Job Interview

14 Impactful Words to Use in an Interview (+7 Phrases to Drop)

candidate answering questions during job interview

When it comes to job interviewing, two somewhat opposite statements are true. First, you shouldn’t mince your words. But then you should also carefully consider what you are saying.  To gain the attention of a potential employer, you must understand what makes you unique and be able to demonstrate it in your interview. Your choice of words to use in an interview will largely shape that impression.

So which keywords to use in an interview and which ones to drop? Here are our suggestions! 

Persuasive Keywords to Use in an Interview

Want to make a stronger first impression? Add the following phrases to your vocabulary for an interview. 

1. Results 

If you are struggling to decide what to say in an interview, launch into discussing your results. Every interviewer perks up when they hear concrete examples, and better yet — numbers, detailing what you’ve achieved previously. Also, don’t forget to mention how you plan to deliver the same results in the new role.  

Here’s an example of how you could describe an accomplishment from your resume during a job interview:

“The results I achieved as an area sales manager include a new $1.5 million partnership deal with Thomson Video for content syndication, 20% growth in annual budget sales for key company products, and successful establishment of a new Sales Rep training program.” 

2. Management 

Solid management skills are universally demanded for an array of roles, including those without “manager” in the title. Because every employer wishes to work with someone who’s organized and can help rally others around the shared cause. When given a chance, talk about your experience with leading team(s) and achieving certain positive outcomes. 

For example, if asked about your past experience in this field, you can reply something like:

“Although I haven’t previously had a “manager” title, I performed most of the project management tasks as Team Lead, including Sprint planning, backlog prioritization, capacity management, and budget reporting.”

management skills

3. Team-Player 

In the same vein, “team player” is among the top words to use during an interview. One “hard-to-deal-with” team non-player can undermine the effectiveness of the entire work unit. Thus, interviewers try to appraise how different personalities will fit into their current department setup and overall company culture. You want to appear as a “universal” match.

When you talk about your team-player qualities use the following power words to describe yourself

  • Easy-going
  • Sociable 
  • Responsive
  • Dependable 
  • Straight-talking
  • Feedback-oriented 

4. Emotional Intelligence 

Emotional Intelligence (EQ) stands for your ability to do two things:

  • Understand your own emotions well and how they manifest in different situations 
  • Interpret the emotions of others, showcase empathy 

According to the World Economic Forum, emotional intelligence will remain among the top most in-demand skills at least until 2025. What’s more — employees with high emotional intelligence were more likely to get promoted. TalentSmart analysis found that out of 34 essential workplace skills, EQ was the strongest predictor of performance, responsible for a full 58% of success rate across all types of jobs. 

Situational and behavioral interview questions provide you with the best opportunity to discuss your EQ. Use the following interview keywords in this case:

  • Self-awareness 
  • Self-regulation
  • Empathy 
  • Motivation
  • Active listening 
  • Adaptability
  • Cultural sensitivity 
  • Inclusive language 
  • Resilience 
  • Conflict resolution
  • Constructive feedback 
  • Conflict prevention 

5. Strategy And Plan

Employers want decisive candidates, especially when hiring for leadership and managerial positions. Show that you are ready to come in and get the job done. The simplest way to do so is by researching the company in advance. Then create a preliminary 60 or 90-day plan of what you plan to achieve in that period and relay it to the interviewer. 

strategic planning

To avoid sounding too rehearsed during the interview, break down your plan into short, KPI-driven bullet points. For example:

  • Create a formal style guide for all corporate marketing materials 
  • Review the current SEO strategy and propose a new 6-month plan
  • Grow the company’s Instagram following to 30K subscribers 
  • Hire and onboard 3 new writers to the team.

6. Resolve 

Modern workplaces are often full of “doers”, but have far fewer “resolvers” — people with strong analytical and critical thinking skills who can deal with complex problems and underlying inefficiencies. 

Show that you can be such an asset. Describe your experience with successfully locating root causes of problems, optimizing processes, “hacking together” better routines, and helping people around you get unblocked in whatever it is that they are doing!

