Why Using These Pronouns In An Interview Could Cost You The Job

It may seem small, but the words you use when you talk about your current employer can say a lot to a potential boss.

Why Using These Pronouns In An Interview Could Cost You The Job
[Photo: Flickr user WOCinTech Chat]

During an interview, hiring managers always ask about your experience. They want to know what you did as well as the kind of results you delivered. But when you’re describing your current job, be careful of your word choice: Two pronouns in particular could send a bad message.


“They” Or “Them” Versus “We” And “Us”

“Job candidates who refer to their current company as ‘they’ or ‘them’ are sending a red flag,” says Mike Laven, CEO of the global payments platform Currencycloud. “They’re signaling that they may not be a very engaged employee, or that they have little passion for their job.”

After serving as CEO of five companies, Laven learned to start conversations in an interview that get people to talk and reveal their level of commitment. For example, he has candidates describe the importance of their role in the success of the company, and he wants their input on why their company was or wasn’t successful.

“You’d be surprised how many people—really smart people—can’t answer that question,” he says. “This demonstrates that they aren’t aware of or connected to the company’s mission.”

Candidates who respond to questions using the words “our,” “we” and “us” identify themselves with the group and its mission. “It’s one small indicator, and part of a whole picture,” says Laven.

You can practice tuning into people who demonstrate passion by paying attention to daily conversations. “Sometimes I hear it in a waitress who loves serving customers,” says Laven. “She understands what she’s doing, and how it relates to the big picture of the company.”

Why Passion Is Important

Passion is critical, especially in a startup environment where hiring mistakes aren’t easily fixed, says Laven. “When you’re launching a company, there are three things to sort out,” he says. “First, the technology: Can you build it? You can spend money to get the right technology. Then there’s the market: Will anybody buy it? You can throw money at that, too, with marketing. Finally, you need to know if you can run it. Money doesn’t solve that problem. You need to find the right people.”


Passionate employees are also vital for early-stage companies or fast-paced environments where there can be frequent changes in direction and management in response to customer feedback.

“Successful companies can quickly become understaffed because it’s hard to hire good people fast enough,”  says Laven. “That puts a lot of pressure on current employees to keep up the pace and figure things out. It’s better to choose committed people over smarter people. Committed people will figure out the skills. You can get them there, especially as you pivot.”

While Laven acknowledges that in the end it’s a job and people leave for greater opportunity, he says engagement can’t be faked. “It goes beyond wearing a company sweatshirt and drinking out of the logo coffee mug,” says Laven. “I’m much too cynical to be a rah-rah kind of person. I want to know that someone is working for a business with both feet in, and this is one simple thing to hang your hat on.”