Your interview is going well, you feel prepared and on your game, the interviewer is smiling and nodding … and then it happens: You kill it all with a "kiss of death" statement.
[See our list of the Best Careers.]
If you want to beat your competition and get a job offer, these five phrases should never cross your lips:
1. "I'm the best qualified person for the job." Really great candidates realize that they have no idea what the rest of the candidate pool looks like. More importantly, statements like this reek of ego and naiveté. Hiring managers don't want to feel like you're doing a hard sell. From the interviewer's side, the hiring process is about an honest assessment of whether you're a good match (because they don't want to have to fire you later). Hyperbole just gets in the way. Instead, show the interviewer what makes you the best candidate; don't announce it and expect to be believed. If you're the best, your accomplishments are what will make that clear.
2. "What does your company do?" If you ask questions about the company that could have easily been answered with a bit of research ahead of time, you'll come across as unprepared, unmotivated, and maybe even lazy. Make sure you prepare before the meeting by reading enough about the company that you can answer these key questions: What does this organization do? What is it all about? What would your prospective employers say makes them different from their competition?
3. "I can't think of any real weaknesses." It may feel tired for an interviewer to ask, "what are your weaknesses?" But that's all the more reason you should have an answer. If you're caught off guard by one of the most well-known interview questions around, you'll look unprepared, like you lack self-awareness, or like you're unwilling to have an honest discussion about your fit for the job. No matter how highly you think of yourself, there should still be plenty of things that you'd like to do better.
4. "I'm a perfectionist." You might as well say "I work too hard," or "I bring work home with me," or "I'm too good at my job." These all scream "fake answer" and make you look insincere. Claiming perfectionism has become such an interview cliché that your interviewer will assume you're disingenuous and will likely be annoyed. Try something new—hiring managers have heard hundreds of people claim they're perfectionists.
5. "I don't have any questions." You might be spending eight hours a day (or more) in this job, at this company, with this manager, and there's nothing you're wondering about? Interviewers want to know that you're interested in the details of the job, the department in which you'll be working, your prospective supervisor's management style, and the culture of the organization. Otherwise, you're signaling that you're either not that interested or that you just haven't thought much about it. So come prepared with thoughtful, intelligent questions about the work you'd be doing.
Alison Green writes the popular Ask a Manager blog where she dispenses advice on career, job search, and management issues. She's also the author of Managing to Change the World: The Nonprofit Leader's Guide to Getting Results and former chief of staff of a successful nonprofit organization, where she oversaw day-to-day staff management, hiring, firing, and employee development. She now teaches other managers how to manage for results.