking herself: Are you well-spoken? Do you sound polished and professional? Are your answers clear and concise?

If you've spent all of your time working on the content of your answers, you now need to focus on the delivery.

Read on for some interview "talking tips."

Skip the 'Filler'

When an interviewer asks a question, you may feel like you should fill the silence right away. Or, after you start speaking, perhaps you realize you're not sure what you want to say and need to stall.

That's when most people use "like," "ya know" and "ummm."

These words are common in many people's vocabularies. They're simply verbal filler that we've become accustomed to using. But they're not very professional.

Taking time to think about a question, rather than rushing to answer, can help eliminate the need to use filler.

Like any habit, this one will take time to break. So start practicing before you have an actual interview.

Don't Jargon Your Way Out of a Job

You say: "Our value proposition is to create synergy while leveraging our respective ROIs."

The interviewer thinks: "Huh?"

You don't need to use jargon to sound knowledgeable in an interview. First, don't assume the interviewer is familiar with the jargon.

Also, as many interviewers will tell you, people often use a lot of fancy jargon when they want to disguise the fact that they aren't completely confident in what they're saying.

So speak simply and coherently and your intelligence should speak for itself.

Why Slang Is 'Way Bad'

Here's the 411 on slang in interviews.

Never use slang in an interview. You should speak to an interviewer just as you would to a business colleague or even a boss. That means you must sound polished and professional.

Also, the interviewer (who may not be as cool as you are) may have no idea what you're saying when you use slang.

Last, never, EVER, use profanity in an interview. There's simply no place for it.

Don't Answer Before You've Been Asked

You want to make a good impression on an interviewer. You want to seem knowledgeable, confident and engaged. So when the interviewer starts to ask you a question, you jump on it, right?


First, it's rude to interrupt.

Second, you may incorrectly assume that you know what the interviewer was going to ask and answer the wrong question.

Third, you won't have time to think about your answer before you start speaking, which can lead to lots of mid-sentence "ummms" to stall for time.

When an interviewer asks a question, it's tempting to answer quickly, especially if you're nervous. Don't. Instead, wait for her to finish speaking, then take a deep breath and collect your thoughts. Then answer the question.

You'll appear calm, confident and polite. And, after taking a moment to think, you'll probably give a much better answer too.

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