How to Use Language in an Interview

“Mastery of language affords one remarkable opportunities.”

― Alexandre Dumas



The words we choose in an interview are important. We only get to say relatively few to tell our entire career story so the ones we select must be worthwhile, impactful and poignant.

As Alexandre Dumas alluded too, our choice of words are the stones we pave on the road of our careers and lives. We can potentially pave a smooth surfaced highway or we can drop rocks and cover them in dirt. We are judged everyday by the language we use, it’s our ability to communicate our ideas and our histories to others. If that is made easier for others to understand and trust in then our road will surely be a smoother one.

In an interview, it’s all about first impressions. Colloquialisms, bland words and clunky sentences are all out in the open and they are unfortunately a big part of an impression we are making.


So how should we use language in an interview for best results?

First thing is own your words. Own every word that you speak. You’ve owned every word you have ever have spoken, so make sure you feel like they’re yours. This will come across far better and more confident and self-assured. No one else is speaking them so take a breath, construct the sentence and speak it directly.

Secondly, own your stories. If you worked at Company X and the Project was to build a sand castle, and you collected the sand, dug the hole, built the castle then say so. Don’t say “when I was working at company X, we had to build a sand castle, we got the sand, we built it and our boss was happy”.

The language tells us you were a passenger in the building of a sand castle. Examples in interviews must begin with what “I” started and “I” completed. Speak from a place of pride. You did the work so tell the interview in your words about all that hard work and what it meant for your employer.

Thirdly, think before you speak and allow yourself the space to trust in yourself to find your words. The answers and words are within you. A *University of Arizona (1) study tells us that men and women speak about 16,000 words a day! You’ve had the practice, you’ve lived your career so breath, relax, pause then speak. This will also create a little routine you can settle into for each question and answer. Don’t fill the air with your train of thought. “Ummm, ahhh, well, I think, I seem to recall”. That should all be silent thinking time. If you’re comfortable with a short pause then they will be too. If the words refuse to come then so be it, tell the interviewer you will circle back to that one later, next question please.

Finally, if you really want to master language or are struggling with words when you need them, then you need to read more. Read books, read novels. You will not only become a much better wordsmith you will also have a gift for life.


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  • Cian, O’Dwyer, Recruitment Consultant

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