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Answering questions in an interview can feel like walking a tightrope between vigorously selling yourself and trying not to come across as conceited.
Of course, you want the hiring manager to know that you’re qualified, hard working and have useful skills, but knowing the best way to do so is an important factor in whether or not you’ll be hired.
Fortunately, there are several powerful, appropriate words and phrases that will give you the best chance of leaving a good impression.
This is because often, even if employers want personalized answers, they will look out for certain buzzwords and phrases that they will either flag as a reason to hire you, or a reason to add you to the discard pile.
Given that, simply knowing what words will work in your favor is an easy way to improve your chances.
While there is a whole thesaurus of positive words out there for you to use in your interview, here are several that hiring managers look out for. These words will enhance your answers and allow you to avoid any red flags.
Communicate. Many jobs rely on teamwork, and even if they don’t, you’ll always have to relay information from one person to the next in the workplace. Therefore, it’s vital that you express your ability to communicate with others in your interview.
“At the time I communicated effectively with our supervisor and utilized online resources to help my sick co-worker continue to participate in our project, while also taking on workloads he couldn’t handle.”
Example. This word allows you to turn a general statement into a more personalized, specific one. Instead of stating that you have experience working with photoshop, you can use this word as a way to segway into a story of a time you utilized that skill. Doing so will allow the hiring manager to get to know you better, and give them concrete reasons to believe what you say.
“If I may, I would like to share an example of how my team and I raised sales. In 2017, we decided to create a new logo for our cheddar cheese packets, and the logo in question increased sales by 11%.”
Experience. Ultimately, the point of an example will be to outline your experience, so it’s important that you use that word in your interview. When possible, you should bring up your past duties or projects, or emphasize the length of time you’ve spent working relevant positions. Using the word “experience” will make you sound knowledgeable and qualified.
“I have over 7 years of experience in gardening, most of which coming from one landscaping company. I worked for many different clients during that time and learned several landscaping skills.”
Flexible. This word is an improvement over the word “adaptable”. Rather than simply indicating that you can handle change, the word flexible demonstrates that you are able to work with various people in many different environments. A potential employer will always want to know if you can handle changes in your team, projects, or deadlines.
“While working on a project for a client, the client approached us with a major budget change. As the project manager, I had to be flexible and come up with a solution that fit the client’s needs.”
Initiative. An important trait hiring managers look out for is your ability to perform and set positive examples without the need of supervision. Luckily, the word initiative is the perfect way to describe that ability.
“When I worked for Ted’s Groceries I often took the initiative even if my manager was busy elsewhere. For example, there were several times when I noticed a customer who may have needed assistance. Instead of waiting to see if that customer would approach me, I politely asked them if there was anything they needed help with.”
Leader. This word will express your ability to think independently without potentially alienating yourself as someone who doesn’t play nice with others. Afterall, leadership is a very valuable skill to have in the workplace, regardless of your position. However, make sure you’re careful with your statements, and indicate that you are just as good at following orders as you are leading.
“There were several instances where I assumed the role of a leader when working on group projects. My two other team members reported their progress to me weekly, and I appreciated how having a leadership role allowed me to understand the broader scope of a project.”
Motivated. Rather than focus on motivation in the context of a willingness to work, you should use the word to express passion for the job you’re interviewing for. The hiring manager already knows you’re motivated to work because you’re sitting in an interview, so talk about why you’re motivated.
“As someone who has worked with children for 10 years, and has a Masters in Early Childhood Development, I’m highly motivated to work for your company.”
Organized. This word will highlight your ability to keep a tidy and productive workspace, which is desired by employers. Additionally, “organized” suggests that there are multiple aspects of your life you manage well, meaning your potential employer is more likely to trust you with budgets and deadlines.
“When I worked for my previous company I was incredibly organized. I maintained a 0-tardiness record and consistently completed all of my projects not only to company standard, but also before their deadline.”
Reliable. Similarly to the word “organized” this word will allow you to show that you consistently meet company standards. Whether in the context of time, budget, conflict resolution, etc. talking about how you’re reliable will ensure that the employer knows they can trust you on the job.
“I was trusted with extra responsibilities on my previous team because my employer knew I was reliable. Often I was tasked in completing marketing projects, where I showed the company my dependability by meeting the deadlines and completing the jobs in line with their creative specifications.”
Research. When going into an interview, it’s important that you thoroughly research the company you’re applying for. Given that, it can be useful to talk about your understanding of the company, so the hiring manager knows you’re knowledgeable.
“After researching your organization I believe I’m a perfect fit, as I know I can contribute positively to your team’s culture. I have over 6 years of experimental education experience myself, and I’m passionate about the evaluation system you’ve implemented at your school.”
