Strong Answers for Interview Questions: Avoiding the Cookie-Cutter AnswerWritten by Leslie Hicks
Having strong answers for interview questions depends on a number of factors. One of the key factors that is sometimes overlooked is authenticity. Do your responses give the interviewer a good sense of who you are and what you are about?
Job seekers sometimes forget about this concept of authenticity. Instead, they provide overplayed and generic answers that they think the interviewer wants to hear. These are answers like, "I’m a hard worker," "I’m a team player,” or "I have great attention to detail."
Such cookie-cutter answers are better than saying nothing, but every interviewer has heard these responses a number of times. Consequently, the interviewer doesn’t learn much about what makes this job applicant different from the next one. The interviewer also doesn’t know whether the interviewer is a hard worker or is just saying something that seems like a good interview answer. As a result, the interviewer is likely to dismiss this applicant.
So, what do you do if you really are a hard worker? You have a couple of options.
First, you can give examples to prove it. For example: "I work harder than other people. In college, I always took six classes, and never settled for a grade less than an A-" or "Being an architecture student, the norm was to do one or two all-nighters per week. I know how to work hard."
Alternatively, you can use less overplayed language that explains what makes you a hard worker. For instance: "I am someone who will dive headfirst into difficult problems and who only stops working when the problem has been solved." Or, as another example: "At this point in my life, my work comes first. I will put in whatever hours are needed to get the job done."
As you prepare answers for various job interview questions, think about how your responses can be less cookie-cutter. Focus on examples from your past that demonstrate your abilities, and come up with language that you feel comfortable with, that authentically represents you.