Although all of these statements below will hopefully not be true, depending on the employer and the interviewer, go into the interview expecting that they will apply. Don't be discouraged! Expect these situations to arise and, knowing they might happen, you can be (will be!) prepared so you can succeed anyway.
Bad Assumptions About Job Interviews
As important as a job interview opportunity is for you, often for the person on the other side of the table, interviewing job candidates are interruptions in their day -- keeping them from getting their "real" jobs done.
1. The interviewer knows how to interview.
Unfortunately, most often, the people doing the interviewing are not professional interviewers. Interviewing usually comes under the heading of "additional duties as required" -- something done only when unavoidable.
How to diagnose: If they spend more time talking about themselves, their job, or the company rather than asking you questions relevant to the job, they don't know how to conduct an interview.
How to respond: If you let them jabber on uninterrupted, it will be a low stress interview for you, but it may not be a successful one. Without talking with you, they won't have a sense of your qualifications and your ability to do the job (although they may think you are very agreeable).
You may need to try to take over the conversation or at least break into the monologue. Ask some of the questions you had prepared in advance (right?). When they talk about some aspect of the job, gently interrupt to point out situations where you have encountered the same thing and successfully accomplished your goal -- "I know just what you mean! We had a similar situation in my last job, and this is what we did..."
Or, launch a few short (!) monologues of your own on topics like why you want to work there (demonstrating your knowledge of the organization, their products and services, their people and locations) and why you are qualified for the job. Be sure to mention your major accomplishments and other achievements in your work that are directly relevant to the new job. Focus on the benefits to them, not the benefits to you.
2. The interviewer is focused on you and the interview they are conducting.
Since this is an "additional duty" for most interviewers, their minds may well be on their real jobs -- a crisis, a deadline, whatever work activities they normally do. So, job candidates are sometimes an unwelcome distraction as well as a difficult thing to do well, particularly if # 1 above also applies.
How to diagnose: If they seem agitated, checking their watch frequently, distracted, not focused on what you are saying or the questions they are asking.
How to respond: This is a tough one. Try to be laser-focused and provide clear, succinct answers to their questions, maintaining eye contact as much as possible. Ask them the questions you have prepared for them, demonstrating your interest in them and the opportunity, and you may gain both focus and respect.
Perhaps if there are many heavy sighs and/or several interruptions, tell them you understand they are very busy, and ask if the interview should be rescheduled to a better time for them. Don't show anger or annoyance.
3. The interviewer has read your resume and remembers what is on it.
Very often this is not true. People get called in to the interview process unexpectedly, at the last minute. Or, they reviewed your resume several hours or days ago, along with the resumes of several other applicants. At some point, all of the resumes may simply melt together in their minds. They may not even have a copy of your resume with them at the start of the interview.
How to diagnose: They ask obvious questions like your current or most recent employer or where you attended school and the degree or certification you have.
How to respond: Start the interview by handing them a copy of your resume while making a statement like, "Just in case you don't have a copy of my resume handy. Notice..." This may allow you to guide them through the high points of your resume, and if they continue to look at your resume, keep guiding them through it.
If you are prepared for all 3 of those assumptions to be wrong in your next job interview, you should do fine.
At the End of the Interview, Before You Move on...
At the end of each discussion, if you have more than one interview for a job, ask for the name and contact information of the person (or people) you were just talking with. This will enable you to send your thank you's to the appropriate people in a timely manner.
- Ask the HR person or the last interviewer what the next steps are in their process.
- Ask who you should stay in contact with about the job. Note the name and job title.
- Ask what is the best method of communications with the contact.
Assume that most of what you are told about the schedule may prove to be incorrect. The whole process always seems to take more time than anyone wants or expects.
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Susan P. Joyce is president of NETability, Inc. and the editor and chief technology writer for Job-Hunt.org. This piece first appeared on WorkCoachCafe.com, where Susan is an editor and chief writer.