10 Words You Should Never Use in a Job Interview According to HR

Job interviews can be pretty nerve-wracking. You want to make a great impression and show why you’re perfect for the job. But sometimes, the words we use can hurt our chances without us even realizing it.

I asked a few friends who are used to hiring people and inquired about words that raise red flags for them. Here are 10 words you should definitely leave out when you’re trying to land that dream job!


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A seasoned HR manager shared, “I once had a candidate say, ‘I hate working with difficult people.’ It immediately raised red flags.” Using “hate” in an interview can make you seem negative or hard to work with. Instead, try focusing on what you enjoy or how you handle challenges positively.


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Using “obviously” can make you sound overconfident or dismissive of others. It’s better to explain your qualifications clearly without assuming they’re apparent to everyone.


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A corporate recruiter mentioned, “Excessive use of ‘um’ can make candidates seem unprepared or nervous.” While it’s normal to use filler words sometimes, too many can distract from your message. Practice your responses to common interview questions to reduce “ums” and sound more confident.


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“I interviewed someone who used ‘like’ in almost every sentence. It made them sound very young and unprofessional,” said a hiring manager. Overusing “like” as a filler word can make you seem immature or inarticulate. Try to speak more deliberately and choose your words carefully.


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Using “whatever” can make you appear indifferent or unmotivated and lacks of interest. Always show enthusiasm and have specific preferences or ideas to discuss.


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“Candidates who start every answer with ‘basically’ often oversimplify complex topics,” noted a tech industry recruiter. While it’s good to be concise, using “basically” too much might suggest you’re glossing over important details. Try to give thorough, thoughtful answers without this qualifier.


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A non-profit hiring specialist recalled, “When asked if they had experience with fundraising, the candidate just said ‘No.’ It was a missed opportunity.” Even if you lack direct experience, avoid a flat “no.” Instead, discuss related skills or your eagerness to learn.


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Hearing a candidate say they were ‘fired‘ from their last job would immediately raise concerns. While honesty is important, using softer terms like “let go” or “parted ways” can be less jarring. Focus on what you learned from the experience and how you’ve grown.


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An experienced interviewer said, “Claims like ‘I always meet deadlines’ are hard to believe. Nobody’s perfect.” Using absolutes like “always” or “never” can seem unrealistic or dishonest. It’s better to give specific examples of your reliability without overstating.


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“Starting answers with ‘Actually…’ can come across as if you’re correcting the interviewer,” warned a corporate HR manager. This word might make you sound confrontational or know-it-all. Try to phrase your responses in a more collaborative, positive way.

Words matter in job interviews

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Remember, the goal in an interview is not just to avoid saying the wrong thing, but to say the right things in the right way. It’s about showing that you’re qualified, enthusiastic, and would be a great addition to the team. So next time you’re getting ready for a job interview, take some time to think about the words you use.

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Victoria Omololu

Victoria Omololu is a fashionista exploring the world on a budget. She co-founded Only Earthlings in 2023 to show her travels in North America, Europe, Africa, and everywhere else. Victoria loves writing about travel tips, itineraries, packing guides, and taking photography from all over the world.

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