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15 Words You Should Never Use In A Job Interview.

15 Words You Should Never Use In A Job Interview.

Receiving an invitation for a job interview can be an exciting time – especially after you’ve been job-searching for a while.

Unfortunately, it’s all too easy to kill off all your chances of getting a job by saying just a few wrong words during your job interview.

To make sure your job interview leads to the next round or a job offer, here’s a list of words which you should aim to avoid.

Um..

The biggest problem with this word is that you’re probably unaware of how much you use it.

If you listened to a recording of yourself, you’d probably be surprised (and probably horrified) at the amount of “umming” you do.

Unfortunately, this makes you look less polished during a job interview.

One of the best ways to remove this filler from your vocabulary is to let your friends and family know that you want their help and they can profit from it. Tell them that you’ll pay a dollar to every person who catches you using it.

Kinda.

Not only does this word make you sound like a teenager, it also introduces vagueness into your answers.

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To make sure you come across confident and mature, replace “kinda” with clear “yes” or “no”. Follow your answer with a clear reason why you’ve taken that position.

Hate.

Nobody likes a hater. When a hiring manager or recruiter hears you say that word, they hear “high risk candidate”.

Avoid aiming this word at anyone or anything during your job interview. This includes “pet hates”, as well as feelings towards companies, ex-colleagues and – especially – bosses you’ve had.

Any Curse Word

Even if you think the company culture might find such words acceptable, don’t risk it at the interview stage.

You’re risking coming across as unprofessional and crass. ‘Nuff said.

Perfectionist

This is the most popular among overused, meaningless cliches.

There was a time when “I’m a perfectionist” was a clever way to get out of a question about your weaknesses. These days, any interviewer worth their salt will see through this ploy and cringe on the inside at your answer (and maybe on the outside, as well).

Basically

It’s tempting to use this word as a prelude to your achievements. For example, “Basically, I was responsible for flying the capsule to the Moon and back.”

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Unfortunately, doing this also diminishes you. So, unless you’re Buzz Aldrin, skip it and launch straight into your answer.

I

In today’s culture-centric employment world, you’re only as good as your ability to work as part of a team.

While competitiveness is a great trait to demonstrate, overusing sentences like “I was the top salesperson in my company” can give off the impression that you’ll take it too far, pushing your colleagues down and aside in order to get to the top.

By all means, brandish your achievements, but let your interviewer know what that meant for the team and/or the company. For example, “I was the top salesperson in my last role during 2013, which meant I was able to exceed my targets by $1.2 million during that year.”

Sure

It’s tempting to use this word to communicate “it’s almost a yes.”

However, doing this also chips away at your ability to appear confident. Just as with “Kinda” above, it’s best to remove any ambiguity about where you stand.

Use a firm “yes” or “no” instead, expanding on your position if necessary by providing reasons and examples.

Amazing

This is a word which is often used as a filler to convey positivity. The hiring manager might say, for example, “We just spent $20 million on a brand new office fit-out.”

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Instead of blurting out “Amazing!” to validate that choice, take a moment to think about the reasons behind such a move and provide analysis which the interviewer would find relevant. For example: “That must have done wonders for employee satisfaction.”

Whatever

“Whatever” is usually used to communicate that you’ve given up. It shows that you lost power and withdrew from the issue, instead of achieving an outcome which you found satisfactory.

It also makes you sound immature and dismissive – using it will communicate to the interviewer that you’re trouble.

Stuff

Not only is this word overly casual in tone, it introduces ambiguity into your answers.

It can be tempting end your answer with it when you’re struggling to add detail – for example, “You now – stuff like that.” Doing sufficient research and practicing your answers will reduce that desire. Your interviewer doesn’t, in fact, know – they want to hear it from you in detail.

Dedicated

In today’s job market, everyone is dedicated. It’s no longer a differentiating feature.

It’s also a hollow, overused cliche which shows that you probably copied your answers from the Internet, rather than preparing sufficiently for the interview by thinking about the role and your career.

Demonstrate to your interviewer that you’re dedicated by talking about your achievements

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Motivated

This also includes synonymous buzz-words like “self-starter” and “enthusiastic.”

You might think that you’re telling your interviewer that you don’t need a babysitter, but all they’re thinking at that moment is “Thanks for the obvious. You’re wasting my time.” You might as well tell them that you have a pulse.

Learn

Don’t ever tell your interviewer that you’re applying for a job to “learn.”

It’s true that you’re expected to learn, but the primary motivation for applying should be your your ability to contribute something to the company that no-one else can.

Fired

You want to avoid this word at all costs. It can contextualize you in the interviewer’s mind as a troublemaker, and once that context is set, everything positive about you will be diminished and everything negative will be amplified.

Having been fired doesn’t automatically put you into the “no” pile. However, not being able to talk about it diplomatically will.

