In this guide, Mock Questions explores 6 of the most cliché interview responses that make any interviewer or recruiter cringe. We discuss why these answers are not ideal, and provide detailed coaching (with examples!) on what to say instead.
WHAT DEFINES A CLICHÉ RESPONSE?
A cliché is an overused phrase or saying that lacks original thought.
When positioned that way, it’s no wonder companies often put the lid on candidates who deliver uninspired or boring interview responses.
The good news is that these common sayings are easy to erase from your vocabulary once you take the time to prepare fresh responses.
COMMON INTERVIEW QUESTIONS BRING COMMON RESPONSES
Even interviewers are guilty of falling into the cliché trap. Commonly asked interview questions such as ‘What is your greatest weakness?’ are undoubtedly overused. But still, these questions often build the foundation required when getting to know a job candidate and making an informed hiring decision.
Often, commonly asked interview questions are where candidates fall into the ‘cliché answer’ trap, and it’s easy to understand why.
When facing these common interview questions, most people go on autopilot. As much as we want an interviewer to ask more inspiring questions, it is still up to you - the job seeker - to deliver an inspiring answer.
CLICHÉ ANSWERS & FRESH SUGGESTIONS
COMMON INTERVIEW QUESTION #1: Why do you want to work here?
CLICHÉ RESPONSE: I want to work here because this is my dream job.
WHY IT DOESN’T WORK: It's normal to want to show enthusiasm through flattery. However, by saying, 'this is my dream job,' you are making the answer all about yourself while presenting very little about what excites you regarding the company’s overall offering, and how you will contribute.
TRY THIS INSTEAD: Discuss specific factors of the role, and the company, that excite you the most. Tie in how you will contribute to these positive factors, should you be hired. This approach will ensure a balanced, genuine, well-researched response.
ANSWER EXAMPLE:"I want to make a meaningful difference in the lives of young students in our area. My long term career goal is to become a Principal, and I admire the work of the leadership team in this school district. I grew up in this community and desire to get involved by helping to shape the children that make up our local area. Additionally, your school is reputable, highly credible, and raved about by the community members. It would be an honor to be a part of your team and mission."
COMMON INTERVIEW QUESTION #2: What is your greatest weakness?
CLICHÉ RESPONSE: My greatest weakness is that I work too hard.
WHY IT DOESN’T WORK: Other cliché responses to avoid:
I am a perfectionist
I am a workaholic
My flaws are also my strengths
These replies come across as self-serving because they are 'false' weaknesses. It's essential to flip the 'weakness question' into a positive vibe response, but there is a more productive way of doing so.
TRY THIS INSTEAD: Take a humble and transparent approach. Admit that you aren't good at something. Then, talk to the interviewer about the steps you are taking to improve on this weakness. The interviewer will appreciate your honesty, and by showing that you are human (just like everyone else!), you will build trust with the hiring authority.
ANSWER EXAMPLE: "I believe my biggest area for improvement is in my software proficiency. I have a working proficiency in Illustrator, InDesign, and Photoshop, but these skills are not as strong as I would like. I'm always looking to improve. I have watched YouTube tutorials and seek advice from those with better skills in these areas. I plan to be more confident and efficient in these three programs by the end of Q3. It's a personal goal I've set."
For more advice on how to answer, ‘What is your greatest weakness?’ read this guide.
COMMON INTERVIEW QUESTION #3: Why are you the best candidate for us?
CLICHÉ RESPONSE: I am the best candidate for you because I match all of the requirements in your job description. I am a perfect fit.
WHY IT DOESN’T WORK: It's important to sound confident when you answer this qualifying question; however, to deliver this level of sureness without any measurable statements to follow ends up sounding unprepared or worse - somewhat arrogant.
TRY THIS INSTEAD: Outline the reasons you are an excellent fit for the role, and then prepare specific action-based examples to support these reasons. Your answer should do more than just tell the interviewer why you are a fit. Your response should show AND tell.
ANSWER EXAMPLE:"I have over a dozen years of experience at one of your largest competitors. I have a proven track record of success, including making the Presidents' Club six years in a row. I can offer creative solutions on how to position your department against the competition and give ideas to boost your bottom-line. I have been immersed in this industry for most of my career and have seen significant change. I have adapted to every change and innovation with enthusiasm, and I look forward to continuing this pattern of success with your organization."
COMMON INTERVIEW QUESTION #4: What are your greatest strengths?