Some other good words to use in an interview for this case include strong verbs like:

  • Deliver 
  • Control 
  • Enact 
  • Introduce 
  • Devise 
  • Improve 
  • Formulate
  • Pioneer 
  • Slate
  • Orchestrate 
  • Attain 
  • Yield 

7. Mediate and Facilitate 

People with strong interpersonal skills are often selected to mediate and facilitate complex negotiations, take over multi-faceted projects, and perform other thrilling tasks. Also, good mediators are highly regarded by their colleagues, due to their conflict management and problem-solving abilities, and respectively — by more senior peers. If that’s who you are, bring that detail into the conversation. 

For example, a common question during the final interviews is a variation of “How do you plan to build relationships with the new team members?”. 

Your sample answer can be:

“I know a new manager can be tough for the team. I try to facilitate the transition for the people by doing a group meeting first, introducing myself, and answering any sort of questions (oftentimes, I share an anonymous survey link beforehand, so that people can express unfiltered opinions). During the meeting, I explain my management philosophy and leadership style, poke fun at myself, and try to learn more about each team member.” 

8.  Values 

The most engaged employees are those who connect with the employees’ mission and values. . Knowing what resonates with you helps the employer understand whether you’ll fit well with their organization and remain engaged for the long term.

So make sure you briefly talk about your workplace values when given a chance. For example: if asked “why do you want to work here?”, be sure to highlight the overlap between the company’s values and your personal ones. 

“Among other things, I was impressed with Acme’s commitment to reusable packaging. As a community advocate for recycling and single-use plastic usage reduction, this value resonated a lot with me.” 

9. Adaptable and Adaptability 

“Adaptability” and “flexibility” rank among the most in-demand skills in the modern workplace according to the LinkedIn Learning Report. After the past several years, that’s not surprising. The business climate has been volatile, and companies need to constantly transform their operating models to meet new market demands, address emerging risks, and embrace novel technologies. 

Today, an average employee experiences 10 planned enterprise changes on average (e.g., cultural transformations, new technology adoption, division restructuring), compared to just two in 2016. 

Showing that you can easily adapt to change can cast you in a highly positive light. To exemplify your adaptability, use the following words during an interview:

  • Versatile 
  • Agile 
  • Open-minded
  • Adjustable 
  • Quick learner
  • Change-tolerant 
  • Comfortable with uncertainty
  • Early technology adopter 
  • Versed in change management
  • Able to pivot

10. Strategic Thinking

Whether you hold a leadership position or not, strategic thinking is a strong keyword to drop in a job interview. Most people are good at following instructions and completing tasks. Far fewer know how to build a step-by-step, logical framework to achieve a specific outcome within a defined period of time. 

If the above sounds like you, mention your strategic thinking abilities the next time you’re asked to speak about your strengths as a candidate

“I earned my last promotion because I was recognized for my strategic thinking abilities, in particular when it comes to market analysis, go-to-market strategy planning, and early trend spotting.” 

11. Self-Motivated

Most of the work now happens remotely or in a hybrid fashion. Although this is a welcome change for many employers, remote work can feel isolating at times. Lack of team comradery and at-home distractions can affect many people’s engagement levels. 

Show that you can “keep the eyes on the prize” in any setting, and don’t require constant praise or nudges to do your best work. 

For example, the next time you get asked a personality interview question (e.g., describe yourself in three words”, pop in this great keyword:

“I’d say, I am result-oriented, self-motivated, and reliable. That’s the words people used in my reference letters and in LinkedIn recommendations.” 

12. Autonomous 

“Autonomous” is among other trendy words to use in an interview when you’re after a fully remote position. Unless you’re an entry-level specialist, most managers will expect you to know what you’re supposed to do and pitch in with ideas, rather than just sitting back and waiting to get assigned with some tasks. 

Show that you can confidently do your work independently in async settings just as effectively as when collaborating with others. It is also a good keyword to use when explaining your job search reasons. For example:

“I lacked autonomy in my last role, and was just fulfilling design requests under the tight supervision of the Lead Designer, rather than being allowed to implement my own ideas for improving the product user flows.” 

13.  Accountability 

You may be surprised to know how few people are ready to take accountability in the workplace. A lot prefer to delegate “tough choices” and “final says” to their supervisors instead of making a strategic call. Likewise, few employees would be open to admitting and owning up to mistakes, even in companies where failures are treated as learning experiences.