If you were fired due to under-performance, use the words “let go” instead. Explain how you used the experience to become a better employee. “I’m glad it happened because I needed to become a better marketer. In my next role I created a direct response campaign which exceeded the targets by 20%.”

Featured photo credit: Alejandro Escamilla via unsplash.com

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Last Updated on June 2, 2020

How to Write an Impressive Cover Letter (With Examples)

How to Write an Impressive Cover Letter (With Examples)

Think of your cover letter for a job application as an in-person introduction. Your resume outlines the facts—where you worked and for how long, along with your major accomplishments. But your cover letter also shows off your personality.

Your cover letter should outline the case for why you deserve the job without being “salesy.” How do you do that? Follow these 12 important guidelines.

1. There Is No Cookie-Cutter Cover Letter for a Job

Targeting your resume to a particular job may mean changing up your “Objective” section a bit or adding to your “Executive Summary” section. Cover letters, though, really need to focus on the particular person you’re writing to, the particular job, and the particular company. It needs to prove, with an economy of words, that your job experience fits the requirements of the position for which you’re applying.

Your letter should show that you have amassed the skills you need to succeed in that workplace. And, your cover letter should clinch your prospects by making the case that you are very excited about working at that particular company.

2. Always Opt-in to the Optional Cover Letter

Some job postings will give applicants the option of opting out of providing a cover letter for a job[1]. Don’t take the bait! Use the opportunity to further sell yourself in a personalized, well-crafted cover letter that creatively shares who you are and why your skills and personality align with the position and the company. Think of your cover letter for a job as an opportunity to describe your value proposition.

3. A Reference Goes a Long Way

Did someone recommend you for the job? Put that in the subject line of your cover letter if possible. If an online listing dictates what your subject line must be, cite the personal recommendation in the first sentence of your letter:

Dear Ms. Sanders,

Steve Smith recommended me for your Assistant Planner position. I worked with Steve at the XYZ company for four years as his assistant until he moved on, and I feel as though I learned from the best.  His high praise for you is the primary reason I am applying for this position, as I consider him an excellent judge of character. 

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You may want to bolster Steve’s recommendation with a short anecdote about working with Steve. Don’t be shy. Steve’s high opinion of you will likely mean that your resume gets a serious look.

4. Outline the Key Points You Want to Make

Company by company, your cover letter for a job application needs to be specific and bulletproof. Unless you have a great deal of practice in writing cover letters, it’s hard to just bang them out. So don’t even try. Instead, start with a list of points you intend to make. Generally, these would be a “grabby” introduction, a story or two about a particular accomplishment that is relevant to the job to which you are applying, a reason why you are the ideal candidate for the position, and a conclusion with a suggested next step.

  1. Intro – Have been familiar with the company since my father worked there in the 1980s.
  2. College Major – Majored in industrial engineering so I could get a job at CYY Building, Inc.
  3. Captain of Soccer Team – Prepared me to solve problems, promote morale, and coach a team.
  4. Ask for Informational Interview – 15 minutes to meet in person and learn more about opportunities.
  5. Compelling Close – Ask Hiring Manager to call me. Say I will call her in a week if I don’t hear from her first.

5. Moderating the Tone of Your Cover Letter

Some companies are buttoned-up. The workers wear three-piece suits to the office each day plus loafers. Other companies are more casual. The employees wear shorts in the summertime and skateboard through the hallways. In an in-person interview, you would never wear shorts to a company whose employees are sporting three-piece suits.

Similarly, your cover letter needs to strike the right note. The letter you write to a start-up should sound markedly different than the letter you would write to a white-shoe law firm.

For example, even using something as informal as “Greetings” for the salutation may not be appropriate at a more formal firm. And definitely don’t use the default “To Whom It May Concern.” Instead, try to find the name of the hiring manager with an online search. If that’s not possible, you will want to begin with “Dear XYZ Hiring Manager.” The tone of your cover letter for a job starts at the very beginning.

6. Create an Attention-Grabbing Opening Line

Think of going to hear a presentation by a motivational speaker, only to have her open with, “I’m here today to present (fill in with title of the presentation).” What a let down! What if instead, she started with, “I just ran a half marathon. Now doesn’t that sound better than if I told you, ‘I tried to run a marathon but quit half-way through?’” See the difference? You want to hear more.

Craft the first line of your cover letter with the utmost care. It doesn’t need to be clever, but it needs to show your personality and your fit for the position.

Dear Mr. Stevens,

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I am committed to making the customer service experience better for people like my grandmother. At 87 years old, my Gram is lost in the digital world and reliant on customer service representatives she can reach by telephone to answer her questions and solve her problems. She regularly shares stories of frustrating dead-ends she experiences with people wanting her to “go online and make your selection.”  Yet, whenever she reaches someone willing to take the extra time to resolve her issue, she sings the company’s praises to everyone she knows. Based on Gram’s frustrations, I want to be that person who won’t give up or pass the buck with bewildered customers.  

