All of us know that the purpose of interviews is for an interviewer to hire someone who will perform well in a particular job. But beyond that few people fully grasp how interviews really work. And what makes one candidate stand out more than another. This lack of understanding represents a major obstacle to maximizing performance. When sitting before an interviewer and trying to give your best answers. Interviews are no different to other endeavors in life: the better you understand how they work (or don’t work), The higher the probability of tackling them successfully. An understanding of the underlying dynamics inherent in most interviews is an important start to improving your interview performance.
Myth no. 1: The best person for the job gets it
Sometimes this is true—especially in a situation where everyone knows everyone else, such as when a company is recruiting internally. However, this is often not the case. In order for the best person for the job to win it, a number of very important things need to be in place (and even then, there’s no guarantee). These include:
- The interviewer knows what questions to ask and how to search for the truthfulness in answers. These two things may sound simple enough, but I can assure you that a large proportion of people conducting interviews have received no training, lack interview experience and often do not even go to the trouble of preparing for the interview.
- The interviewer is not taken in by the charm, good looks, great humor or any other aspect of the interviewee. This can be a difficult obstacle, even for experienced interviewers.
- The interviewee has learned how to clearly articulate their skills, key achievements and how they can add value to the organization.
- There is no personality clash between interviewer and interviewee.
- Neither party is having a bad day.
Myth no. 2: Interviews are like school exams— the more you say, the better you’ll do
Yes, interviews are a bit like exams in so far as that you’re asked a number of questions to which you need to respond intelligently, but there the similarities end. Unlike exams, where lots of accurate detail is important, interviews are more about interacting and rapport building whilst simultaneously articulating smart answers. And a smart answer is often not the most detailed. In fact, long and overly detailed answers can drive interviewers to distraction, despite their technical accuracy. Knowing when to stop talking is a skill all successful interviewees have.
Also unlike many exams, there are often no right or wrong answers in interviews. We’re all different and come to interviews from different backgrounds and business sitations. What is important at an interview is to justify your actions and talk about your achievements in a confident manner.
Myth no. 3: Interviewers know what they’re doing
Some interviewers are very good at what they do, especially fulltime professionals (provided they’re not suffering from interview fatigue). However, many managers and owners of small businesses often flounder because interviewing is not something they do on a regular basis. Some sure signs of a bad interviewer are:
- Do most of the talking.
- Sound as though they’ve made up their mind about you in the first five minutes.
- Seem to pluck their questions randomly out of the ether.
- Phone keeps ringing and they answer it. They sound like very sharp and less-than-honest salespeople when it comes to selling the job.
Some sure signs of a good interviewer are:
- Have their questions carefully prepared in advance.
- Want to know what you’ve done and how you’ve done it, including specific examples.
- Let you do most of the talking.
- They may want to interview you more than once.
- Will try to make you feel at ease.
- They are genuinely interested in your accomplishments, skills and the type of person you are.
Inexperienced interviewers generally don’t ask the right questions and can easily be swayed by factors that have little to do with your ability to perform in the job. So if you are being interviewed by an inexperienced interviewer, don’t wait to be asked a good question— one that will allow you to talk about all your wonderful skills and qualities. Rather, take the initiative in as unobtrusive a way as possible and talk about the things you feel the interviewer might really want to know.
Myth no. 4: Never say ‘I don’t know’
Interviews are about making a positive impression by answering questions intelligently and building rapport with the interviewer. To this end, many interviewees feel that they have to provide the perfect answer to every question put to them, irrespective of whether or not they actually know the answer. Clearly, a great interview is one in which you can answer all the questions (and you should be able to do so if you take the time to prepare correctly); however, if you don’t know the answer to something, it is better to admit to it rather than pretend to know and start waffling. Most interviewers can pick waffling a mile away and they don’t like it for a couple of very important reasons: first, it is likely to make you sound dishonest; and second, it will make you sound considerably less than intelligent. You may as well not attend the interview if you give the impression that you’re neither honest nor bright.
Myth no. 5: Good-looking people get the job
I suppose if the job was for a drop-dead gorgeous femme fatale type in a movie, then good looks would certainly help, but for most other jobs the way you look is not as big a deal as many people make out. As we’ve already discussed, there will always be an inexperienced employer who will hire on the basis of superficial factors, but most employers are smarter than that. The claim that good-looking people get the job over plain-looking people makes one seriously flawed assumption—that employers make a habit of putting someone’s good looks before the interests of their livelihood. All my experience has taught me the contrary. Most businesses find themselves in highly competitive environments and employers are only too keenly aware that a poor hiring decision can prove very costly.
This is not to say that appearance and a bright personality are not important factors at an interview. It is very important that you dress appropriately and try your best to demonstrate all your friendly qualities. Good looks are certainly overrated in interviews, but an appropriate appearance and a friendly personality are not.