Meaningful answers, not boring run-of-the-mill responses, will help you land your dream job.
Landing your dream job, or any job for that matter, takes dedication and a lot of practice. No one gets the corner office and secretary on the first try. Sometimes it takes years to accomplish those lofty goals. Whether it’s rewriting your resume, adding a splash of color to your personal website or creating a professional LinkedIn profile, taking time out to practice your job search skills is essential to moving up in the world.
One of the most crucial skills to practice is interviewing. These first chance meetings with potential employers often are stressful and leave us feeling less than confident and wondering what to say at an interview. With a little practice, these fears are easily eliminated. One area to focus on is mundane answers. Hiring managers grow tired of the same old answers and common interview mistakes each time they meet a candidate.
You may have won the interview with your resume, but convincing the employer you have the guts and the grit is another story. Prove to your new boss that you have what it takes and can think outside the box. Give meaningful answers and know confidently what to say at an interview. Don’t get trapped by these eight boring interview lines.
“I’m a quick [fast] learner.”
This is line of the driest lines a candidate could possibly use. It reeks of insincerity and tells the employer you have no idea what you are doing. Telling the boss, you are willing to learn translates into: “You will need to spend valuable time and resources before I’m eligible for the position.” Who wants to hire someone they have to train from the ground up?
This doesn’t mean you should lie to the hiring manager. Don’t pretend you know something you have zero experience with. This will come back to haunt you. Employers always learn the truth eventually. Compensate for your lack of experience and knowledge by providing an example of how you’re already making strides to master this area. Let them know you are actively advancing your abilities.
“My current position doesn’t directly involve community management. However, I’ve analyzed your company’s social media activities, as well as the competition, and determined…”
“I haven’t had the opportunity to use WordPress as a blogging platform. But I’ve used…and found many platforms have universal capabilities.”
“I developed a synergistic and agile marketing solution for local BSB clients.”
Being too bland is a sin in and of itself, but using filler language and interview buzzwords can hurt just as well. These answers are meant to impress. They’re similar to marketing campaigns and sales slogans. Hiring managers will roll their eyes and send you packing.
This doesn’t mean eliminate all interview buzzwords. Abstract buzzwords and jargon are necessary in most industries. Using concrete words that describe qualifiers and actual processes in your interview will create a lasting impression. Practice your answers until you describe actual achievements and contributions. In other words, like on your resume, show your accomplishments and contributions, not what you are capable of doing.
“As marketing specialist for…, I increased brand awareness by 20 percent, using marketing campaigns to promote our newest product.”
“During my first year at…, I rectified more than 300 aged account receivables by implementing custom-built collection methods and timetable for collections.”
“I like to think outside of the box.”
Employers love candidates who think outside the box. Just don’t come out and say it directly. First, it comes across as playing a game and telling them what they want to hear. Also, like the buzzwords above, hiring managers want real examples they can see and measure, not generic words that make unfounded claims.
Before sitting down for the interview, choose three of your best contributions. Maybe you increased sales by developing a unique sales pitch. Or you may have decreased overhead by suggesting innovative methods to combine tasks and services. Practice explaining these accomplishments. Each description should be no more than two sentences. We don’t want to go for overkill. Too many details are a common interview mistake and just as bad as using bland, generic statements.
“In my previous role, I consistently developed new ways to engage customers to provide feedback on our services. One way I did this was…”
“Last summer, I analyzed wasted manpower and developed methods to combine schedules and tasks, making teamwork more efficient and productive.”
“I’m highly motivated and a self-starter.”
Okay, this should be an unspoken obvious. It's a common interview mistake, though. All candidates should be motivated. Most hiring managers will give you the “So what?” expression and wait to hear you back the claim up with proof. They know this is filler and fluff used when candidates don’t know what to say or how to answer. Don’t get trapped in the loophole. Stating that you’re motivated is the exact opposite way to showcase your motivation.
Prepare a sentence that doesn’t come out and say “I’m motivated.” Think of accomplishments and contributions that show you go beyond your job duties to help promote the company. This is time to show initiative. If you need help, ask co-workers to recommend some examples. People notice when you go beyond your calling.
“Team members needed a way to express their needs and spread interdepartmental news. I founded the internal newsletter to help teams better accomplish their goals.”
“My previous employer kept snacks and drinks in the breakroom for employees to enjoy. Each week I noticed food was thrown away. By working with the local food assistance center, I founded a program to send those products to needy families.”
“Perfectionism is my greatest weakness.”
Well, don’t admit to it. Seriously, no one likes a perfectionist. This is a very overused interview buzzword. Most candidates have the misconception that perfectionism is a positive trait. Hiring managers run from perfectionists like they are the plague. Calling yourself perfect makes you sound like an insufferable, know-it-all.
On the other hand, never create a false weakness or imperfection. This either sounds practiced or presents you as incapable of doing the job. Use genuine mistakes. Yes, I said mistakes. Showing you’re human is no failure. Show examples where you made a mistake, rectified it and learned from the consequences. Hiring managers want to know you can pick up the pieces and recover. Start with: “I’ve learned from my share of mistakes.” Then give positive examples.
“My first week working for…was difficult. Did you know printers are temperamental? That week I learned not to try to print five different reports on one machine.”
“My first assignment for the local newspaper was exciting, until I learned not rely on my recorder. It’s wise to always take notes.”
Prevent a boring answer from ruining your career.
Okay, what if you’ve done great throughout the interview, answered each question perfectly and then let the wrong sentence slip? No worries. Look back over the perfectionist section. It’s not about the mistake. The recovery is what counts. Just tell yourself “I can do better than that.” Quickly add to the boring answer.
For example, if the hiring manager asks you about a particular software and you answer “No, I am not familiar with that software. But I’m a fast learner.” Add to the statement. “I’ve used similar systems, including… It’s my experience that each software has universal features and nuances. This should be no problem.”
Just don’t panic. Keep calm, and keep going. Nothing is forever. Even those stupid answers and common interview mistakes.
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