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.
“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
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
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
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