Two Huge Mistakes You Are Probably Making In Job Interviews

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What are the worst mistakes people make in job interviews? originally appeared on Quora - the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.

Answer by Chris Voss, Author of Never Split The Difference, CEO of The Black Swan Group, on Quora:

The most dangerous negotiation is when you don’t know you’re in.

The people on the other side of the table at a job interview are assessing you for these things:

1- How well will you do the job and therefore add to my daily and future success?

2- How much will we enjoy having you around today and in the future?

3- How well will you represent us?

The 2 biggest mistakes are:

#1 Taking yourself hostage

#2 “Hope” is your strategy

#1 Taking yourself hostage

Don’t take yourself hostage by being fearful of clarifying all aspects of the job including the salary and benefits.

This is seeing there is space between “yes” & “no”. If they ask you to accept a salary or a term of employment, not saying “yes” right away is not the same as rejecting it.

In assessing you as a team-mate they want to see if you can politely stand up for your best interests. They don’t want a jerk for a colleague, true. They also don’t a push-over when it comes to representing their best interests.

You can ask “Is it unreasonable for me to ask if this is negotiable?”, “Is it ridiculous to think there is some flexibility here?”, “How much flexibility is there here?”

A job interview is as much as exploration for if the job is right for you as it is for them.

You might have to gently say “no”.

“I’m sorry, I don’t see how I can accept that.”

“Accepting that (term which you may have a problem with) will make it difficult for me to succeed here.”

These are ways to respectfully let potential employers know there are things in the offering that will be problematic for you. It’s also the fair thing to do, especially if you feel you may end up rejecting the offer.

If you still feel you want to accept the offer, you will have satisfied to yourself that you got the best you could have gotten.

#2 “Hope” is your strategy

Focusing on salary as the avenue to your success. A lot of people think to themselves: “If they just pay me enough I’ll be great!” That’s a “hope” based strategy – and “hope”, while an important element, is insufficient alone.

Salary only pays your bills; it doesn’t guarantee your future.

You have to set yourself up for continued success.

Negotiate success terms.

“What does it take to be successful here?”

“What will it take for me to be successful here?”

“What’s the difference between success in this position and success in this company?”

Please note that these are not the same as “What are you looking for in a candidate?” Please also observe that asking the same type of question several ways help get you good answers. People appreciate it.

There may be a difference between success in the position and success in the company. Knowing that up front will help you navigate both.

One of my M.B.A. students from the negotiation class I taught at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business asked, “What does it take to be successful here?” in a job interview. One of the panel members leaned forward and said, “No one ever asked us that before”. He then proceeded to give her a detailed answer. The other members of the panel were stunned because this guy generally never spoke in the interviews. My student had just recruited her first unofficial mentor.

Another of my M.B.A. students, this time from the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business asked the same question while at lunch with an interviewer. She got such a detailed answer, the interviewer (another woman) actually told her about another position that was soon coming up (higher paying) that she would be even better for.

Engage in the process patiently, pleasantly and respectfully, and you will be your own best advocate.

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