You wouldn't talk to your mother in the same way you talk to your drinking buddies. Why? Because what's appropriate in one situation is not always appropriate in another. That holds especially true in the workplace. There are just certain phrases that will hold you back if they're part of your regular vocabulary.

I'm not talking about obvious unprofessional words like curse words. These are seemingly harmless words that actually make you seem less skilled, credible, or ambitious. If you want people to recognize you for the hard working go-getter you are, you need to stop using these phrases in your professional communication.

Phrases to delete from your resume:

1. Team player

Simply being a team member does not make you a team player. It's better to show how you worked within a team. Explain the role you played and how that contributed to the overall goals.

2. Highly qualified

This overused phrase means nothing. Instead of taking up space with it, use the opportunity to show what your qualifications are. List your previous experience in a way that shows how you get results.

3. Familiar with...

Even if you're not an expert at something, using "familiar with" implies you've heard of this skill, and only put it in the resume because it was in the job description. Again, it's better for you to list your experiences so hiring managers can tell what your actual skill level is.

4. Problem solver

The vagueness of this term does you no favors. There are a wide variety of problems. For instance, did you solve technical issues that occurred during product development or find a solution to customer service issues the company was experiencing? Each of those problems requires a unique set of skills, so giving the employer the specifics tells them a lot more than "problem solver."

Phrases to avoid in a job interview:

1. "To be honest..."

You should always be honest during a job interview. Throwing that phrase out there in the middle of the conversation implies that you weren't being completely truthful before. Avoid this phrase so interviewers don't get suspicious of what you're telling them.

2. "I think..."

Of course you think. Instead of qualifying a statement or opinion with "I think," own it. Be confident in what you say. Tie it to what you've actually done instead of your thoughts with a phrase like "In my experience..." instead.

3. "Me," "myself," and "I"

Yes, a job interview is about you and your qualifications, but in the context of how they would fit into a larger organization. Frame your answers so they show what you can bring to the company and strengthen the team.

Also, avoid asking questions that are only meant to find out how the job can benefit you like "How many vacation days will I get?" That's a big sign that you are only interested in the job because it's available, not because it's something you're truly passionate about.

4. "My last boss was terrible..."

Never, ever talk disparagingly about your previous employer. It doesn't matter if he was the devil himself, an interview is not the time or place. It immediately makes the interviewer think about what terrible things you might say about them if they were to hire you.

Phrases to cut from work conversations:

1. "It's not my responsibility."

The moment those words leave your mouth you sound like less of a team player. If someone asks you to do something, you shouldn't refuse to do it simply because it's not in your job description. Go above and beyond by doing whatever you can to contribute to the team and company's success.

2. "I can try."

These words reek of self-doubt. You're signalling to others and yourself that there's a chance you might not be able to succeed at something. While it's good to know your limitations, saying "I will" instead inspires confidence and shows you are capable and determined.

3. "I don't have time."

Guess what? Nobody has unlimited time. Your co-workers have just as much on their plates as you. Instead of saying no flat out, offer to lend a hand by saying something like "As soon as I finish this up, I'll take a look."

4. "I don't like..."

I don't like this client. I don't like this song. I don't like this idea. Constantly listing all the things that have faults in your eyes shrouds you in negativity. Everyone from co-workers to your boss will get sick of your complaining. Instead of going on about all the things you dislike, try to be part of the solution. It's a much better use of your time and energy.

The words you choose say a lot about who you are and what kind of worker you are. If you want to make the best impression think hard about words that might be sending the wrong message.

What are some other phrases that shouldn't be used in professional communication?

Published on: Jul 29, 2016
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