Every person in the workplace has gone through at least one job interview. While preparing for interviews typically leads to Googling common interview questions and answers, do not make the common mistake of using these canned responses. Cliché answers make an interview run smoothly, but they also cause you to blend in with other candidates.
Stand out by avoiding these typical responses and creating tailored answers based on your specific past experiences. A unique approach that focuses on the merits of your prior work will get you closer to landing that dream job and is also much more credibly delivered as it’s based on reality.
1. “I’m a hard worker.”
Every interviewer has heard this a million times. You would not be in the interview if they did not think you were a hard worker. Instead, answer the “How would you describe yourself?” question by highlighting the traits or skills that differentiate you from other candidates. Use real life examples to support your points without sharing too much detail unless the interviewer digs for more.
2. “I enjoy being a team player.”
This blanket statement is a cliché, lazy response that wastes an opportunity to set yourself apart from the competition. Instead of answering the question “How do you work with others?” with this overdone answer, recount a unique teaming story from your background that can walk the interviewer through your explanation. No one will believe a broad term like “team player”, but giving a personal example that shows how well you worked on a team adds credibility.
3. “I think I’m a perfect fit for this job.”
People are rarely a “perfect” fit for a job. And you cannot possibly know that you are a perfect fit until you get the job, meet your new coworkers, and experience the environment for more than an hour-long interview. Do not presume you are a “perfect fit”. Instead, talk about the job requirements and your experience with each of the skills necessary to succeed in the position. The research you have done to prepare yourself for the interview will give you a good framework for reinforcing your points by making connections into your experiences.
4. “I’m leaving my current job because I’m not appreciated.”
This response is a polite way of saying you do not get along with your boss. Interviewers can see right through this answer and instinctively deduce that you may feel the same way about your next job in the future.
5. “My greatest weakness is that I am a perfectionist.”
This one exposes the fact that you memorized this answer before the interview because it seemed like an easy way to say you have no real faults. Come up with an original response to this inquiry and talk about a fault you had in the past and the steps you took to overcome it. An example might be to explain that you are not great at presentations because of a fear of public speaking, but you have started to volunteer to mediate group talks to get more comfortable with the process. Practice telling this story with someone who will act as a mock interviewer for you and have them ask follow-up questions. This will build your confidence and help you deliver the story with poise.
6. “In five years I would like to be where you are.”
People that respond to the “Where would you like to be in five years” query with this response come across as aggressive and presumptuous. No boss wants to feel you are gunning for their job—or hear that you think you possess all the unique and valuable skills they prize in themselves. Take the time to prepare a thoughtful and humble response to this question.
7. “I’m open to anything.”
Read: “I’m desperate for a job, any job.” If you provide this explanation, the interviewer assumes you probably are not a great fit for this position but instead are handing out dozens of resumes a day, hoping that someone will bite.
There is nothing wrong with telling an interviewer what you are comfortable doing in the line of work. It is better to find out during an interview that you are not right for the position than discovering you lack the skills after a month in the new job. Take the time to outline how your current skills fit before answering why you think you can succeed at this specific job.
8. “I’m a workaholic.”
It is good to be passionate about what you do, but few industries actually want you to be a workaholic. Although you are trying to convey commitment, this answer seems disingenuous and contrived.
Explain why you love your work and are passionate about what you do. Give a few specific ways that you prioritize your workload and achieve success. This will give the interviewer a more thorough understanding of your skills. Truthfully, organizations seek well-rounded individuals who have meaningful lives of their own outside of work.
9. “I have strong leadership skills.”
Where do these skills apply? When answering a question about your skills with an answer about your ability to lead, give past examples of how you led a team, and how that contributed to the team’s overall success. Make sure the example you give is relevant to the position. If you do not have real examples, speak to the fact that you have leadership as a goal and that you’re willing to devote the time and efforts necessary to achieve it over time.
10. “How much does this position pay?”
When the interviewer finally hands the reigns over to you by asking, “Do you have any questions for me?” this answer comes across as a big red flag. There is plenty of time to talk salary; ending an interview with this answer sounds like you are there only for the paycheck.
Further, you ignore a real need to learn about the day-to-day activities of your job. You will spend at least 40 hours a week doing this job. Do you want to be blindsided by issues that could make you miserable for most of your waking hours?
Ask to meet the team, talk about performance expectations, or address issues that past employees faced with the job. Salary discussion will come up eventually, so just be patient.
When preparing for your interview, looking at common questions and how people typically respond is not a bad idea. The problem comes when you try to reuse those answers without any personalization. Take the time to come up with some situational responses to common questions. You are there to see if you are a good fit for the job, not to see if you can pass a test with stock answers. Show the skills that make you the most qualified for the job. Stand out from other interviewees who use these clichés to answer common questions and let your unique talents earn you the right to win the job.
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