MYTH #1: Every interview in my job search will be a job interview.
REALITY: Some of the most fruitful interviews you can engage in are referral interviews. These are interviews which you set up and conduct to gain information, advice, referrals and to be favorably remembered. Referral interviews often lead to job interviews and provide invaluable information for your later job interviews—including the process of negotiating your salary.
MYTH #2: My resume will get me the job. If I write an excellent resume, I don’t have to worry about anything else.
REALITY: The purpose of your resume and cover letter are to get the attention of the employer and to motivate that person to want to find out more about you—invite you to an interview. You still must sell yourself in the interview which includes establishing rapport with the interviewer(s) as well as giving evidence of your accomplishments.
MYTH #3: Once I send off my resume for a job, the only thing I can do is wait to hear from the employer.
REALITY: Waiting is not a good job search strategy. You should attempt a proactive approach to complement your reactive application. If you have responded to an ad and mailed your resume to the personnel department, do a little sleuthing on the Internet or amongst acquaintances familiar with the company. You may be able to determine the operating department where the opening exists. If you target the head of the operating unit that has a need to fill a position, you may find yourself interviewing with that person only to go home to find a rejection letter from the human resources department! This actually happened to one of our clients!
MYTH #4: If I get a phone call from an employer, it must mean they aren’t very interested in my candidacy because they didn’t take the time to reply by letter.
REALITY: If you get a phone call from an employer after submitting your resume, you should assume it is a screening interview. Your resume piqued the employer’s interest enough that he or she wants to know about you, but not enough that he or she wants to commit to a face-to-face interview yet. Always be prepared for an unexpected call that is a screening interview. You must listen carefully, keep your responses and questions focused and remember your goal is to be invited for a face-to-face interview.
MYTH #5: For the employer, the purpose of the interview is to determine if you are qualified for the job.
REALITY: The employer already has determined that you are qualified for the job before he or she invites you to the interview. The primary purpose of the interview is to determine whether or not you will fit into the organization—your personality and likability. The employer will be looking for “chemistry.” In the end, the employer wants to hire someone who is both qualified and likable.
MYTH #6: My goal in a job interview is to get the job.
REALITY: Your goal is to both give and elicit information—especially if this is your first interview with this employer—and get a second interview! You want to impress the interviewer favorably so that you will remain a candidate and be called back for another of what will probably be a series of interviews, and you also want to get information as to what the employer needs. That will both help you present your accomplishments so that they demonstrate your “fit” for the particular position and help you determine if this is a job you likely will accept if it is offered.
MYTH #7: I have all the right skills and lots of experience related to this position. It’s a cinch the job is as good as mine if I can just get the interview.
REALITY: Everyone invited to interview for a position is thought to have the requisite skills to do the job. What will set you apart from the others is how well you convince the interviewer(s) that you are the perfect “fit” for the job. You must communicate many qualities other than your skills and experience.
MYTH #8: I can’t really do much to prepare for the interview since I don’t know what questions I will be asked.
REALITY: Although you cannot know exactly what questions you will be asked, you can anticipate most of the areas they will cover. You will no doubt be asked about your accomplishments, your job progression, your personality, and if you are a recent graduate—your education. Expect to be asked questions about your strengths and weaknesses, your goals, and how you might behave in certain situations. You not only can prepare, you absolutely must prepare!
MYTH #9: I have always been able to talk my way through anything. I’ll just go into the interview and dazzle the interviewer with my verbosity.
REALITY: You may fill silence, but the verbosity will most likely come out as a “stream of consciousness” without focus. You need to be highly focused in the interview—both with your responses to questions and the targeted questions you ask. Preparation is a necessity even for those comfortable with their conversational abilities.
MYTH #10: I’ll wear something to the interview that will really get their attention and make them remember me.
REALITY: If they remember you because of what you wore to the interview, it is because you stood out. If you stood out, you did not fit in as one of them. Your attire should look professional and like the people who are interviewing you. You do not want your appearance to detract from the focus of the interview which should be on your accomplishments and “fit.”
MYTH #11: I should do most of the talking in the interview because they want to know more about me.
REALITY: You need to talk, but you also need to ask questions of the interviewer(s) and listen to the answers. The questions you ask will provide you with information you need to determine whether this job is right for you. Your questions will also impress the interviewer if they are questions geared to determining more depth about the position and the qualities needed to excel on the job. Your talk should be focused. Avoid long rambling responses.
MYTH #12: Once I get into the job interview, I should take charge so the interviewer will recognize my leadership abilities.
REALITY: In most situations this is a good way to kill your chances of being further considered for the job. In a job interview, the employer shoul
d be responsible for the structure and progression of the interview. Certainly you want to ask questions at appropriate junctures, and you may provide information that you believe will further your candidacy if it appears the interviewer is not going to ask about it. If the interviewer is particularly inept, you may subtly try to direct the line of questioning toward areas that allow you to demonstrate your strengths relative to the employer’s needs. But this must be so subtle that it never appears that you have really taken control of the interview.
