stop cliches

In this guest post, Ayman Fazeli, business writer at Begbies Traynor, provides his thoughts on how trotting out the same old sayings can result in talking yourself out of a job.

Some phrases once thought cool and trendy are now seen as worn and corny. In such an important setting as an interview, you need to be careful about using certain clichés that have become like ‘white noise’ for interviewers.

“I’m an excellent team player” is a good example. Apart from sounding a little glib, the interviewer would prefer to hear about a particular time when you did excel, rather than a generalised statement that does you no justice.

It only takes a few seconds to derail a positive career move during the interview process, but you can escape the blandness by being more selective in your terminology.

So what clichés are a definite no-no, and how could you make your point differently? Being an “excellent team player” is probably number one – but here are another nine to avoid if you want to get that job.

“I’m hard working”

That’s good to know, and certainly better than the alternative. An assumption is made by all concerned that you will not sit around reading the paper all day. Instead, saying you are conscientious might have more impact, but don’t forget to back it up with a concrete example.

“I’m passionate about success”

We all know what you mean, but the saying “success is a journey, not a destination” is worth bearing in mind. Your employer will want to know that you’re interested in pursuing success for the business as well as for yourself, and that you’re not going to trample on everyone else to get there.

“I’m a genuine people person”

If you’re going for a job in sales, that’s great. If the job involves working on your own for large periods of the day, it’s irrelevant and sounds a little too contrived. It could also backfire if your colleagues turn out to be the team from hell.

“I’m a highly motivated self-starter”

More white noise. Try to put this into context and personalise it in terms of the company. For example, can you bring new ideas to their existing operation – a new way to market the business perhaps, or a method of improving their systems? The term “self-starter” is superfluous – the simple act of getting ourselves out of bed in the morning makes everyone a self-starter, in reality.

“I’m a detail oriented perfectionist”

Sounds like you might be hard work. Perfectionism is often used by a candidate when they are asked to name one of their weaknesses, so it’s probably best avoided as not everyone sees this as a positive trait.

“I’m a prolific problem solver”

This not only sounds boastful, it’s highly likely to lead to a question about a problem you’ve actually solved, which could catch you out if you haven’t prepared well enough. Giving practical examples is a far more effective way to impress the interviewer.

“I have excellent communication skills”

So you can talk and write – well, it’s a start. Making a statement such as this is unnecessary as surely you’re already demonstrating excellent oral communication skills in the interview? Wow them with your knowledge of the industry, talk intelligently about how you can add value to their company – then they’ll experience your skill at first hand.

“I’m glad you asked that question”

This can have one of two effects, neither of which will work in your favour. It sounds evasive, as if you’re stalling for time because you can’t think of a suitable answer. Even worse, it could come across as a little arrogant – they might think you’re trying to take charge of the interview.

“I’m the ideal candidate”

A huge presumption on your part – just don’t expect the interviewer to agree.

Some of these words trip off the tongue too readily in interviews. Show them what a solution-focused self-starter actually means by getting past the glib phrases and demonstrating how you can make a difference to their company.

Not only will you stand out from your competitors, it shows that you have an intelligent head on your shoulders.

Ayman Fazeli is a business and finance journalist at Real Business Rescue (part of the Begbies Traynor Group). Real Business Rescue has helped business owners, directors and stakeholders with issues relating to insolvency, finance and employment for over 25 years.

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