Words and Phrases to Avoid in Interviews

Do you know what's worse than finding out you've been mispronouncing a word your whole life? Mispronouncing the word in an interview.

I am not someone who believes in "magic words" when interviewing — that you just need to sprinkle the right buzzwords into your resume and stay away from overused clichés when interviewing and you're good to go. But there are some situations in which you need to be careful about what you say. Here's what I mean:

  • Not sure how to pronounce a word? Don't use it in an interview. Talk around it. If it's a word that's directly related to the job and you're sure it will come up, check the pronunciation ahead of time (Merriam-Webster has pronunciation audio on their definitions) or wait until someone else uses the word first if at all possible. 
  • Know how to say the company's name. This might sound obvious, but one slip-up is an easy way for them to rule you out. Search the Internet for commercials or interviews with employees to make sure you're saying it correctly. Bonus tip: Pronounce Names is a great resource if you're meeting a person whose name is unfamiliar to you.
  • Be cautious when using idioms, analogies, and metaphors. If you're not into sports and you try to use a sports analogy, you risk distracting the interviewer with your misunderstandings of the sport and not getting across the point you want to make. Ditto if you use an idiom without fully grasping what it means.
  • Familiarize yourself with commonly misused phrases. These include "all intensive purposes" (rather than "all intents and purposes"), "doggy-dog world" (for "dog-eat-dog world"), and "mute point" (instead of "moot point"). Here are some others.
  • Avoid culturally charged or potentially offensive sayings. You might not know that some common phrases are considered racist. It doesn't matter whether you agree that they're offensive; you don't want to risk an interviewer thinking you have zero cultural sensitivity. Erase them from your vocabulary.

What are some other words and phrases to use with caution or not at all?