MYTH #13: It is impossible to be too confident in a job interview.
REALITY: It is called being cocky, and unless one of the job qualifications is being obnoxious, it will not advance your candidacy. You want to appear self-assured and confident of your ability to do the job. You do not want to appear cocky.
MYTH #14: If I arrive late for the interview, I’ll find a good excuse—I got lost or couldn’t find a parking space.
REALITY: It is nearly impossible to recover from the negative impression made when one is late for a job interview. Employers expect you are on your best behavior for the interview. If you cannot get to the interview on time, it raises serious questions about your likelihood of getting to work on time. We know that the first five minutes of the interview are the most important; you will fail to make a good impression in the first five minutes if you are not there.
MYTH #15: If the interviewer asks about my weaknesses, I should indicate I have none.
REALITY: This response is likely to convey to the interviewer that you are less than honest, not an open communicator, or mildly delusional. Select a weakness that the interviewer already knows about, one that has no relationship to the job, or one that you have improved upon.
MYTH #16: If there is something about me that may be perceived as negative, such as that I was fired from a job, I should fully explain the situation if asked about it.
REALITY: Be honest in a way that reflects positively on you. Address the situation in a way that shows you have taken something positive from the experience—turned it into an opportunity. Keep your comments focused and brief. Don’t dwell on what happened. This is a situation where most people talk too much. And don’t disparage your former boss or company.
MYTH #17: If I am asked a clearly illegal question, I should set the interviewer straight so he or she won’t do it again.
REALITY: It may make you feel good for the moment, but it will rarely, if ever, get you the job. You might turn it around and politely indicate that it is a question you have never been asked before and you are curious as to why it is important to the job under consideration. But in most cases, if you still want an opportunity at the job, you will frame a positive response.
MYTH #18: It is best that I memorize responses to questions I expect to be asked.
REALITY: You should anticipate questions and strategize the jist of your response. Do not try to memorize your response. At best it will sound rehearsed, and at worst you will suffer a lapse of memory in the midst of your answer. You should not be concerned about the exact words you use as you respond, but rather that you follow the jist of the message you planned in response to this question.
MYTH #19: I certainly don’t want the employer to think I am desperate for a job, so I will be as low-key as possible.
REALITY: No, you do not want to appear desperate for just any job. But you do want to appear interested and enthusiastic about this job. Employers favor dynamic and energetic people who indicate genuine interest and enthusiasm with their work.
MYTH #20: I should not ask any questions until the end of the interview.
REALITY: You must validate the functional responsibilities of the position early in the interview if you are to be successful at projecting your qualifications and fit for the position.
MYTH #21: I will just answer the interviewer’s questions. I don’t want to ask any questions or he/she will think I haven’t done my homework and researched the company.
REALITY: Certainly you need to prepare by researching the organization where you will interview. You do not want to ask basic questions which some basic data gathering should have answered. However, thoughtful and thorough research should also raise questions that go beyond basics. Employers indicate that the quality of the questions the interviewees ask can be as great a determinant of a job offer as the manner in which questions were answered.
MYTH #22: If I am asked about my salary expectations, I’ll give a high figure. That way they will assume I am worth a lot.
REALITY: Try to avoid discussion of salary until there is a job offer on the table. Even then, try to get the interviewer to state a figure first. If you are in a situation where you are forced to respond, state a range based on salary comparables for the position which you gathered in preparation for the interview. The low figure (of the salary range) should not be lower than the lowest figure you are willing to accept.
MYTH #23: If I don’t get a job offer at the end of my first interview with a company, I haven’t done something right.
REALITY: Many job offers aren’t extended until after several interviews have taken place. Except for entry-level jobs, most job seekers should expect more than one interview.
MYTH #24: When they do offer me the job, the employer will want an acceptance right then and there.
REALITY: Perhaps the employer would like an immediate acceptance, but unless you are interviewing for an hourly position the employer won’t expect one. Ask for at least 24 or 48 hours to consider the offer—longer if acceptance entails a long-distance move. Use the time to carefully consider the offer as well as check on the status of your candidacy with any other employers with whom you have been interviewing.
MYTH #25: Once the interview is completed, I should thank the interviewer and go home and wait to hear from him or her.
REALITY: There are things you should do both before you leave the interview and once you get home. Before you leave the interview, ask what the next step is and the time frame. Will they be calling back candidates for additional interviews in the next week? Will they be making a hiring decision within the
next ten days? Find out. Then ask if you may call to check on your status if you haven’t heard from them by that date. When the date rolls around, make that follow-up call. If you are now out of the running, you need to know so you can re-double your efforts elsewhere. If no decision has been made your call may add to their favorable impression of you—you demonstrate that you follow-through. You may even take this opportunity to briefly summarize again your great fit for the job and your interest in it.
The same day as the interview, write a letter thanking the employer for the opportunity to interview and a summary of how your skills and accomplishments can best meet the employer’s needs. This is a business letter and should be typed or word processed on business stationery.