Much of a recruiter’s professional life is spent seeking out prospective job candidates, reviewing resumes and qualifications, while trying to discover new ways to find people. Talent Acquisition leaders extract specified information through a series of what should be engaging questions leaning more towards conversation than interrogation, in an effort to unfurl the individual’s professional acumen and experience.

Many candidates respond to interview questions in a manner consistent with what they think the interviewer wants to hear. Contrived answers, while well intended, do not enable the interviewer to get a true sense of a candidate’s occupational expertise. Rather, pre-scripted (aka canned) answers leave the interviewer guessing; wondering and filling in gaps, instead of feeling satisfied with the person’s abilities, and likelihood of success.

Here are a few bad, canned interview responses with suggestions on how to improve them:

“I want my next job to be my last job.”

That was a great answer in 1978 when Talent Acquisition was known as the Personnel Department. You do not want anything to be your last unless you’re on death row and you have a craving, or you’re trying to quit a bad habit.

Pro Tip: Aspiring for greater success is detrimental for your long-term career plan. However, when you interview for a particular role, that role is what you want, and you have to convince the interviewer that you are not looking beyond the position.

Instead, try: “I want my next job to leverage my expertise in a way that lets me contribute to the greater goals of the organization. Before I focus on the next job though, I’d like to make sure I take full advantage of every learning opportunity – and every chance to contribute – in this role, so I know I am at my best.”

“I bring a wealth of experience that no one else can.”

Everyone thinks they’re the greatest. When interviewing, it’s important to put forth the best version of yourself. Preparation and dedication to the process set you up for success. Executing when given the opportunity during an interview – responding to questions with real examples of past performance framed with specific actions and outcomes – with clear and concise information delivered in a succinct way, carries you forward. Towing the line between arrogance and confidence requires a delicate balance when talking about oneself during an interview.

Pro Tip: Never assume you are the best when you don’t know your competition. Besides, while confidence is important, humility makes more of an impact during an interview.

Instead, try: “Thank you for the opportunity to learn, and to share. I recognize there are a lot of talented people vying for this role. I believe my past experience and track record for success differentiate me, and I would welcome a chance to delve deeper to help you validate.”


As you progress through an interview process, you will likely be presented with scenario-type questions. These questions are designed to give candidates an opportunity to share how they apply past experience – and learning – to situations and circumstances that are likely to arise if the person is selected for the given position. Discussing accomplishments when you lead people can be complicated. Clearly, you wouldn’t have been successful without the support and dedication of the people you led. However, they may not have been as high-performing if you weren’t leading them.

Pro Tip: Give credit while clarifying how you maximized performance. Beginning an interview response with, “I did this…” and “I did that…” sets the wrong tone. You did nothing alone. Leadership and influence is about how you were able to command and galvanize a group.

Instead, try: “I was fortunate that I had a great team of people around me. Each person had a sincere desire to learn and to be coached. We surpassed our targets because the team became more efficient and productive which contributed to the company’s overall performance.”

How you say – what you say – matters.

David Rose is a Partner and VP of Talent Acquisition with YELLOW DOG Recruiting. Follow David on Twitter @YELLOWDOG_01.