Nine ‘Rehearsed’ Phrases And Cliches To Avoid In Your Next Job Interview

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Job interviews can be nerve-wracking even for the most seasoned professionals. To boost their confidence, candidates often prepare and memorize answers to the usual interview questions, like “Where do you see yourself in five years?” or “What is your greatest professional strength?”

While there’s nothing wrong with thorough preparation, you don’t want to come off as robotic or like you’re giving a cliche answer. To help job seekers present themselves in the best light, nine Young Entrepreneur Council members shared some interview responses they feel come off as “rehearsed” and what you can do to answer interview questions more effectively.

1. Describing Yourself As A Perfectionist

Candidates should focus on how they are the right fit for the position and why the position is a good fit for their skills and background. Many job candidates have the same rehearsed script about why they are interested in the position and how they are “overachievers” or “perfectionists” in hopes of getting the position. It’s best to humanize yourself and bring up some challenges that you have had in previous positions and how you overcame them. This demonstrates critical thinking, which in many jobs is the most crucial hiring factor, along with relevant experience and education. Instead of being perfectionists, job candidates should demonstrate their strengths and weaknesses as well as how their unique experience and path will contribute to the growth of the company. – Salvador Ordorica, The Spanish Group LLC

2. Only Focusing On What’s On Your Resume

When candidates are asked about their experience and qualifications for a position, they will often just read their resume back to me. By the time I am interviewing a candidate, I have read their resume multiple times—first when I picked it out of the pile and then again right before our conversation. I switched over to asking candidates to tell me their story, but often this still results in a read-back of their resume experience. What I am really trying to learn are two things: what motivates them and how they make decisions. The best candidates explain why they took each role, what they were looking to accomplish, how that turned out and what they learned as a result. – Jon Reilly, Akkio Inc

3. Stating That You’ll Do Whatever It Takes

People applying for jobs need to stop saying general clichés in interviews like, “I’ll do whatever it takes to get the job done.” How? Give specifics. What technological solutions have you implemented in your life to be super-efficient and get the job done? What recent specific experiences in your life prove that you won’t stop until a task is done? Stop with the clichés and start with the specifics when interviewing. You are not a celebrity athlete in a post-game interview telling everyone you will give it 110%; you are a job seeker trying to impress someone looking to hire you. – Michael Sinensky, WeShield

4. Calling Yourself A Team Player

“I’m a team player” is something I hear echoed throughout interviews. When applying to be a part of a small company, I can understand why candidates want to highlight that they’re a team player. However, that statement is rarely followed up with examples or anecdotes. What would be more impactful is for a candidate to share what specific qualities make them team players. Are they outgoing or bringing energy to team meetings and brainstorm sessions? Are they natural helpers who are able to jump in when they see a teammate struggling? Are they a confident worker who doesn’t need to be acknowledged and praised for each individual accomplishment? Everyone considers themselves a team player, so find a more unique and impactful way to describe yourself. – Leila Lewis, Be Inspired PR

5. Saying You Work Well Under Pressure, No Matter The Situation

I’m not saying that dealing with pressure isn’t a great skill, but candidates often imply that they would put work above anything else, even their mental health. This can be highly suspicious and, if true, a future worker who does not set limits and puts their health at risk can be a huge problem to deal with in many perspectives. – Kevin Ryan Tao, NeuEve

6. Trying To Pass Off A Strength As A Weakness

One thing I often hear job candidates say that comes off as rehearsed is when you ask them about their weaknesses. Most say something that is considered good, but they do too much of it, so for them it’s a weakness. That’s OK, but many times it comes off as rehearsed, and many times they’re not vulnerable enough to accept their real weaknesses. We all have weaknesses, and that’s fine. It shows strength when you acknowledge them and say what you’re doing to improve them. I would recommend candidates just be upfront about it. – Alfredo Atanacio, Uassist.ME

7. Talking About How Your Values Align With The Company

Candidates should spend less time talking about why their values align with your company and instead they should focus on the value they can contribute. Job seekers like to emphasize how your mission is something they support and, while that can be true, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll perform better than the next person. Instead, use more of the interview time to talk about the impact your skills can have on the organization and why your previous experiences prove you’ll be successful in the new role. Culture alignment is nice to have, but it’s not going to make you stand out among other qualified candidates. – Firas Kittaneh, Amerisleep Mattress

8. Just Saying You’re Passionate About The Job

One typical and overused phrase I often hear from candidates is how “passionate” they are about a job or industry. While every employer wants to hire enthusiastic people, simply telling your potential employer how passionate you are doesn’t really tell them much else.  Employers generally assume that if you are applying for a role, then you already have a strong interest in the area. As a candidate, your job is to demonstrate interest in your profession. Think about the ways in which you explore your field and present those as talking points in your interview. A far better way to illustrate your enthusiasm is to give examples of how you keep up with developments in your profession (for example, you attend conferences, read trade publications or even write your own blog). – Maria Thimothy, OneIMS

9. Describing Yourself As A Hard Worker

Everyone says this, and to most candidates’ defense, they probably think they are, but there are levels to it. One person may think that 40 hours a week is working hard while another person may think that 100 hours a week is working hard. Don’t judge an employee’s work ethic on the hours they put in, but more so on what they’re able to accomplish in that time. There will come a point, most likely very early on, where you can witness someone making a decision to put in the work or take the easy way out. I often say that everyone is a hard worker until it’s time to do the work. – Joel Mathew, Fortress Consulting

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