Monday, January 09, 2012

Interviewing skills: Common wisdom versus reality

As a longtime former hiring manager, I often get a kick out of reading articles on how to act during a job interview – because there is so much in them that is just plain wrong. Especially now, in today's tight job market. Let's take a look at the "common wisdom" that is often in print about interviewing, and hold it up against reality:

Common wisdom: Say nothing but positive things about yourself. Never admit weaknesses.

Reality: Do you have co-workers – or relatives – who never admit to any weakness, and always have to be right? They are a pain in the neck, aren't they? You don't want to come across like them. It is much better, as a person and as an interviewee, to "own" both your strengths and your legitimate weaknesses. And forget about that trick of substituting a strength for a weakness, like, "I work too hard" – hiring managers have seen through that one for years.

There is an even more important reason you need to be proud of strengths and authentic about your weaknesses: your credibility. Especially if you've been out of the workforce for a while. Many hiring managers – including me – have had the experience of getting "yessed" by someone who is desperate for a job, and then getting burned. Trust me, you don't want to smell like these candidates. So when you can tell an interviewer, "I'm great at A, B, and C, I can easily learn D, E, and F, and I'm absolutely horrible at X and Y," BAM! Instant credibility.

Common wisdom: List as many duties and accomplishments as possible on your resume. You never know which one will "stick."

Reality: Less is more. Emphasize your biggest successes and summarize everything else. Yes, keywords are sometimes important, but so is white space: focus on the things you are the very best at, or your biggest goals.

Be aware that an endless laundry list of projects and skills can stereotype you. As a hiring manager, I used to refer to these densely-packed, buzzword-laden resumes as MEGO (My Eyes Glaze Over) resumes – and their authors were usually mediocre at everything and masters of nothing. Always go for quality over quantity.

Common wisdom: Stay formal and professional throughout the interview. Don't let your guard down for "small talk" beforehand or afterwards from interviewers.

Reality: This is a tricky one. Of course, you don't want to come across as someone who talks too much or lacks boundaries. But the opposite is sometimes even more dangerous. Your qualifications are important, but so is how much interviewers like you as a person. If you are hired, you will probably spend more time with these people than your own family, and chemistry is what hiring managers lay awake at night about. Small talk is a preview of what you will be like to work with, so err on the side of being friendly, open and genuine – not just a professionally competent robot.

Common wisdom: Interviews are a competition to show you are better than others.

Reality: People rarely – if ever – "blow" an interview. Even if they are very nervous or forgetful. If you really have the best professional or personal skills for the job, it will show. The purpose of an interview is to discover who you really are. Prepare well, research the position and the company, and then do the one single thing that will most help you get the job: relax and be yourself.

1 comment:

interview techniques said...

Credibility counts, especially at the office. This extends not solely to your job performance, but also the message you communicate, what you talk about, and how you talk.