I’ve talked to hundreds of job seekers and employees on how to get hired or navigate their career to get promoted. Assuming everyone wants to position themselves in the most professional way, I can only conclude the reason for some to kill their chances of success is a lack of understanding on how three little words can be received.
Avoid these three little words:
Never is often used in a negative context. Have you heard “you are never on time [for a meeting, or with a completed project]?” and your recollection of the term probably triggers a memory of a poor work experience or a poor leader. From another perspective, if you respond to a question with never, I’d question if that could be accurate. Never means never. So you never have been late with a project deadline? If used throughout the interview, the recruiter could question your work style, pattern and motivation.
Always is another word that is often overused. Both never and always are hyperboles, meaning they are an exaggeration. Just as with never, you better make sure that you can honestly answer always to a question. So you are always punctual with assignments and always receive customer kudos? While confidence is important, both these words can convey overconfidence. Remember that the recruiter is carefully listening to not only the words you use but listening between the lines to understand you better. Overconfidence can be a sign of dominance and inflexibility.
They is my personal favorite (not!). This word is usually used in the context, as “I or We vs. They or Them." You know; you have heard it. I learned an invaluable lesson years ago when helping a CEO with a merger in the healthcare industry. He chastised me for my innocent habit of referring to the soon to be co-hospital employees as “they.” As the HR Director and responsible for merging the culture of two distinct organizations, it was critical that I was inclusive of all employees. I immediately referred everyone as to “we and us” and what a difference. That tiny change sent a message of esprit de corps; we were all one team! Now, when I hear an employee in a retail setting, for example, complain about management as “they,” it’s like fingernails on a chalkboard.
They, a seemingly innocent word, depicts a lack of community and respect. This is especially crucial when interviewing. If, for example, you respond to a recruiter’s question such as “Tell me about a time when you disagreed with a change you had to implement” and you constantly refer to management as “they," you are not demonstrating a positive or cooperative attitude. We all want to work with those who are part of the team and, despite not agreeing with decisions, carry them out.
I’ve always (oops—see how easy it is to forget?) been a lover of words and their power. I hope this article will help you be more aware of the words you use and, therefore, more successful in a job search or promotional pursuit.