What Not to Say at Your Next Job Interview

Your job search may feel like a job in and of itself. The countless hours spent scrolling job listings, perfecting your resume, and drafting a cover letter prove it takes a good amount of effort just to secure an interview. Once you do make it to the interview, an employer’s final decision is dependent on what you say. Interviewers consider these few words “red flags”. These words aren’t doing you any favors! Avoid them at all costs and use my suggestions instead.

Perfectionist — translates to, “procrastinator”


Some people find expectations daunting and, thus, put off work. When beginning to write a report, they have trouble getting further than the first sentence and become paralyzed believing that the first draft must be flawless. According to Psychiatrist Dr. Elana Miller, MD, perfectionists may spend time on unimportant tasks and they can be sensitive to criticism.

Say this instead: detail-oriented

Multitasker — translation, “unfocused”

Current neuroscience research states that our brains are unable to focus on multiple tasks at once. In reality, we quickly switch between functions, keeping up the illusion of multitasking. This means people cannot respond to an email at the same time they are listening in a meeting – each of these tasks gets a few seconds of attention while the brain juggles duties. It may sound impressive but ultimately this results in lost productivity.

Candidates may brag that they can quickly move between tasks. Actually, this lack of focus is less efficient, often increases mistakes, and is ultimately exhausting. Perfectionists may exhibit a sense of urgency which is inhibiting, leading them to work harder, not smarter.

What to say instead: organized, able to function with competing deadlines

People-person — translates to “I don’t understand what this job entails”

Customer support, recruiting, human resources, and sales interview positions commonly use this word., “People-person” is a phrase without meaning, and often said by someone who doesn’t comprehend the job demands. Describe yourself so it conveys you understand the specific skills necessary for the job.

Say this instead: Collaborative, customer-focused, client-facing

Intelligent — translation, “I don’t have to try”

People who label themselves as intelligent generally pride themselves on quickly mastering tasks and being top among their peers.

Studies show self-labeling as “intelligent” begins at a young age. When constantly praised for their intelligence, children preferred easier tasks that quickly demonstrated their mastery and highlighted their competitive status among their peers. In contrast, when praised for their hard work, children sought out new challenges, adopted an internal sense of competition of beating their personal best.

The outlook follows us into the workplace, and employees who assert their intelligence as a strength also display a high competitive nature among their coworkers. They practice avoidance of unfamiliar tasks and exhibit poor reactions to failure.

Instead, say: analytical, big-picture thinker, fast learner