What Not to Say in an Interview

Interviews are always pretty difficult. You’re nervous. You don’t have a lot of personal space. You’re forced to answer multiple questions back to back with no time to rest. And your whole professional future seems to depend on this one tiny thing. Terrifying! So it’s easy to understand why so many interviewees depend on cliches to answer interview questions.

But those off-the-cuff responses aren’t going to get you hired. So we’ve figured out the ten most commonly overused interview answers and supplied some alternatives that will pack a punch and keep you on track for success.

1. “I’m really hardworking.”
In a job interview, everyone is hardworking. No one is going to admit to being lazy or not caring about his or her job. The term “hardworking” is pretty much white noise to most interviewers. Everyone says it, so how can it possibly add value to your image? You have only so much time in a job interview–make every word count.

ALTERNATIVES: Try giving specific examples of how you’re so hardworking. Do you often stay late? Do you take on extra assignments? It’s always a good idea to give the interviewer something tangible to consider; otherwise, your words could end up feeling like empty promises.

2. “I’m a total team player.”
While being able to work with others is key, phrasing it this way makes it sound cliched. And it doesn’t just suggest cheerleading imagery–it’s also very vague. Sure, no one wants a recluse for a coworker or employee, but beyond just the baseline ability to be social, what else do you bring to the communication table?

ALTERNATIVES: Talk about your ability to communicate with other members of your office. Cite specific occasions when it was imperative for you to play well with others. Also touch on certain stellar communication skills that you think you have. Know how to craft the perfect email? Spent a lot of time with clients on the phone? Give the interviewer a fuller picture of your interactive skills and leadership potential.

3. “I am loyal to a fault.”
You’re not a dog, so why are you comparing yourself to one? While loyalty is a noble trait, no employer really believes that you are going to sacrifice your own well-being or advancement for the company. You can’t know how you’ll fit into a company until you’re there. If you preach the virtues of loyalty in the interview but end up hating the job and moving on in six months, it reflects badly on your professionalism.

ALTERNATIVES: Be honest. Lay out your long-term goals for that particular company. If you want to use this position to gain experience and then advance in your career, talk about that. Your drive and honesty will be just as valuable as your loyalty. And that will give the company an incentive to keep you engaged, so they can hold on to you as long as possible.

4. “How much does it pay?”
This is one of the most annoying questions for most interviewers. You’ll find out how much the job pays when you get the offer. Until then, you should focus on the position and how you can contribute to the company. No matter how you phrase the question, asking about money at this stage makes you look like you’re just in it for the money. Even if that’s true, is that how you want to come off?

ALTERNATIVES: If finding out the salary is really that important to you, ask to talk to other employees on your level, ones who won’t be making the hiring decision, to get an idea of work environment. Then ask them about the benefits package and compensation. But trust us–don’t make the initial interview all about the money.

5. “I can take on any challenge.”
Let’s be honest, you’re not Superman. Even he couldn’t take on every challenge. You are only human, and you have your limitations. Saying you can take on anything only sets you up for failure in the end. Don’t let your desperation for a job be the kryptonite to your career development!

ALTERNATIVES: Try something like, “I’m quick and can pick things up pretty easily.” There’s always a learning curve with any new task, but the quicker you can learn the ins and outs, the more efficient you will look to your boss. Be realistic about your limitations. If you can’t complete the tasks you promised you could, your boss might start to doubt your abilities in other areas.


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