When it comes to job interviews, first impressions are everything. You probably know to avoid certain faux pas–like being late, or saying something mean to the receptionist. But you also need to stay away from giving clichéd answers that will discourage your interviewer from advancing you to the next stage.
As a hiring manager (and the founder and CEO of a staffing firm), here are some of the most common ones I hear:
“I’m an overachiever”
I’m a big believer in word choice and semantics–people meaning what they say, and saying what they mean. When I hear this, I believe you are an underachiever, or you’re a decent worker, but not a superstar.
Here’s what I mean: Being labeled an overachiever means that people underestimated you. If you overachieve, that means you did more than people thought you could. To me, this raises the question, why did they believe that you were limited in your abilities?
“I give 150 percent”
Whenever I hear this phrase, I always say, “I think you need to recalibrate.” I can only give you 100 percent. I can’t give you 150 percent of me, because there isn’t one and a half times of me. When you say something like this (especially without any specific examples to back it up), it makes you sound disingenuous, and you’ll probably end up over-promising, and under-delivering. This is not something that hiring managers want.
“I really love this company”
Really? Tell me, what do you know about the company? Is it more than the small bit you reviewed online? Any interviewer will assume you applied for the job because you like the company, so you don’t need to state the obvious. But you should know as much as you can know without actually working there, which requires you to look beyond the company website. You need to understand what you can bring to the company, and how that ties into their mission and overall objective.
Ask questions about why the people working there think it’s a great place. Find out where they believe the company can improve. Most importantly, think and ask questions to help you form opinions, not just for the sake of asking questions. As a hiring manager, I want you to tell me that you’ve done the research and talked to people because that’s the only way for you to understand what we’re building and creating.
“I’m hard working, I’m a team player, I’m committed”
You might think this is what the person on the other end wants to hear. I’m telling you that it’s not.
This is what I want to hear: “I will outwork and outproduce anyone else on this team. I will take on extra education to grow faster than my peers. I will put in time beyond standard business hours if and when necessary to achieve goals, and to cross-train in skills that other people have.”
But people won’t say those things because most people aren’t willing to execute them later on. To clarify, I’m not looking for people who want to work a million hours. I want people to be honest and for people to articulate what they bring to the table, and then deliver on it. In any relationship, if you lie about who you are and what you’re willing to do, it usually catches up to you. Always tell the truth.
“I’m extremely detail oriented”
If that’s a true statement, you better know the minute details of your job and your team. What happened last month, last quarter, and last year? Why were there problems and what was the cause of the successes?
As a hiring manager, I want to see concrete evidence of that. That means no typos in your resume and involvement in projects and deliverables that showed your attention to detail. As a candidate, the onus is on you to prove that to me.
“I feel like this is a place where I can learn and grow”
Okay. Now tell me what’s in it for us, the company? What are you going to contribute? We make money by growing revenue or cutting expenses; what are you going to do to move us in that direction, and how? This kind of answer to the question is focused on you, rather than on the company–and most interviewees tend to focus on themselves and what they want.
When you’re interviewing for a role, you should always focus on the company and what the company can gain by employing you. Yes, the advice seems obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people don’t follow this advice. Remember, you’re there to convince the company that you’re the best solution to their problem, that you’re the best person to fill their vacancy. Focus on that, and you’ll be surprised at how far you can go.
Tom Gimbel is the founder and CEO of LaSalle Network, a national staffing, recruiting, and culture firm.