In the past, I've been pretty lenient during the interviews. As long as students provide an answer that logically makes sense, I'll let them have it. If a student chooses to describe themselves as "hard-working" or "passionate" and then moves on, there's little I'm going to say to counteract that. The more interviews I've seen, however, the more I realize that words mean nothing. Every single student calls themselves "dedicated", or "hardworking" or "going the extra mile"...when in fact, very few of them are. Sure, they're good kids overall, and they do perfectly adequate work, but "hardworking" and "dedicated" used to mean that you were something special. Anymore, I see them used as blanket terms to whitewash being a perfectly average person. It's not just for students either; in the world of "EdTech", I constantly see words like "engaged learning" or "active collaboration" or "constructed knowledge" thrown around as educators brag about how they only care about "what's best for students". Those things might be true...but until I see some evidence, it's just words. Giving yourself a label doesn't make it true.
So today I'm attacking. If a student says they're hard-working, I'm going to need them to prove it. Are they really "hard-working" or are they just "doing what they're told and not much more". It's time to challenge students to truly sell themselves or, in some cases, take a hard look at the mediocrity they settle for time and time again.