Things Not to Say in a Job Interview: Those Pesky Buzzwords

September 27, 2011; Source: Chronicle of Higher Education | A few weeks ago, NPQ published an article about what not to say in a cover letter or resume. Now, in a blog for the Chronicle of Higher Education, Allison Vaillancourt says that she is often asked to sit in on interviews with candidates for jobs at both nonprofits and for-profits and that this has made her very sensitive about buzzwords—and not in a good way. We give you a taste of her pungent remarks here:

I cannot stand the phrase win-win. When a recent interviewee used that phrase and “synergy,” “best of breed,” “new normal,” “next generation,” and “game changer,” all within his introductory remarks, I wanted to interrupt with, “Sir, we will be together for another 50 minutes or so. Could we ask you to talk like a real person for the remainder of the hour?” When the candidate concluded his interview by stressing that he was a “people-oriented team player” [it was] a relief because all the slots for cut-throat introverts had already been taken.

Vaillancourt says that her hatred for buzzwords has led her into bad behavior at times. “I invented a game called First to Five that I played with some fellow members of a board on which I served,” she wrote, continuing,

We would choose the buzzword of the day and the first person to hear it five times had to cough and then straighten papers. Juvenile? Certainly. Great fun? Absolutely. The words and phrases differed each time we got together. Once we chose “value-added.” Another month it was “drill down.” When reorganization was on the agenda, we decided to listen for both “low-hanging fruit” and “changing the tires while the car is still moving.”

While we would hate to make the job-hunting process any more scary and tension-filled than it already is for the job seeker, we did want to give a “heads up” that an overdependence on oft-repeated phrases might hurt one’s employment prospects.—Ruth McCambridge