The interview is the final step in the elimination process, and the most important one. Nobody obtains a position without an interview or a series of interviews and, in most cases, the difference between the person who gets the job and the one who does not is the manner in which the successful candidate handles it.
Unfortunately, there are a lot of myths out there about how to succeed in the interview that, if followed, can really hurt an individual’s chances in the job market. Some of these myths are perpetuated by misguided career counselors at high schools and colleges. Others are actually spread by recruiters, who would seem to have the best insider information. However, it is important to realize that recruiters have the best interests of the employer in mind, not the best interests of the job seeker. So, what are some of the most common myths about interviewing?
MYTH #1: A PERFECT RESUME ATTRACTS JOB OFFERS
First of all, there are as many versions of a “perfect” resumes as there are people in the world. The resume is a marketing brochure – while you’re the product. An interviewer may become interested in a candidate off the resume (brochure), but then will want to find out more about the product (job candidate). People get hired from face-to-face meetings.
Including key words can help to get your resume viewed more often, but the resume itself won’t replace the real product – you! Even with key words, relying too heavily on the resume to secure interviews is a bit like playing the lottery. Employers are receiving hundreds if not thousands of resumes each time they post a job opening. Having all the right words, skills and experience is still no guarantee the right person will come across your resume. So, it is critical that the most time and energy in your job search is spent meeting with people and expanding your network.
MYTH #2: THE INTERVIEWER IS LOOKING FOR REASONS TO HIRE YOU
Yes and no.
The interviewer definitely has a set of specifics such as background, character traits, experience and skills they are looking for in the successful candidate. By this point in the process, the interviewer has found at least five other people who have similar sets of skills, experience and qualifications and can fill his needs as effectively as you can. For the most part, getting a job offer is all about surviving the “elimination round” of screening to get hired.
That’s your job: Survive the “elimination round” and get the offer!
MYTH#3: THE JOB CANDIDATE SHOULD HAVE THE CHANCE TO DO MOST OF THE TALKING DURING THE INTERVIEW
It may seem logical that since you are trying to convince the person across the desk to hire you, you should say as much as you can to make the sale. However, the exact opposite is true. In fact, the more you say, the more you risk saying “the wrong thing” that could end up eliminating you from the process. The interview is a good place to apply the 80-20 rule. You should spend 80 percent of your time listening and just 20 percent talking.
Listening to the interviewer is critical, as it is the only way to learn what he or she is seeking in a candidate. Even statements or questions that do not seem related to the job opening can provide clues about the interviewer’s objectives. For your part, you want your statements and answers to be brief and to the point. Resist the urge to fill the silence with more talking. Remember, this is the interviewer’s parade – he or she is in control. Don’t rain on their parade by trying to take control and dominate the conversation.
MYTH #4: THE INTERVIEWER NEEDS TO CONVINCE THE JOB CANDIDATE THAT THE COMPANY IS A GOOD PLACE TO WORK
It is true that you, as the job seeker, are trying to find a position and a company that is a good fit for your skills, personality, career goals, etc. However, when it comes to the interview process, the employer assumes the role of the buyer, while you are the seller. Remember, there are five to ten people with similar skills, experience and education interviewing for the same position.
The interview is an opportunity for the job candidate to establish rapport with the interviewer; and then to present (sell) his or her skills, talents, experiences and accomplishments in the most positive way. If you follow the listen-80-percent-of-the-time rule, you will undoubtedly learn something about the job, the department and/or the company, which you can use in your decision-making process if and when you get an offer.
MYTH #5: DETAILED QUESTIONS REALLY IMPRESS AN INTERVIEWER
Job seekers are often advised by “experts” to heavily research prospective employers and then ask questions in the interview that demonstrate your extensive knowledge. The problem is there are many flaws with this strategy and it is more likely to backfire than to land you a job. What if the information you collect is wrong or outdated? What if the question you ask is related to a failed project? What if the question offends the interviewer in some way? Sometimes detailed questions can come across as being too forward and pushy. You do not want the interviewer to associate ANY negative feelings with your interview.
There is a right time to ask the right questions. If, at the end of the interview, you need the interviewer to clarify something he or she stated during the meeting, it is acceptable to ask for elaboration. If you receive an offer, but need some more information about the position or company in order to make your decision, then that is the time to ask. All of your questions, whether the come before or after an offer is on the table, should be based on information you learned during the interview process, as opposed to information you learned from extracurricular research.
MYTH #6: THE BEST TIME TO DISCUSS AND NEGOTIATE SALARY, BENEFITS AND SPECIFICS ABOUT THE JOB IS DURING THE INTERVIEW; BEFORE THE OFFER
It is important to understand that there are two phases to interviewing:
- Get the Offer
- Evaluate the Offer
These two phases cannot occur simultaneously.
Your time in the interview must be entirely devoted to what you can do for the employer, and not at all on what the employer can do for you. Unless you can convince the employer that all of your skills, experience and glowing personality traits will make you an asset to the company, no offer will be extended and details such as salary, benefits, vacation time, etc., will be meaningless.
It is not unusual to leave a first, second or even third interview without an offer. However, it is also not unusual for interviewers to ask about your salary expectations prior to making an offer. This is a touchy situation, because if you can easily eliminate yourself from consideration if you blurt out a salary that is too high or even too low. The best strategy in this situation is trying to get the interviewer to set a price on the job: “I would like a salary commensurate with the responsibilities of the position.” If pressed further or if asked about your previous earnings, do not be tempted to overstate your previous salary in an attempt to secure a higher offer, as the interviewer can confirm this information with surprising ease.
Once you do get the offer, you can then decide if the job is something you want to take on, along with the benefits provided. After the offer is also when you are in the best position to negotiate, since you know that the employer wants to hire you. Trying to negotiate before the offer is extended is working from a weakened position.
Interviewing well is less about luck and more about skill. The best way to build this skill is to practice is daily. Being prepared is the most important factor to interviewing effectively. Be the expert on your product – be prepared to discuss all the features and benefits your product has to offer.