With so few jobs currently available and so many people currently hoping to fill those jobs, standing out in an interview is of utmost importance. While jobs themselves are scarce, job advice is overly abundant. And with an influx of information comes an influx of confusion. What career counsel do you take, and what do you ignore?
There are a number of common misconceptions related to interview best practices, experts say. Kera Greene of the Career Counselors Consortium and executive coach Barbara Frankel offer tips below that can help you stand out from other interview subjects, avoid frequent pitfalls, and secure the job.
Myth #1: Be prepared with a list of questions to ask at the close of the interview.
There is some truth in this common piece of advice: You should always be prepared, and that usually includes developing questions related to the job. The myth here is that you must wait until it is "your turn" to speak.
By waiting until the interviewer asks you if you have any questions, "it becomes an interrogation instead of a conversation," says Greene.
Greene recommends that you think of an interview as a sales call. You are the product and you are selling yourself to the employer. "You can't be passive in a sales call or you aren't going to sell your product."
Frankel mimics Greene's comments. "It's a two-way street," she says. "I recommend asking a follow-up question at the tail end of your responses."
For example, Frankel says, if the interviewer says, "Tell me about yourself," you first respond to that question and complete your response with a question like, "Can you tell me more about the position?" The interview should be a dialogue.
Myth #2: Do not show weakness in an interview.
The reality is that it is OK to have flaws. In fact, almost every interviewer will ask you to name one. Typically job seekers are told to either avoid this question by providing a "good flaw." One such "good flaw" which is often recommends is: "I am too committed to my work." But, these kinds of responses will only hurt you.
"Every recruiter can see through that," Greene says of faux flaws.
Recruiters conduct interviews all day, every day. They've seen it all and can see through candidates who dodge questions. "They prefer to hire someone who is honest than someone who is obviously lying," Greene says.
And for those of you who claim to be flaw-free, think again. "Everybody has weaknesses," Frankel states. But one is enough. According to Frankel, supply your interviewer with one genuine flaw, explain how you are working to correct it, and then move on to a new question.
Myth #3: Be sure to point out all of your strengths and skills to the employer.
Of course, you want the interviewer to know why you are a valuable candidate, but a laundry list of your skills isn't going to win you any points. Inevitably, in an interview, you will be asked about your skills. What can go wrong in this scenario?
"You don't want to list a litany of strengths," Frankel says.
"What is typical is that they will say: 'I'm a good communicator,' 'I have excellent interpersonal skills,' 'I am responsible,'" Greene explains. "You have to give accomplishments. I need to know what did you accomplish when using these skills."
Frankel recommends doing a little groundwork before your interview so that you are best equipped to answer this question. She tells her clients to find out what the prospective job role consists of. "What makes an interview powerful is to give an example related to their particular needs or challenges that you have demonstrated in the past."
Provide three strengths, with examples. You will get much further with a handful of real strengths than with an unconvincing list of traits.
Myth #4: Let the employer know your salary expectations.
One of the trickiest questions to answer in an interview relates to salary. Money talk can be uncomfortable, but it doesn't have to be. The fact is you don't even have to answer when asked about desired salary.
According to the book "Acing the Interview: How to Ask and Answer the Questions That Will Get You The Job!" a perfect response would be: "I want to earn a salary that is commensurate with the contributions I can make. I am confident I can make a substantial contribution at your firm. What does your firm plan to pay for this position?"
Greene suggests a similar response: "I prefer to discuss the compensation package after you've decided that I'm the best candidate and we can sit down and negotiate the package."
Myth #5: The employer determines whether or not you get the job.
While yes, the employer must be the one to offer you the position, interviewees have more control than they often realize. According to both Greene and Frankel, candidates have a larger say in the final hiring decision than they think.
"They should call the interviewer or hiring manager and say: 'I'd really like to be part of the company,'" says Greene. "It can't hurt you. It can only help."
"Acing the Interview" encourages all candidates to conclude their interviews with one question: "'Based on our interview, do you have any concerns about my ability to do the job?' -- If the answer is yes, ask the interviewer to be explicit. Deal forthrightly with each concern."
For more interview tips and myths, download a free book summary of "Acing the Interview: How to Ask and Answer the Questions That Will Get You The Job!" here.