Resolve. Being able to resolve issues in the workplace, otherwise known as conflict resolution, is a powerful skill that employers look out for. With that in mind, it’s a good idea to use the word in your interview.
“My previous supervisor always trusted me to resolve issues regarding customers or co-workers. I always put effort into communicating and understanding everyone’s perspective, and came up with solutions that left everyone satisfied.”
Respect. After you research the company, you can describe specific aspects about the company’s products, practices, diversity or projects that you respect. Expressing your respect shows that you value the company and will work well with potential managers and supervisors.
“I have immense respect for the work you’re doing here. Producing quality, affordable food for customers in this town is really leaving a positive impact.”
Responsible. As with being able to take the initiative, your employer will want to know that you take responsibility for your actions, and can handle the pressure of the responsibilities required by your position. Therefore, this word serves to address both of those skills.
“At my previous position I was responsible for four other nurses on my team. My supervisor always trusted me with that responsibility, as I would come to him with reports, and he knew I managed my team well.”
Skills. Similarly to describing your experience, you should outline important skills you have for the job you’re interviewing for. Make sure that when you talk about this topic, that the skills you mention have relevancy, otherwise mentioning them won’t have nearly as positive of an effect.
“I think the most valuable skill I have is my affinity for language. I’m fluent in spanish and french, which I know are extremely important languages to know when answering customer calls.”
Teamwork. Most jobs will require you to work with others, and as a result, you always want to emphasize that you’re a team player. If you know that the job you’re interviewing for relies on teamwork, make sure to use this word.
“I prefer to work on a team, as I believe teamwork garners innovative and productive ideas. When I worked at Jerry’s restaurant I always knew I could rely on my fellow team members, and in turn, I did whatever I could to help them too. Together we decreased the average time customers waited for food by 24%.”
Critical Phrases you Should Say In An Interview
In addition to powerful words, there are also several phrases that will up your interview game. The hiring manager will look out for these, so you should try to weave them into your answers and examples.
“I’m pleased to meet you.” When you meet with the hiring manager, you’ll want to initiate the conversation with a positive greeting. “I’m pleased to meet you” is an easy to remember, and polite way to initiate the conversation.
“I look forward to…” This allows you to frame your statements positively and confidently. For example, saying something like “I look forward to meeting a new team and working on projects with them.”, is a good way to present your interest.
“I have experience with…” Showing that you have experience is a crucial factor in whether or not you’ll be hired. That being said, you should make sure any experience you share is listed as a requirement for this new position. For example, you can mention that you have experience working with electronic cash registers if that was mentioned in the job description.
“If I may, I would like to share an example…” As mentioned previously, there should be instances in your interview where you will segway into personal examples. This phrase will allow you to do so politely and effectively.
“After researching your organization…” Going into an interview with knowledge of the company or organization is important, so you should mention the research you’ve done. This phrase allows you to say something like “After researching your organization I believe I’m a perfect fit, as I have experience assembling car parts.”
“I have the ability to…” This phrase can be useful when you’re talking about your skills. For example, if you say “I have the ability to manage over 40 species of wildlife”, you’re outlining specific reasons why your potential employer should hire you.
“I prefer working on a team because…” Many jobs rely on teamwork, so you should present yourself as a team player. Talk about reasons why you think teamwork is invaluable, so the hiring manager knows you’d be a good addition. For example, “I prefer to work on a team, as I believe teamwork garners innovative and productive ideas.”
“I would love to work here because…” At the beginning or near the end of your interview it can be worthwhile to state why you think you’re a good fit for the position. This will let the hiring manager know that you have passion for the position you’re interviewing for.
“I’m always looking to build my skills, as recently…” It’s always good to connect your experience to relevant skills you have, and this phrase ties those two things together. Saying something like “I’m always looking to build my skills, as recently I participated in a forensics internship where I learned standard fingerprinting techniques.”, will let your potential employer know that you’re qualified for the job.
“Thanks again for taking the time to meet with me today.” When the interview is over, it’s always good to thank the hiring manager for your time. This will allow you to not only leave on a positive note, but also express your gratitude.
Other Word Choice Tips
Utilizing powerful words and phrases will allow you to nail your interview, but just so you’re ready, here are some other important tips to keep in mind:
Avoid describing yourself with words like, independent, intelligent, obsessive, likeable, generous, humble, straightforward, adaptable or successful. At best, these words state the obvious, and at worst, they’ll make you come across as conceited.
Manage your tone. Of course you want to sound passionate and avoid monotone, however, you should be careful not to overdue your excitement.
Do not use informal speech. Words like y’know, yeah, kinda etc. will not win you points with the hiring manager.
Never interrupt the person interviewing you or allow an interruption such as a phone call. Saying something like “Can you hang on a sec while I take this?” is a huge red flag.
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