5 deadly interview sins

Last Updated Sep 29, 2011 12:48 PM EDT

Job interviews are never easy. And they're especially stressful when opportunities are so few and far between, with unemployment hovering at just under 10 percent. (More worrying, a third of jobless people are dealing with long-term unemployment.)

When you score a coveted interview, the single most important thing you can do is prepare and practice, by doing both a run-through with an industry-savvy friend, and recording yourself and then doing a self-review. This will help temper your nerves and help you work on weaknesses. Then, choose your words carefully once you're in the room. Here are 5 things never to say to a hiring manager:

1. Something They've Heard a Million Times Before
Some people just love interviewing others and spurring them to be creative and compelling in their answers. Others ask the same dull questions they've been asking for years. Whether your interviewer is inspiring or barely conscious, you'll need to come up with new answers to what are likely old questions. "Never be cliché. For instance, don't tell the interviewer you are a people person," advises Aliza Bogner, VP of human resources at Alison Brod Public Relations. Prepare and practice your talking points prior, and you'll be less likely to rely on stock answers.

2. A Request For Any Kind of Concessions
You can't do overtime because your daughter finishes daycare at 5. You'd like to work from home part-time because you have a new puppy. You need an ergonomically-sound mouse and phone set-up. You're not so into working on weekends, holidays, or your birthday. Particularly in a first interview, you want them to want you -- badly. Once they do, you can then ask for what you want, says Elizabeth Lions, author of Recession Proof
 Yourself! This includes specific questions about salary, benefits, or vacation time.

3. Anything That Shows You're Over- Or Under-Ambitious
Questions like "Where do you see yourself in 5 years?" can make certain candidates share too honestly ("I have no freaking idea!") or show their true colors ("Hopefully, in your job...haha..."). Helping you find your true passion isn't really their problem, and the fact that you want to advance ASAP can also raise concerns that you'll jump ship quickly, says Nicole Crimaldi, founder of MsCareerGirl.com.

4. Anything Negative
You probably know better than to bash your former boss. But you should be positive throughout the interview process, says Eric Kramer, President and Chief Innovation Officer of Innovative Career Services: "Don't be negative about anything including your prior work space, your prior company's personnel policies, traffic on the way to the interview, or the weather." That said, there are certain times to be constructively critical of your former corporation as well as the company with which you're interviewing. The key is constructive input instead of being a Debby Downer. What can you do to improve their situation with your skills and experience, instead of merely mocking it?

5. That You Have No Weaknesses
Yes, the question "What is your biggest weakness?" is annoying, boring, and irritating (see "Something They've Heard A Million Times Before," above). But asserting that you are a perfect human specimen isn't the answer. "You will not come across as credible if you say that you have no weaknesses," says career expert Cheryl E. Palmer. "Rather, you should talk about a real weakness that is not central to the position that you are seeking and show how you have overcome that weakness." This will help the employer see you as a three-dimensional potential employee, instead of as a two-dimensional resume.

What else should you NEVER say in an interview? Please share in the comments section below.

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    Amy Levin-Epstein is a freelance writer who has been published in dozens of magazines (including Glamour, Self and Redbook), websites (including AOLHealth.com, Babble.com and Details.com) and newspapers (including The New York Post and the Boston Globe). To read more of her writing, visit AmyLevinEpstein.com.

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