Word Choices During Interviews

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Our Guest Blogger this week is Jackie Gibboney, the Career Services Office summer Graduate Intern, who is working on her master's degree in College Student Counseling & College Student Personnel at Shippensburg University.


    Everyone can list basic job descriptions and emphasize various accomplishments. What employers want to hear is how you present information about yourself and experiences.  It is a matter of word choices, including selected information, and overall approach that makes for a successful interview.

The words you choose during an interview can help hook the attention of a prospective employer.  It is important to use examples about how you took action when you saw an issue that needed to be fixed or how you resolved a conflict with a supervisor.  Instead of just using phrases such as "team player" or "hard worker," use actual stories.  Additionally, phrases such as "highly qualified" and "people person" do not give employers the information they are looking for.  Employers want to hear concrete examples and by doing so, you can highlight the skills they are seeking.  It is impressive when they hear specific experiences rather than a short phrase.

A good way to organize your answer is to employ the 'STAR' format.  Give an example or tell a relevant story that includes these 4 parts:

  • Situation: Give a brief description or account of the situation. What was happening, who was involved, what was the setting or environment?
  • Task: What needed to be accomplished or changed?
  • Action: How was the task accomplished? What action was taken and what was your role?
  • Result: What was the outcome? Was the problem/issue resolved? Did it require further follow up?  What did you learn from the situation? Have you modified your behavior based on the experience?

Some of the attributes that employers may look for during an interview include: strong work ethic, compassion / ability to treat others well, team player, drive, creativity, professionalism, integrity, commitment to excellence.  Their questions are really an attempt to determine if you possess these attributes.

Practice using your experiences, in place of isolated phrases, during interviews.
For further questions about interviewing, you may contact Career Services at (717) 948-6260 or Ask4CareerAdvice@psu.edu.

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