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Recruitment experts reveal the five buzzwords that could cost candidates the job

Calling yourself a ‘workaholic’ who is ‘motivated by change’ and ‘obviously’ eager to take on a ‘challenge’ in an interview could cost hopeful candidates the job, recruitment experts have warned.

Competition for jobs is fiercer than ever, with close to a million Australians now unemployed and the labour market expected to remain weak for years, particularly across the worst-affected hospitality, retail and travel sectors.

Treasury now expects the national jobless rate to hit 9.25 per cent by the end of December – a level unseen since September 1994 during the long aftermath of Australia’s last recession.

Directors of the country’s top recruitment agencies shared tips in a blog post for Seek, advising Australians of the throwaway phrases that could jeopardise their credibility with prospective employers and chances of advancing to the next round. 

Sydney managing director Jason Walker, who heads up top agency Hays, said calling yourself a ‘workaholic’ is too vague and doesn’t showcase your skills. 

Mr Walker said ‘I’ is always better than ‘we’, because the hiring manager is considering you – not a team – for the position.

Auckland manager Ian Scott, from New Zealand firm Randstad, said candidates should avoid generic corporate phrases and offer a concise response structured around the STAR method – the acronym for Situation, Task, Action, Results.

A STAR answer begins by outlining the ‘Situation’, identifying the ‘Task’ that you set out to achieve, describing your own personal ‘Actions’ and ends by ‘Recounting’ the results – and it’s the best way to set yourself apart from the rest, Mr Scott said. 

Starting sentences with ‘obviously’ assumes the interviewer knows something about your professional history – but they usually don’t, Mr Walker noted. 

He said: ‘We are trying to get an understanding of experience and how good a fit you would be for an organisation, so steer clear of implying we already know the answer.’

Other ‘filler’ words to steer clear of include basically, pro-active and synergy.

Interviewers are not concerned with what your former team or department was responsible for, Mr Walker said, they only care about what part you played.

He advised having two or three examples ready to rattle off to prove how you personally contributed to the success of the business or took ownership of a difficult situation. 

Mr Walker also urged job-seekers to highlight their leadership skills, even if they have never worked in management. 

It could be as simple as overseeing a team project, he said.

Many people cite being a ‘workaholic’ as one of their weaknesses, but Mr Walker warned this is a red flag to hiring managers who see it as a catch-all term that doesn’t really mean anything.

Instead, he recommends listing a skill that could be developed with training or workshops like public speaking or presenting.

Randstad manager Ian Scott agrees and encouraged people to leave corporate jargon from their vocabulary at the door.

‘Trained interviewers see right through the phrases that lack substance, and are left frustrated when having to draw out the real anecdotes that bring those statements to life,’ he said.

One of the worst examples of a generic phrase that means little to nothing is ‘motivated by change,’ according to Mr Scott.

He said change is an inevitable part of life that we all face on a regular basis, but it’s not something that many people actually thrive on.

‘In my experience, many people become active job-seekers because they have experienced change,’ Mr Scott said.

‘As human beings, many of us struggle with change, and prefer the comfort of normality, systems, routine.’

If you are someone who actually enjoys the cut and thrust of constant change, be sure to show that consistently in other answers throughout the interview.

Candidates should never tell an interviewer they ‘love a challenge’, Mr Scott warned, because it’s usually difficult to prove that this is true.

‘Rarely do people follow this up with a good explanation of what challenges them or even examples of challenges they have met, their reaction to the challenge at hand and the result of their response,’ he said.

Instead, Mr Scott recommends giving exact examples of what you’ve loved about previously roles and how you’d like to improve on those areas. 

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