Woman in an interview looking skeptical

Six job interview cliches to avoid like the plague

Elizabeth Bromstein|

Selling yourself is hard. Even if you’re fantastic, making that clear and putting all your awesomeness into words is a daunting task. But sell yourself you must when it comes to the job search.

And, what is it that you want the potential employer to know? That you work hard, that you are a team player, and that above all, you are the perfect fit for the position they are trying to fill.

The thing is, you’re not allowed to say any of that. Not in so many words anyway. It’s frustrating, and it might seem kind of dumb, but those are the rules.

You want to avoid saying the things hiring managers hear in interviews (and read in cover letters and resumes) over and over again

Here are six clichés to avoid like the plague. (Ha! See what I did there?)

“I’m hard working.” You might say this in response to the “Why should I hire you?” question.

But, come on. What else are you going to say? That you’re lazy and you’ll get through the day by doing as little as possible? Everyone says they’re “hard working.”

Instead of using this term, illustrate it by coming armed with examples of results you’ve gotten in previous positions. Results, like increases in sales or revenue – or numbers of any kind – demonstrate that you’re a “hard worker,” since these things take hard work to achieve.

Answer the question with “I get results.”

“I’m a team-player.” You’re not going to say that you don’t work well with others and tend to be a control freak, or, alternately, that you prefer to let the others do the work while you share in the credit later. Hiring managers know this, so aren’t going to be convinced by you telling them you’re a “team player.”

Instead, talk about the teams you have built or coordinated and the work that you did with those teams. If you’re really more of a player than a leader, talk about how you contributed in your role.

Be ready beforehand with your story about how your team increased revenue. Also, use this opportunity to show how you handle conflict or contribute great ideas.

“I work too hard/I’m a workaholic.” Let me guess, you’re not satisfied until the job is done? Variations on this are the most popular answer to the dreaded “What’s your greatest weakness?” question.

Pick a real weakness, one that isn’t too incriminating – so, don’t say “vodka” – and that doesn’t have anything to do with the job. So, if it’s an accounting position don’t say “I’m terrible with numbers.” Say something like “I’m not very good at speaking up in meetings,” then talk about how you’re working to overcome this weakness.

“I’m a perfectionist.” No, you’re not. If you were a perfectionist, you would have researched what not to say in a job interview and realized that this is in the top five. Again, it’s one of the most popular answers to the greatest weakness question, and it should be avoided at all costs (Ha. I did it again…thank you, I’m here all week). Even if it really is your greatest weakness (and I bet it’s not), make up another one.

“I’m open to anything.” Don’t be open to anything. It sounds desperate, and employers hate that. As Suzanne Lucas recently observed in a very on-point op-ed, hiring managers are put off if they think candidates need the job, leaving them “in the weird position of having to pretend that they are fabulously wealthy and just want to get a job to get them out of the house for a bit.”

Be ready to explain why you want this job, not just any job.

“I’m perfect for this position.” It is of this, above all things, that you want to convince the interviewer. This is the single real purpose of the interview. But you can’t say it.

Instead, demonstrate how perfect you are with your incredible tales of success and by showing that you have researched the role and the company. Then you can say something like, “I know this organization is very into sustainability/philanthropy/football…” then talk about how this is also important to you. In other words, you’re saying, “I will fit in well here,”

Show, don’t tell, and hopefully you will convince the hiring manager that you are the perfect fit, without having to say so.

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  • ssety

    Thank you for the invaluable lessons. There is nothing like being really sincere and interested in the job one is applying to! I hope I do find my life job, and not only a dream job.