If you’re not afraid of taking the lead and taking full responsibility for the decisions you’ve made, communicate this quality to the interviewer. You can also use synonym words in your interview such as:

  • Transparent 
  • Honest 
  • Forthcoming 
  • Candid 
  • Love taking ownership 
  • Consistent 
  • Committed to results 
  • Open to failure 
  • Diligent
  • Conscientious

14. Initiative

Who doesn’t like a worker who always shows up and acts ready to pick up the slack? Demonstrate your commitment to taking charge and going the extra mile when needed with short examples from your past jobs. 

For example, when being asked to provide a walkthrough of your resume, focus on highlighting the case when you took the initiative:

“As a warehouse manager, I often received complaints about poor order pickup sequencing. People had to constantly zip-zap from one end of the facility to another, which was tiring. I brought this up to upper management, and helped create a new initiative for adopting better picking software.”

Interview Keywords To Avoid During An Interview 

words to avoid

1. I Went

When asked in an interview about your past education or work experience, try to refrain from saying ‘I went’ too often or at all if you can avoid it. ‘I went’ sounds like you are referring to the past in a way that is no longer of any importance to you, especially if you overuse it. 

Use ‘I attended’ instead. This is a much more positive and engaging way to describe your history, ‘I attended Wentworth Academy where I studied…..’ sounds much better than ‘I studied science when I went to school’.

2. Honestly

In conversation, people will use the word ‘honestly’ to add emphasis to their message. However, should you use this during your interview in an answer to a question, your interviewer may wonder if your other statements were not quite so honest. This could create an awkward atmosphere, especially if the interviewer is asking for the reasons why you left your last job.

answering questions during a job interview

3. Really, Really

We all want to come across as enthusiastic and positive in our interview, but constantly repeating unnecessary words such as ‘really’ or even worse repeating them twice, ‘I really, really enjoyed my time at Smith and Smith Accountants’ is going to grate on an interviewer’s nerves. 

So will overusing ‘really’ and ‘very’ too. ‘I was a really very good student’….. ‘I had a really very good time at…’ ‘I am a really very good reader’…. Aargh! Drop that. 

4. Literally

We all have a friend who over-uses the word ‘literally’. How annoying does it sound after a while? Now imagine how an interviewer is going to feel towards a candidate who literally uses the word ‘literally’ in literally every other sentence. Literally. How annoying is that!

Also, avoid the kissing cousins of “literally” such as “basically”, “actually”, and “naturally”. As a rule of thumb, you should prioritize strong words — think verbs, over adverbs. 

5. Maybe

Using the word ‘maybe’ in your job interview can make you sound somewhat unconfident — and that’s the last thing you want to project. The interviewer may treat those ‘maybes’ as a sign that you are not really interested in this job opportunity or second-guess your ability to deliver. 

confused man

6. Stuff

‘Stuff’ is a non-word. It doesn’t mean anything specific. It is a casual way to refer to activities you did or objects you own without any detail. Telling your interviewer that you attended a course and picked up a lot of stuff isn’t going to impress. You need to be able to deliver details that your interviewer wants to hear, not that you consider courses and training as ‘stuff’ that isn’t important enough to be explained in detail.

Unpack your “stuff” as:

  • Recent accomplishments
  • Training and certifications you’ve received
  • Job duties and responsibilities
  • Specific tools, software, techniques knowledge

Be concrete!

7. Don’t Have Much Experience, But…

Most interviewers won’t make it till your “but”, especially if that’s not their first interview of the day. By using these phrases, you effectively admit your lack of experience. So rather than drawing attention to your lack of experience, shift to talking about your transferable skills and enthusiasm for learning. 

You can also check this post to learn more about how to discuss your weaknesses in a job interview.


You need to keep your interviewer engaged if you are to stand any chance of landing a job. In order to come across as a smart cookie, you must add or drop some interview keywords from your vocabulary. Soundly, you now have a very comprehensive list! 


  • Elena Prokopets

    Elena runs content operations at Freesumes since 2017. She works closely with copywriters, designers, and invited career experts to ensure that all content meets our highest editorial standards. Up to date, she wrote over 200 career-related pieces around resume writing, career advice... more


Leave a Response