I'm a Career Coach — You Need to Avoid These 5 Outdated Phrases in Interviews

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Becca Carnahan1.11k
Career Coach & Mom of 2

Picture this. It’s 2008. You’ve printed out your MapQuest directions and five copies of your resume on your nicest resume paper. Before you hop out of the car, you turn off your Katy Perry pump-up iPod playlist and swap out your Ugg boots for some very pointy-toed pumps. Let’s go!

Your pre-interview routine looks a bit different in 2022, right? And much like your old fashion choices, there are also phrases you may have used in interviews in the past that need to go.

1. “This would be a great opportunity for me.”

You’re applying to a position because it would be a great opportunity for you, but is that statement unique? Everyone being considered for this job is excited to work for this company and sees it as a great opportunity to advance their career. 

Therefore, instead of leading with “me, me, me” make sure when you’re telling the interviewer about yourself you’re emphasizing how you add value and why hiring you is a great opportunity for THEM. Swap out “this would be a great opportunity for me” with “I’ve been following your growth at XYZ company and am excited to see what you’re doing in ABC area. My skill set and experience are well aligned with this position and I am eager to contribute to your team.”

2. “My weakness? I work too hard.”

We all fear the “What is your greatest weakness?” question. How do I answer this in a way that doesn’t make me look bad? Lie? Name a strength as a weakness? Run away?

Here’s how to tackle this instead of saying that you work too hard and care too much. Think about an actual professional weakness that a) does not completely disqualify you from this job and b) you’ve been working to improve.

Let’s say you are interviewing for a project management job — you don’t want to say that you are not strong at managing details. (And if that’s the case, work on that skill in another way before applying to a position like this!) However, if in the past you’ve found that haven’t always spoken up in meetings, but you are working on growing this muscle, you could talk about this.

For example, “I’ve noticed a weakness of mine was not speaking up in large group meetings because I work best when taking time to digest the information and framing my thoughts later. However, I know it’s important to contribute in this setting, so how I’m actively working to remedy this is taking extra time to review the meeting agenda in advance and taking notes as to where I can add value so I’m well prepared to share my thoughts. This way I can speak up while still using my active listening skills to be attuned to details that I can reflect on afterward.”

3. “I was just a…”

If women had game show buzzers following them around to buzz us when we use the word “just” the world would be a very noisy place. Whether we’re “just following up” or “just wanted to give our opinion” or were “just a stay-at-home mom,” the word is a confidence crusher and has to go.

Within an interview setting in particular, make sure to own your experience instead of “justing” it away. You were not “just a stay-at-home mom.” Swap this for “For the past five years I was a full-time caregiver for my three children where I honed my skills in creative thinking, managing multiple priorities and navigating early childhood resources.” 

Consider the same swap for any position that you are about to “just” away because it doesn’t feel like a big enough role or directly relevant to the job. Find the transferable skills and stand confidently in your experience.

4. “What is the culture like here?”

Don’t get me wrong, I love culture questions and find them to be incredibly important. However, asking a beige question like “What is the culture here?” is not going to give you the answers you’re looking for.

Let’s give that question a splash of color, shall we?

Think about what a “good culture” looks like to you. Is that social events with your coworkers or is it clear boundaries that promote work-life balance? Do you want a collaborative culture or one that puts a strong emphasis on autonomy? Then with “good culture” for you in mind, ask better questions like:

  • “I noticed that work-life balance is one of your company’s values — how is that implemented in practice?”
  • “How are decisions made within the team and company?”
  • “What does success look like in this role?”

5. “Sorry, I was on mute.”

When interviews suddenly went virtual in 2020, we were all learning video conference technology together and that was fine! Our lighting was off, our camera angles were strange and we forgot to take ourselves off mute.

But now that we’re two years into Zoom calls and video interviews continue to be a common part of the interview process, you need to know your technology. If you haven’t used Zoom, Google Meet, or Microsoft Teams before, make sure you test it out before the interview so you don’t let tech stand in the way of a great interview.

Go Crush Your Interview

The most important piece of interview advice here — you can do this! 

Right now you are doing the work to prepare, which not everyone does. Plus you have a slew of great skills to bring to the table. Bring that confidence into the interview and show them the rockstar you are.


This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of Fairygodboss.

Becca Carnahan is a career coach, author, and mom from Massachusetts. As the founder and CEO of Next Chapter Careers, LLC, she specializes in helping parents find fulfilling jobs they love without giving up the flexibility they need. Signup for her weekly newsletter and access free career resources at beccacarnahan.com.

What’s your no. 1 outdated interview phrase? Share your answer in the comments to help other Fairygodboss members!