With a strong, anecdotal opening such as this, you show purpose and passion behind your application to be a customer service representative.

7. Recognize the Value of Cover Letter Real Estate

Spare writing is key in the cover letter for a job. It is always best if your letter doesn’t exceed a page. Those reviewing applications appreciate a letter that is terse, yet provides useful information to evaluate an applicant. This means you have five to six paragraphs in which to work.

Repeating anything from your resume is a waste of real estate. Think in terms of describing why you are applying for the position and why you are the best candidate.

To best show your personality, avoid stale phrases such as, “I believe my experience would be a good fit in your organization.” Add punch to your statements that show off your accomplishments and your attitude.

I thrive in start-up environments where I’ve learned to expect the unexpected and to make changes on the fly. In one such instance, I uncovered better results from a pilot project and in under 30 minutes had updated the CEO’s presentation in time for his meeting with a venture capitalist.

8. Getting Creative

On the surface, a requirement is a requirement. Many online ads specify the number of years, and you might think they are ironclad. But if you count the number of years you amassed a particular skill at the job and add any volunteer work where you also used that skill, you might surpass the requirement.

Say that you are applying for a position in fund development. If your career experience in putting on charity fundraisers falls a little short, it’s certainly appropriate to add in time spent organizing fundraising events as a volunteer—as long as you indicate it as such in your cover letter for the job.

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I recently passed my two and a half year mark of employment as a fund development associate with Notable Events. Concurrently, I oversaw all aspects of two annual fundraising galas as a volunteer board member of Reach for the Stars Foundation, offering scholarships to first-generation college-bound students. These involved finding sponsors for more than 70 silent auction items, renting event space, working with caterers, recruiting volunteers and MC-ing both events, which each drew more than 200 attendees and, together, raised more than $250,000. I believe this intensive hands-on experience helps supplement my years of employment.

Showcasing your community ethos through volunteering could make up for the deficit in actual on-the-job experience.

9. Making the Case that You Fit

How will you fit in at the company? With some research, you can easily figure out the corporate culture of an organization. Many companies share their core values in job recruitment ads. But even if you can’t discern a company’s mission or beliefs from its advertising, you can learn it from articles you read about the company.

Is it employer-centric or employee-centric? Is the culture more traditional or more fun? And what are you looking for? When you find a company where your needs align with theirs, that’s an indication that you would fit in well. Take care to make sure that your cover letter reflects how you fit.

If you are a recent military veteran[2], consider which civilian positions lend themselves to the regimented culture of which you’ve become accustomed. For example, your occupational specialty while in the military could dovetail well with a company’s job requirements—and you have the added benefit of discipline, following instructions, and teamwork that you can apply to any future position.

10. Always Ask for What You’re Worth

If the employer asks applicants to share their salary requirements in the cover letter for a job, disregard what you made in your former position and look into the salary ranges[3] of the advertised position. You will want to adjust up or down within the salary range depending on your prior experience in the industry or in a similar role.

The key is to not undercut yourself by asking below the minimum amount, or to overinflate your worth by asking for an amount higher than the maximum pay in the salary range.

11. Show Your Cover Letter to Three People Whose Opinion You Trust

Once your letter is out in the world, it’s too late to tweak it for that particular job. You will dramatically improve your chances of having your cover letter “land” correctly if you’re proactive. Find a few people in the field, and ask them if you can show them your cover letter before you send it out.

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If you are starting out and don’t know anyone in the field, you may want to consider paying for a professional career consultant or coach to review your cover letter and resume. Remember that the care you demonstrate in your cover letter is that employer’s first impression of you.

12. End With Enthusiasm

You want to stay upbeat all the way to the end of the letter. Let the reviewer know that you appreciate the opportunity to apply and that you look forward to hearing from (or having a chance to meet with) them in person.

It would be an honor to be part of your team, and I hope to have an opportunity to discuss this role and how I could contribute to it in person.

This acknowledges that the organization gets to make the next move, but that you anticipate it will be in your favor.

Sign off formally (“Sincerely” or “Best regards”) or informally (“Best” or “Thank you”) depending on the tone of the letter. Also, be sure to include your email address and phone number under your name. This ensures that, should the reviewer wish to contact you, the contact information is easily accessible.

Final Thoughts

The best cover letters for a job are lively, authentic, and provide a memorable result, anecdote or example of your approach to work. By tying your approach to the requirements of the job description and revealing your personality as a fit for the organization, you will give yourself a winning chance for making the cut and landing that coveted job interview.

More Tips on Writing a Great Cover Letter

Featured photo credit: Glenn Carstens-Peters via unsplash.com

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