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Eight Common Interview Myths

Q: For the past 10 years, I've been in data processing with one company.  While I'm a loyal employee, I've finally realized that my career path with this firm is very limited.  It's obviously time to change jobs.

Since my current position is the only one I've ever had, the thought of conducting a job search is pretty scary.  Usually, when I'm moving into unchartered waters, I get all the information I can.  True to form, I've been reading books on job search techniques and talking to my friends about the best way to approach and interview for a new position.  Unfortunately, much of what I hear and read seems to conflict.

Can you give me some concrete pointers on interviewing that I can be sure will work?

A: If you have been talking to your friends, you've probably heard a mix of erroneous and reliable information, both presented with equal conviction.  Books are sometimes less than accurate because their authors are biased.  They present ideas that may work well in specialized situations, but don't hold true in general.  Below are a number of myths that I'm sure you've found in your research.  They aren't true, but our culture seems to perpetuate them.

  •          Potential employers “have all the aces.” Many people assume that because the employer provides the compensation, the hiring manager has the clout and leverage in an interview. Actually, both employer and applicant have advantages.  You have skills and experience.  Your interviewer has salary and benefits.  In any interview, both of you are exploring the viability of making a mutually beneficial exchange.

  •          The individual with the closest experience fit always gets the job.  The hiring manager is looking for someone with whom he can work comfortably.  He needs a competent staff, but he also wants people with complimentary personalities and values.  Consequently, a less-experienced person who's good at building rapport may be selected over a rival who seemingly “should” get the job.

  •          In any interview, concentrate on selling yourself.  While it's important to tell an interviewer what you can do for his department and company, that isn't your only objective. You also want to be sure that his opening meets your requirements.  Asking intelligent questions helps you make informed decisions while demonstrating your research and problem-solving techniques.  Good questions will sell you as much as good answers.

  •          Admit to no weaknesses.  No one is perfect.  We all have areas we would like to strengthen.  Recognizing the need for change and growth shows maturity and self-knowledge. Any savvy employer is wary of an applicant who hasn't discovered some areas where he can use a little improvement.

  •          Never negotiate.  Always negotiate.  These represent two poles of a spectrum where the mid-point, “sometimes negotiate,” make the most sense.  If a firm offers you a job, you have a good deal of leverage.  The company has said, “We want you.” Their decision represents a good deal of time and money spent.  Usually they would rather give you what you want (within reason), than risk losing you.  If their offer falls short of your expectations, negotiate to increase it.  If you're happy with it, accept it with enthusiasm.  Negotiating for the sake of negotiating is not a game worth playing.

  •          Play a little hard to get.  Your mystique will make the employer more eager to hire you. This technique may work in singles bars, but it has no place in interviews.  Companies want people who are genuinely interested in being a part of their team.  Enthusiasm is contagious.  If you show some excitement over the possibility of working with him, your interviewer is likely to feel the same way about you.

  •          Assume that if you take the job, any misgivings you have will prove unfounded.  A cardinal rule in choosing a position is: Trust your instincts.  If you are concerned that the job description, compensation, coworkers, training, or opportunities for growth are lacking, they probably are.  Don't intellectualize yourself into taking something that doesn't feel right. You'll regret it.

  •          The company will be annoyed if I call to check on the status of the opening after I've been interviewed.  Waiting for that all-important call or email can be extremely nerve-racking and depressing.  The tendency is to assume the worst.  Before you leave the interview, discuss how the selection process will proceed.  Call for an update if you haven't heard anything by the anticipated decision date.


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