10 Powerful Words to Use in Your Next Interview

Words matter – especially in a job interview. Did you know using specific keywords will help you to stand out from the competition?  We’re not talking about personality traits or self-descriptors like “ambitious” and “committed”. We’re talking about truly powerful words that will distinguish you from the rest of the pack and earn you that next great opportunity.  Here are ten examples and what they say about you:

  1. Influence:  You’re a leader with clout and the ability to sway others. You’re not a dictator, but instead provide guidance and guardrails for your teams.
  2. I can… or I will…:  You’ve thought about what you can contribute to the organization and have a plan for how to share your talents and insights. It speaks to your conviction and your confidence.
  3. Achieve:  You’ve seen success and are able to describe your activity in terms of goals set and results achieved. Detail the positive impact of your work.
  4. Measurable:  Concrete facts always outweigh abstract generalities.  The more specific you are, the more credible you will seem. This one is more of a concept than a “word to use”.
  5. Adapt:  You don’t shy away from change. You’re open to new ideas and new ways of managing your business. It can also mean you’re willing and able to adjust your management style to meet the needs of others around you.
  6. Initiative / Initiate:  You’re self-motivated, confident and ready to get to work. You’re a leader who creates a strategy and executes on that strategy.
  7. Partner:  You’re capable of not just collaborating, but truly connecting with your fellow stakeholders. You believe in the mission and will work to get buy-in at the organizational level.
  8. Mentor:  You’re someone who takes an interest in developing and shaping rising talent. It’s a priority for you, even with the “normal” rigors of your role.
  9. Optimize:  You’re able to identify opportunities to drive efficiency and productivity. Whether it be business processes or sales strategies, you’re focused on improvement.
  10. Example:  You have actual experience that demonstrates your skills. It allows you segue from an abstract discussion into a real-world story. It forces you to “show” rather than “tell”.

When deciding on specific verbiage, focus on action verbs! Hiring managers need to see and hear evidence of your achievements. They need the WHAT, but they really want the HOW.

As a bonus, here are five example of words you should NOT use and what they say:

  1. Work/Life Balance:  Your interviewer hears “I want lots of time off” or “I’m out of here at 5” or they align what they heard to their idea of what it means. Focus on your skills and experience and why you would make a great fit for their opportunity.
  2. Perfectionist:  This word is one of the most over-used clichés. In fact, you should steer clear of most clichés – like motivated, dedicated, and people-pleaser. These descriptors don’t tell the interviewer anything “real” about you.
  3. Should/Shouldn’t:  You’re not there to consult, you’re there to interview. Keep to your skills and how you would be able to contribute.
  4. Negative Words:  Don’t go negative! Can’t, won’t, don’t – these should all be off-limits. Focus on the positives of your story and experience.
  5. You Guys or Y’all:  This is far too casual to use in interviews. Stick to the more formal or professional “your company” or “your firm.”

Power words combined with eye contact project confidence, honesty and directness, and make for an impressive package. Practice integrating powerful words into your interview answers. Partner with a friend or colleague and ask for feedback. Using the right words (in the right context) can help convey that you’ve got what it takes to be a real game-changer.

The CFO Suite is a boutique consultative staffing and executive search firm specialized in management and executive level accounting and finance talent.  We boost the capabilities and capacity of your accounting and finance department, offering a unique ability to provide an integrated and comprehensive suite of services.