What You Say During an Interview vs. What Candidates Hear

What You Say During an Interview vs. What Candidates Hear

If you use buzzwords, know that candidates might interpret those words completely differently than you. Buzzwords are used so often by so many people that almost everyone is going to have their opinion about what they mean. To help eliminate confusion during interviews, I recommend avoiding certain buzzwords to avoid miscommunication. You may also have to identify potential incidences of ambiguity and put extra effort into making sure candidates understand what you are saying. Here are some examples of buzzwords to avoid.


When you say the work is “flexible,” most employers mean that they don’t micro-manage and the employee will have a decent amount of control over the tasks they perform. You’re expecting them to work independently. When candidates hear the word “flexible,” they think they can make their own schedules. You can see how this can be a problem.


Sometimes, the word “growth-oriented” is used to mean you want to see revenue increase. When candidates hear that word, they think it means they are going to receive extensive training and onboarding. You think about growth in terms of your business. They think about growth as career development. It’s important to understand how both sides use language differently from their own perspective.


Managers use the word “collaborative” to mean that there will be weekly meetings. Candidates think this means that everyone who works at the company will have an equal voice. Most companies are inherently hierarchical. They can’t come in and do whatever they want, but this is the impression they get when they hear “collaborative.”

“Work-Life Balance”

When a candidate hears “work-life balance,” they’re thinking they are never going to be working more than 40 hours a week. Maybe they think they can take long lunches or take extended vacations. Generally, candidates love to hear this buzzword because to them it means they can put their family first and their job second. Managers usually just mean that you don’t want them to stress too much. You want them to be successful, but they still need to achieve their goals for the day before they leave.

How Do You Avoid Misunderstandings?

It is hard to avoid buzzwords because they have become so ingrained in our speech, but they often create confusion and lead to misunderstandings. You may want to avoid these buzzwords, or just be sure to spell things out more. Give examples to further illustrate your point. Ask the candidate if what you said is clear and give them ample opportunity to ask for more information. Misunderstandings are going to happen, so you have to do everything you can to make sure you and the candidate are on the same page.

We use buzzwords during interviews to describe the job, appeal to candidates, and get our points across. They can be quite helpful from a language perspective. Unfortunately, we often think we’re being clear even though candidates are interpreting buzzwords completely differently than we are. Understanding the different meanings common buzzwords can have can help you avoid misunderstandings.

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