A job interview shouldn’t come down to the words you use—you think. But slipping in a buzzword or 10 during the interview process can be key. As career coach Hallie Crawford explains, “in a job interview, hiring managers are alert to certain words and phrases that convey knowledge of the position, confidence, and that a person would be a good fit for the company.” And without them, you could be looked over.
So what are those words you should always use? Here, our experts say, are 12.
Buzzword #1. We. “We” isn’t a buzzword per se, but it’s imperative to drop once—if not a dozen times—during an interview. Why? “Using the word ‘we’ shows that you are already thinking you are part of the team and explaining how you will collectively gain more sales, reach more clients, and more,” explains millennial career expert Jill Jacinto.
Buzzword #2. Flexible. As in, you are flexible—and not in a yoga junkie kind of way. Crawford says that being flexible—whether with your time or your responsibilities—will show a hiring manager that you’d be easy to work with. “Of course, you don’t want to lie if there are some issues you wouldn’t negotiate on,” Crawford advises, “but stressing your flexibility shows the hiring manager that you’d [be a fit in the team].”
Buzzword #3 Leader. You can and should be a leader—even if you’re not applying for a boss’ position. “Every interviewer wants to hear about a time a candidate took charge and owned a project or led a team,” Jacinto says. “No matter what job you are applying for, this skill—and this buzzword—need to be expressed.” How to fit it in, you ask, without sounding like bragging? Something like, “I’ve enjoyed leading a team of …” will do the trick, or try out, “I’ve been a leader in many ways. For example …”
Buzzword #4. Plan. You don’t want to have so much figured out you can’t hear what the hiring manager has to say. But you’ll become a much more attractive candidate if you are able to say that you have a basic plan prepared for the position. “After researching the company and position, prepare a basic 30, 60, and 90-day plan for if you were to be hired,” says Crawford, with actionable steps you could take in those time frames. “This will show the employer what you are made of and how you would operate.”
Buzzword #5. Initiative. According to Jacinto, “Every single hiring manager is looking for a self-starter—no matter what a job description might say.” Why is that? Because, Jacinto explains, “this is the strongest skill anyone can bring to the table.” So here’s how to show off this skill in an interview: “Explain how you took the initiative on certain projects,” Jacinto advises. “It’s essential to winning this crowd of people over.”
Buzzword #6. Opportunity. As in, you would love the opportunity to work for this company. “If you really want the position, let the hiring manager know,” instructs Crawford. Of course, you can show you’re excited about the job opening in other ways—through gestures, body language, and facial expressions—but at the end of the interview, you should actually say how you’re feeling. “Wait until toward the end—once you have all the details about the job and you are really sure you want the position,” Crawford says. And, “make sure that you can elaborate on details as to why you want the job.”
Buzzword #7. Measurable results. It’s all well and good to say that you were, for example, a successful salesperson. But you should be able to prove your superstar skills with numbers or other measurable results. “The hiring manager wants to hear what you accomplished, and numbers certainly help tell that story,” says Jacinto. And it’s not enough to say you accomplished a lot. “Make sure to describe your responsibilities but always include how you measured the results and what they were,” she says.
Buzzword #8. Success. Of course, you should talk about your own successes. But you should also ask what kind of employee will enjoy success in the role for which you’re applying, says Crawford. “Preparing a few well-thought-out questions for the manager shows him or her that you also want to make sure that the job would be a good fit for you,” Crawford says, “and you’re interested in the company and engaged in the process.”
Buzzword #9. Mission statement. Most companies have a mission statement. So read up on the company’s mission statement before your interview and pay attention to what you see, instructs Jacinto. You can bring up the mission statement directly, showing that you have done your research, or pull key words from the description to drop into the interview conversation. “You’ll start to see words and phrases like ‘team’ or ‘innovate’ that you should make a note to include,” Jacinto explains, adding that “companies spend hours designing these statements and frequently refer to them.”
Buzzword #10. Like. You want this position—and to work for this company—because you like it. So don’t be afraid to admit you have a crush, encourages Crawford. For example, you might want to gush that you “really like XYZ” about the company, she says. And if you need some inspiration to get the gush-fest started, “read about the company online in articles,” Crawford advises. “Learn about their values, mission, and any recent big news, so you know not just about the position but about the company as well. Bring these items up during the interview to show you’re knowledgeable.”
Buzzword #11. Story. Everyone likes a good story, including your prospective employer. So wow him or her by saying, “let me highlight this strength with a story,” Crawford advises. “Make sure you can explain your strengths clearly and have several stories with a good outcome that illustrates your strength,” Crawford suggests. “Prepare stories about challenges you have faced and overcome, problems you’ve solved, and clients you have made happy with your work.” And keep ’em quick. “Short stories highlight why you can do their job and go further than just telling them,” Crawford says.
Buzzword #12. Thank you. The essential words you have to say in any interview? Thank you. “You always want to leave the interview on a positive note,” explains Crawford, “and showing your appreciation is a great way to do so.” So say thank you, and “try to articulate a couple things you appreciated about the manager during the interview.”