Preparing for an interview and just the thought of being interviewed can be daunting to most people. The last thing that anyone wants is to receive advice that is not really helpful.
Below is a list of the most common advice that is given to interviewees with some commentary on whether or not to heed it.
Statement 1: Always wear a suit
This is a myth. Most organisations have a smart-casual; smart or casual approach to dressing that does not entail wearing a suit. So if you wear a suit for an interview to say a company like Google or Facebook – you will definitely not look like you fit the culture.
The rule to dressing up for an interview is that you should dress up 1 level smarter than the normal dress code for the organization. You can phone the receptionist ahead of the interview to find out what people generally wear. If you know someone who works for the company, you can also ask them about the dress code.
Statement 2: Be yourself
This could be a myth and a fact – it just depends on how this statement is backed up.
Yes, it is important for you to “Be Yourself” and be natural and conversational during the interview. You should definitely not put on a persona of power or egoism if this is not who you are. Your insincerity will be immediately felt by those who interview you. The more relaxed and calm you are – the easier it will be for the interviewer to relate to you and trust you. If possible – video record yourself to see how you present yourself. Non-verbal body language matters equally as your verbal dialogue.
On the other hand, you should not just sit there and look pretty or handsome. You are in an interview. Your objective is to figure out what the interviewer is looking for and to align your work experience and your life story to the role that you are applying for. This means that you need to conduct some research in advance on the job, the industry, its challenges and possible areas of development.
Statement 3: You have the length of the interview to make an impression
This could be a myth and a fact – depending on how you handle yourself in an interview.
Fact: Yes – first impressions do matter. The first 90 seconds of an interview is where the interview is gauging if you look like a person who could fit the culture. In this time, you could be walking from the reception to the interview room. Speak naturally. Look people in the eye. Exchange pleasantries. Carry the right props to create a good first impression: a professional brief case versus a disheveled backpack. Shiny shoes versus dirty and sandy.
Myth: Although first impressions matter, interviewers do understand the stress behind being interviewed. So there is the second and third impression that happens after 90 seconds that you could use to bring back your game and win their favour. Second impressions are created by how you answer the questions, being engaging and generally showing confidence. Third impressions are created after the interview when you prove that you do what you say you would do.
Statement 4: Remember that you are interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you
This is a fact. There are many people out there who end up working in a company, industry or a position that makes them miserable and you end up being a liability to the organization than an asset. This is because they did not conduct an interview of the company that they will work for. The interview is your opportunity to ask questions to find out if the company, its culture, the people, the working environment and the role is aligned to your career ambitions. This is why you are asked, “Do you have any questions for us?”
Statement 5: When asked what is your greatest weakness, give one that is really a strength.
This is a myth. What you have really done is evaded the question. Saying that you are “too much of a perfectionist,” or “overly passionate about what you do,” have become clichés. You need to show that you have self-awareness and a willingness to adapt. So say, my current weakness or area of development is … and I am doing the following … to work on it.”
Statement 6: Don’t talk about money until you have an offer in hand
This is a fact. Companies do not hire people who put money, vacation time and employee benefits first. They want to know that you will contribute to the organizations success. So yes, the best time to ask about money, is when you have leverage and you have leverage once they have fallen in love with you and provided you with an offer for employment. Even if you have leverage, be careful not to limit your salary options when asked “what are your salary expectations?” Always have general statements like: “In the range of x to y” don’t provide a specific amount. Or say, “My requirements are negotiable.”
Statement 7: Do not admit that you have been fired before
This is a myth. We are living in an interconnected society where it is easy for your information to be cross-checked, reference-checked and third-party verified. Even if you were fired from a previous position – answer the question if you were directly asked, “Why are you leaving your current employment?” say “I was fired from the position and I was lucky because it gave me the chance to…” and then bring the focus back to the present.
I have known of employees who were hired for the position and months or years after they were hired, a previous client or employer of the employee informs the interviewer of the real reason why that employee left their previous job. This then amounts to non-disclosure and breaks the trust-relationship between employer and employee. We all make mistakes and every individual is allowed a second chance to prove themselves. Be honest about why you left a previous job. It shows transparency and honesty. And if that company still does not hire you or recognize your authenticity – then they do not deserve you.