If you’ve interviewed for job openings more than a handful of times, you’re probably familiar with the body language an employer exhibits when he’s bored, tired of listening to you talk, or turned off by something you said.
Isn’t that a horrible feeling?
I was recently interviewed by writer Matt Krumrie for an article on ZipRecruiter.com about interview clichés. In addition to the helpful information in this article, I’m providing you with my top three ways to drive employers crazy during interviews—and ways to avoid driving them crazy, too, by avoiding interview clichés.
Which came first… canned interview questions or cliché interview responses? The chicken or the egg?
It doesn’t really matter, does it? If your end goal is to land a great job with a great company, you have to be smart and prepared. If the employer throws out 10 canned interview questions, and you’re adequately prepared for the interview, you’ll be able to respond candidly and concisely while avoiding interview clichés.
It’s important for you as a job seeker to understand that recruiters will likely ask a standard set of questions for a variety of reasons. Employers must ask candidates the same/similar questions to avoid exhibiting bias, and most employers also don’t have time to reinvent the wheel when preparing for interviews with candidates. Employers need to ascertain as quickly as possible whether candidates fit well within the open position and within the company’s culture. It’s your job as the candidate to provide unique, detailed information within the confines of standard interview questions. The only way to do this is by adequately preparing for interviews. Reality check: you will likely be asked standard interview questions. If you don’t prepare responses in advance, you’re choosing to perform poorly and weed yourself out of the screening/hiring process.
Here are three standard interview clichés and ways to avoid them.
- “What’s your greatest weakness?”
You’ll be asked this question in at least half of your interviews. Please don’t mention a strength and spin it as a weakness. This is a really old school tip, and employers see right through it. How many times have employers heard candidates say, “Well, I’m a perfectionist, and it causes me to spend too much time on projects?”
Even if this is true, employers will either call bull or roll their eyes at this response. Instead of taking this approach, mention a true weakness, but limit the weaknesses you mention to teachable skills. “I have to admit I wish I had more cross training experience in HTML. My lack of coding is very limited, and when I switch over to code occasionally, I am not as comfortable as I’d like to be. I’d like more training in this area so I can contribute in more ways to my team.” The reason this approach works is because most employers recognize that you’re mentioning a problem which can be easily remedied by professional development or training, and you’re expressing a desire to learn. Good employers don’t see these weaknesses as insurmountable problems but as opportunities for growth.
- “Tell me about yourself.”
Avoid responding by launching into a monologue about your life. Unless employers are hoping you’ll throw yourself under the bus so they can weed you out from a big pool of candidates, employers simply don’t want to know about every detail of your life, and they don’t have time to hear the story, either.
What do they care about? They care about what is relevant to the company, to the position, to your work background and future career goals. Briefly explain who you are, where you’ve been, and where you’re going. Keep it simple. Avoid sharing personal information which might give away information employers can’t legally ask you. If you’re not familiar with illegal interview questions, add this to your interview prep to-do list.
- “Where do you see yourself in five or 10 years”
Do not lie to your potential employer and respond with, “Why, working for you, of course.”
Employers understand that you’re a human being with hopes, dreams, and goals. They want to hear about your future career plans. However, use caution when sharing your plans during an interview; it’s probably not a good idea to mention that in two years, you hope to quit your job and move to Jamaica for the rest of your life.
Focus on what you hope to gain from your employment with their company, but more importantly, how you hope to contribute to the company’s goals or overall mission. Do you want to transition from a contributing writer to editor-in-chief within 10 years? Don’t be afraid to mention that. It’s ambitious, but a quality employer wants to hire candidates with drive and motivation.
It’s better to showcase yourself as caring deeply about your career than as someone who provides cliché answers due to lack of concern or preparation. With a little interview preparation, you’ll not only avoid clichés; you’ll also land your dream job.