If you’re new to interviewing and/or haven’t been on the candidate side of the interview process in a while, we put together some cliché interview responses to avoid.
“I work too hard” or “I’m a perfectionist”
These responses, and similar variations, are often answers to the classic (and dreaded) question, “What are your weaknesses?” Employers ask you to talk about your weaknesses because they’re testing for self-awareness and what actions you’ve taken to improve your shortcomings.
A more authentic-sounding answer might sound something like, “I become deeply invested in projects I work on and in many ways I feel the work that I produce is me, so if a project gets scrapped halfway through I can sometimes be deeply disappointed. However, I’ve learned to prepare myself for any outcome when taking on new projects. As I’ve reached positions of more authority, I’m more aware of the global business rationale for which projects the company pursues and do my best to convey that to my team. I remember being in their shoes not long ago – so I believe in consistent communication. That way when a project is put on the backburner, they stay understand the rationale and stay engaged.
“I always meet my goals.”
If you’re trying to set yourself apart from other interviewees, it can be tempting to claim that you never make mistakes, that you never miss your goals, and that all your projects are completed on time and on budget. Most experienced interviewers will believe that either you’re not being truthful or that you don’t have enough experience to have endured and overcome failure.
If you want to set yourself apart, talk more about how you never stop striving for your goals – even in the face of failure and setbacks – and that you keep pushing forward and putting in the work to succeed. Give specific examples of a challenge you faced, how you overcame it, and what the result was. Most candidates won’t go through that process – and you’ll have the edge.
“In five years, I see myself in your position.”
Employers want to know that you’re ambitious and that you can visualize being with the company in the foreseeable future, but you don’t want that to be interpreted (correctly or incorrectly) that you’re gunning for the interviewer’s job. If you really want to earn a managerial role in the future, it’s okay to communicate that, but we recommend expressing it in a more diplomatic way. You don’t want to give an answer that will put the interviewer on the defensive.
“I’m a team player / people person”
You may very well be a team player and/or a people person, but unfortunately those terms are so overused, they’re virtually meaningless. A better way to convey that you’re a team player is to give specific examples of successful projects you’ve worked on with other team members and how you were able to achieve a successful outcome working together. And if you’re a people person – that will come across by the way you great the receptionist, smile warmly, conduct yourself throughout the interview process, and follow-up after the process.