Learn the truth before your next job interview.
by Charles Purdy, Monster+HotJobs senior editor
Think you know all there is to know about interviewing for a job? According to career coach David Couper, there are many surprising "myths" surrounding job interviews. In his book "Outsiders on the Inside," Couper lists several myths that, if you believe them, may prevent you from landing your dream job.
So here's the truth about three myths--as well as several tips on making the most of a job interview:
Myth 1: The interviewer is prepared. "The person interviewing you is likely overworked and stressed because he needs to hire someone," says Couper. "He may have barely glanced at your resume and given no thought to your qualifications."
What you can do: Think of a job opening as a set of problems--to which you are the solution. Prepare for an interview by identifying the problems hinted at in the job ad (if there's no job ad, do some research into the company and industry) and preparing examples of how you'll solve them. For instance, if one of the primary job requirements is "write press releases," the problem the employer has is a lack of effective press releases. For the interview, you could prepare a story about specific results you've achieved with press releases you've written. Show how you can solve that problem.
Myth 2: The interviewer will ask the right questions. "Many interviewers prepare no questions beyond 'Tell me about yourself,'" says Couper. And in some cases, you may be interviewing with a human resources representative or a high-level manager who doesn't have a lot of specific information about the open job's duties.
What you can do: Prepare several effective sound bites that highlight your past successes and your skills. A sound bite is succinct and not too detailed, so it's catchy and easy to remember--"I was the company's top salesperson for eight months in 2008," for example.
Reference letters are another great source of sound bites. If a former manager wrote something about how amazing you are, quote her (and offer to leave a copy of the reference letter when you leave the interview)--for instance, "Company Z's art director called me the most thorough and well-prepared project manager she'd ever worked with--and that ability to plan for any possible problem is something I pride myself on."
Myth 3: The most qualified person gets the job. No one believes this myth any more, right? As Couper says, "Less-qualified but more outgoing candidates may win over an interviewer's heart."
What you can do: If you're on the shy side, practicing before an interview is key. Work with a close friend or relative until you're comfortable with your interview answers. You never want to be stuck with a short, one-word answer--so prepare explanations and examples to discuss.
Also do some research about the interviewer beforehand: find her profile on LinkedIn for instance, or look for recent news about the company. Find a reason to compliment her (for a professional accomplishment) or her company's success, to set the tone for a friendly interaction. And don't forget to smile and make eye contact.
(For more job-interview confidence-boosting tips, read "The Art of Persuasion in Your Job Search.")
And finally, keep in mind that looks matter: you should be well groomed and dressed to impress. If you're not sure how formal your attire should be, ask the human resources person you've been dealing with what's typical. Alternatively, find someone inside the company to ask, or check out the About Us page on the company's website. If the management team is pictured in dark suits, neckties, and so on, you'll likely want to dress as formally as possible. If the CEO is pictured in a T-shirt, business-casual clothes are fine (you'll rarely want to dress more casual than that).