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Use Pull rather than Push Language in an Interview

12 May 2021

Pull language is much more powerful.
Lots of unconscious things go on during job interviews. Things that impact the degree of trust an employer extends to you in the interview, and ultimately the decision they make about your suitability for a role.

One big thing to be aware of is the sub-conscious impact the words you choose to describe yourself and the things you have done, have on the people interviewing you.

Some words and language will pull the interviewer in closer to you creating a sense of trust.  Other language pushes or distances them, making it harder for them to feel you are being authentic, limiting the trust they extend to you.

Here are some common mis-steps that push the panel away from you:

Not using first person pronouns. For example: "The project was one that required long hours and a high degree of background knowledge of customer needs." v's "My project was one that required me to put in long hours and to have a high degree of knowledge of my customers needs." The impact of the push language is that the people interviewing you get the sense that you don't take responsibility for what you do.

Deflecting ownership. For example: "From my understanding leaders should take time to get to know the people in the team." v's "I believe that as a leader I need to take time to get to know my team and my people." The impact of the push language is one of failure of ownership for your ideas, with the sense that possibly you don't believe what you are saying.

Pointing fingers. For example: "My understanding is that if you want this project to stay on track then you need to do x y z." v's "My understanding is that to keep this project on track I would need to do x y z." The impact of this push language on the panel is discomfort, and they get a sense they are being lectured to and told what they should do.

Passive language. For example: "Customers were contacted promptly." v's "I promptly contacted customers." In failing to inject yourself into what you have communicated this has the impact of deflating the listener.


It isn't that the interviewer consciously distrusts you, it is just that they will get a 'feeling' with some people and a different 'feeling' with others. And when we have a 'feeling' we can't help but look for evidence that confirms our 'feeling', even though we are unconscious of doing so.

'Push Away' language is something we often adopt as a way to appear more modest, and as an attempt to not seem too brash. The problem is that push away language is also used by people who are looking to deliberately mislead, which is why our subconscious is sensitive to it. 

The most useful way to avoid these language mis-steps is to get more comfortable with taking ownership of your achievements outside of the pressure of an interview. Use "I", 'Me", and 'My" just a little more when you talk about the things you are doing or have done. Give yourself the goal to once a day proactively talk about what you are doing and how you are doing it.

As always, wishing you a flourishing career.


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