Anne Fisher, author of Fortune’s “Ask Annie” column, lists 10 little-known secrets about interviewing from career coach David Couper. 1. Interviewers are often not prepared.
Most interviews are conducted by regular employees, not HR managers. Employees are busy; chances are they’ve squeezed you in without properly reviewing your candidacy. They may not have even seen or printed your resume.
Come prepared with extra copies and fully introduce yourself to catch them up to speed.
2. Most interviewers aren’t trained at interviewing.
For all you know, yours could be the first interview they’ve ever conducted. According to Fisher, most managers who meet with candidates wing it. Since they’re winging it, make sure you come prepared to help move the conversation along.
3. If you don’t want the cup of water, don’t take it.
When an interviewer asks if you want coffee or water, they’re just being nice. They’re not hoping you’ll accept.
If you’re not quenched, don’t take them up on it. They won’t think you’re rude, and they probably don’t want to get it for you anyway.
4. They don’t want to see your references right away.
Your first move should not be to hand over references, no matter how impressive they may be.
Until the interview has been conducted, you won’t know what the employer is looking for. You may be able to find a more fitting recommendation than the one you previously had on file if you wait to see what they want.
5. Interviewers are not looking for right answers.
Instead, they want to see your thought process. While they may have a general answer in mind, there’s usually not one answer that will make or break their decision.
6. Lengthy answers are ok too.
Interviewers expect candidates to have researched the company. You can (and should) go into detail about their products, how you’ve used them, and your company knowledge.
7. Looks matter.
First impressions are based largely on appearances. Even if you were recommended by a friend and you have an impeccable resume, it never hurts to look the part.
8. In five years, you should be somewhere reasonable.
“Where do you see yourself in five years” is a favourite interview question. While there’s no right answer, interviewees can be overly ambitious. Employers want to know that candidates are motivated, but if they come off too strong, they might seem like restless job hoppers.
9. Sometimes, the position has already been filled by the time you interview.
In fact, the job might never have existed, says Fisher. Sometimes, companies call people in merely for cheap market research. Other times, they may have an internal candidate in mind and want you for an outside comparison.
10. The most qualified person usually does not get the job.
Chemistry trumps qualifications.
“A candidate who is less qualified, but has the right personality for the organisation and hits it off with the interviewer, will almost always get hired over a candidate who merely looks good on paper,” Couper says.
For more of Couper’s advice, head over to Fortune >>
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