12 Job Interview Myths - Busted!
Most days, I teach employability skills to unemployed learners and each time, job interview myths spring up. The strange thing is, nobody can substantiate their claims and when I challenge their line of thinking, I never get any clear explanations as to why they feel these statements are true.
I think the main cause of job interview myths, is quite simply, hearsay. They are like the Chinese whispers of recruitment where one person has had a bad experience, it gets shared, repeated and interview folklore is born.
So, here's the low down and dirty on the most common myths, and how to obliterate them from your train of thought.
Myth 1 - What You Wear Depends on the Job
I have never known anyone who didn't get a job because they were dressed too smart, but I know plenty who didn't because they weren't smart enough.
The golden rule when it comes to your dress code for job interviews is that you should always dress to impress. Looking professional for this meeting sends out positive vibes and assumptions that you will pay attention to detail in the job and that you are respectful of the interviewer.
It's a common misconception that you should dress in line with the job ie. Everyone in the office wears jeans and T-shirts. Not so, you should always dress smart - you can dress down once you get hired.
Myth 2 - Arrive at Least 30 Minutes Early
Many candidates make the mistake of arriving to the venue of the interview at least 30 minutes early. They think that it shows eagerness, however, the interviewer is more likely to think that you haven't planned your journey effectively or you quite simply haven't followed the instructions they gave you.
Another annoyance is that the interviewer may feel pressurised into finishing their preceding interview early. This is certainly not a great way to start your interview.
By all means get to the vicinity of the venue 30 minutes before, however, don't enter the building or announce your arrival until 10-15 minutes before the allotted start time.
Myth 3 - Wait Until the Interviewer Offers Their Hand Before Shaking It
No! Don't wait until the interviewer offers his or her hand before you decide to do a handshake. Be assertive!
Look the interviewer in the eyes, stand up tall, smile and offer your hand immediately. This will show that you are not shy, weak or flaky. Assertiveness in this manner will set the tone of the interview and show that you mean business.
Do make sure that your handshake is strong. It's all very well being assertive and confident, but if your hand is like a clammy, lettuce leaf, it's not going to do you any favours.
Myth 4 - It's Polite to Accept Refreshments Offered
Well, yes, of course it's polite, but saying "No, thank you" is just as polite.
Many interviewers will offer you a drink, such as a tea or coffee, as they think it's the done thing to do and are trying to make you feel welcome.
The thing is; most interviewers really don't want to go to the hassle of making the drink (or asking someone else to do it for them) as it takes up valuable time and can interrupt the flow of the interview. If the interview is going particularly badly, or it is coming to a natural conclusion, the interviewer may be looking to terminate the meeting as soon as possible, but will feel awkward if you are mid-drink.
Just politely say "No, thank you" and you have one less thing to worry about. After all, you don't want to slurp or spill it down your top, do you?!
Here's some help for questions an interviewer should not ask
- Questions An Interviewer Should Not Ask
Sometimes an inexperienced interviewer may ask inappropriate questions without realising. Here's what they are and how you can deal with them.
Myth 5 - The Interviewer Knows What He or She is Doing
Just because the interviewer already works for the company and is likely to be in a position of seniority, it doesn't mean that they know what they are doing. Interviewing is not their main "day job".
This could be their first time, or it could be that they have a set of questions to follow, which can make their line of questioning appear clunky.
Be prepared for the interviewer to ask what they think are ice-breaker questions, which could be personal and make you feel uncomfortable. They probably don't realise they are not supposed to ask them and are actually trying to relax you.
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Myth 6 - You Don't Know What Questions Will be Asked
With proper planning and preparation, you should be able to second-guess around 95% of the interview questions, so taking the time to do this will set you apart from all the other candidates.
Look at the job description, person specification, company information and your own CV or resume and work out which questions may be posed to you in line with the industry and your expertise.
Myth 7 - Only Talk to the Person Asking the Questions
Eye contact is crucial to interview success. If you are being interviewed by more than one person, ensure that you are including everyone in your answers and not just the person who is asking the question.
Start by looking at the person who has asked the question, but make sure you move your gaze, so that you look at everyone. Let's face it; they may not have asked the question, but you can be sure they all want to hear your answer.
Myth 8 - The Interviewer Will Ask Some Trick Questions
This is something I hear time and time again - the interviewer is trying to catch the candidate out by asking trick questions. What would be the point of that? Surely, that would be counter-productive?
More often than not, the interviewer is trying to get the best out of the candidate. Think about it for a minute...there have probably been lots of applications received, read, rejected, accepted, pre-selected then interviews arranged. That in itself is a lengthy process, so by the time the interview takes place, it's the most suitable candidates for the job. In other words; the ones the boss would like to have on his or her team.
Asking trick questions just wouldn't make sense. If a question is "tricky" or challenging, then ask yourself if you are truly prepared. If not, better luck next time.
Myth 9 - I Have to Show I am Ambitious
You know the question, "Where do you see yourself in 5 years' time?". All the employer is trying to establish is how loyal you are. In other words, if the employer is going to hire you then invest their time and money in you, are you going to still be there in 5 years' time or will you have jumped ship to work for one of their competitors?
Many candidates believe that they should say that they are looking to climb the career ladder and are fiercely ambitious. This is not the case. Most organisations are built on the solid foundations of the stalwart staff, who are happy to keep doing the same job role year in, year out.
Be honest. It's absolutely acceptable to say that you would like to think you would be doing the job to the best of your ability. That's actually better than appearing arrogant by saying that you would like to be sitting in the boss' chair!
Myth 10 - Leave Asking Questions to the End
You can bet your life that during a job interview, you will be asked the question "Do you have any questions?" as the interview is coming to a conclusion. Don't be afraid to ask questions as you go along rather than interrogating the person in front of you in one go.
If you want to ask a question about training and development and the subject comes up during the meeting, ask your question right there and then.
Doing it this way, will ensure a much nicer experience for all concerned and the conversation will flow as opposed to a question and answer rally.
Which myth has been busted for you?
Myth 11 - You Should Take References & Certificates With You
It's always a good idea to take a few copies of your resume or CV with you to a job interview just in case the interviewer doesn't have a copy or enough copies for all in attendance. You never know - this could be the day their photocopier packs up. It will also give you a chance to revise the information before you sit on the hot seat.
There's no need to take references with you. The employer will only ask for references after you have been offered the position and will contact your referees directly rather than settle for outdated copies.
The same goes for certificates. The employer may ask to see them when an offer is on the table for verification of your expertise and may wish to hold copies on file.
Taking additional documentation such as these or other reports will only serve to muddy the waters of what the interview is trying to achieve ie. the business meeting between candidate and employer to establish whether they like you and that you are a good fit for the organisation.
Let your personality do the talking and leave paper documents for another time.
Myth 12 - The Most Qualified Candidate Will Get the Job Offer
Not necessarily. One of my mantras is "People buy people". It's all very well being the most qualified or most experienced, but if the interviewer doesn't like you or think you will fit into the existing team dynamic, you won't get the job no matter how amazing your credentials are.
Research the company and its people prior to the interview to establish what they are looking for outside of the text of the job description.