CLICHÉ RESPONSE: My greatest strengths are that I am a fast learner, a team player, and I am extremely organized.
WHY IT DOESN’T WORK: Interviewers agree that these traits are the most commonly mentioned in job interviews. These answers often go in one ear and out the other because they sound rehearsed, and they present nothing when it comes to proof of performance.
TRY THIS INSTEAD: These traits may indeed be your greatest strengths; however, you can word them in ways that are unique and attention-grabbing.
Instead of saying that you are a fast learner, you could try: ‘I am adept when it comes to gaining new knowledge and skills.’
Rather than commenting that you are a team player, you could remark: ‘I am an adaptable and collaborative professional who enjoys participating in group efforts.’
If you are incredibly organized, you could say: 'I am thoughtful in how I plan my day, and I set myself up with the right tools to ensure maximum productivity.'
After stating your greatest strengths, you should then present an example of these excellent qualities in action.
ANSWER EXAMPLE:"My greatest strengths include being adept when it comes to gaining new knowledge and skills. For instance, I recently learned our company's new CRM in one weekend and now help others on my team to learn the systems' functions. I am also adaptable and collaborative. I enjoy participating in group efforts such as our annual holiday community fundraiser, and I have volunteered on the social committee for three years. Lastly, I am thoughtful about how I plan my day. I am sure to set myself up with the right tools to ensure maximum productivity. At the moment, my favorite organizational tools are Trello and my Google Calendar."
For more advice on how to answer, ‘What are your greatest strengths?’ read this guide.
COMMON INTERVIEW QUESTION #5: Where do you see yourself in five years?
CLICHÉ RESPONSE: In five years, I plan to work here, maybe even in your job!
(insert awkward laughter here)
WHY IT DOESN’T WORK: The interviewer will quickly see that you have not done your research on the opportunity, and you’re trying to mask that fact by throwing in a joke.
TRY THIS INSTEAD: Conduct some LinkedIn research on the company and its team members. Gain a better understanding of the typical career trajectory of the people who held this role before you. For instance, your LinkedIn research may show that the previous General Manager was promoted to Regional Manager after five years, and then promoted to Area Director after three years. This research would give you a strong sense of what is reasonable when it comes to career growth in the organization. If you have stable tenure with jobs in the past (the length of time you've been there), be sure to highlight this positive factor.
ANSWER EXAMPLE:"As you can see from my resume, I value stability. I have been employed in long-term positions most of my career and believe that this opportunity will present the same opportunity for longevity. In five years, I hope to have earned a promotion and be in a position of leadership, perhaps as Regional Manager. To reach this goal, I plan to seek out opportunities to mentor new hires, act as an inspirational leader, and continue to grow my professional knowledge in this industry.”
To view more answer suggestions, check out this question and answer set.
COMMON INTERVIEW QUESTION #6: Why should we hire you?
CLICHÉ RESPONSE: You should hire me because I am passionate about your company, and I am a hard worker.
WHY IT DOESN’T WORK: It’s fantastic to be passionate about the company; however, when giving a blanket statement like this, it only highlights the fact that you didn’t do your research. Also, everyone thinks they are a hard worker. The issue with giving a general statement is that it’s very challenging for the interviewer to measure a result. You’re a hard worker, but what is the benchmark?
TRY THIS INSTEAD: In an interview, you are pitching yourself. In any good pitch, you should always address the most significant benefits for the other party. A more impactful way to approach this question is with less focus on your needs, and more emphasis on how your skills match the company's needs. Look at the job description carefully and dissect what the hiring company is looking for in their next hire. Then, speak directly to those points.
ANSWER EXAMPLE:"When I first read this job posting, I smiled because it felt as though it was created with me in mind. I have eight years dedicated to exceeding my sales goals, inside and outside sales experience, and I know this industry very well because I spend a lot of time educating myself. Also, I was the fastest promoted in my previous position and have led the rollout of new products in my current job, making me ideally positioned to help you continue to exceed your sales targets and expand to new markets."
For more advice on how to answer, ‘Why should we hire you?’ read this guide.
Eliminating cliché responses from your job interview arsenal can be a challenging task at first. However, the more research you perform, and the more you practice digging in, the faster you will escape the urge to give typical interview responses.
Perhaps you believe that a ‘safe’ interview answer will position you as the perfect candidate. Remember - safe rarely gets us where we want to go. So, dedicate time to putting in the research and work ahead of you’ll be sure to shine in your next job interview.