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5 Words to Avoid When Describing Yourself in an Interview

Can we have a word with you? You might find this helpful since word on the street is that there is a list of words that you can delete from your vocabulary the next time you find yourself in a job interview. And we have five of them right here, courtesy of an article by Massachusetts Institute of Technology career development specialist Lily Zhang.

One wrong word may derail your much-awaited interview. Here are a few better left unsaid:

1. Intelligent

It’s an adjective that can be filed under the category, “Words that you want people to say about you, but that you don’t want to say about yourself” (yes, even if you were the graduating batch’s top finisher or have the transcript to back it up).

Alternatives: Use words that describe the way a person thinks. Examples include “logical”, “quantitative”, “fast learner”, or “big-picture thinker.”

​2. Likable

(See previous explanation on the word “intelligent”). Imagine what you would answer – and the manner in which you would answer – if the interviewer asked, “Can you cite instances that you were likable?”

Alternatives: Use words such as “team player”, “outgoing”, “enthusiastic” or “caring” and back them up with examples. Give “action-oriented” answers.

​3. Successful

By using this word to describe yourself, will you be able to substantiate how successful you are? It’s similar to using “rich and good-looking” to describe one’s self. You may be successful in one aspect but you still can't use this word.

Alternatives: Zero in on an account of success on a more specific skill. Highlight your skills and capabilities relevant for the job, which is necessary to land the job.  You have the license to say that you’re good at what you do.

​4. Obsessive

If it’s your objective to look for a word that would capture how passionate you are, get a word that has no negative implication.

Alternatives: Use words like “focused”, “detail-oriented”, “hard working” or “dedicated”, which gives am idea of how you can be so dedicated on the task  at hand.

​5. Humble

“I am the most humble person out there” sounds a bit weird and contradictory. Don’t back yourself into a corner by using this as a description and trying to talk your way out of it.

Alternatives: If this is really something you want to get across in an interview, go with the “show, don’t tell” strategy: Discuss what you did, the succeeding result, and what others thought. Let your interviewer do the evaluating.

Even the great Buddha warned us about this 20 years ago when he said, “Whatever words we utter should be chosen with care for people will hear them and be influenced by them for good or ill.” Who knew that the Buddha was also an esteemed career counselor? Share below if you know of other words that should be included in the list as well.

On your interview, may you, dear applicant, be able to convince your prospective employer that you are the best person for the job by utilizing the right choice of words.

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