Ideal scenario: You arrive at a job interview feeling totally confident. You’re prepared for every question you’re asked, and can provide excellent, thoughtful answers. The interviewer seems excited and impressed. You believe that you and the interviewer have a good, warm rapport. You leave the interview feeling pretty great: You stand a fine chance of getting the job, and if you don’t, well, at least you gave it your all.
Less than ideal scenario: You arrive at a job interview feeling pretty good about yourself, but are caught off guard by the strange, unexpected, or open-ended questions. The interviewer doesn’t seem engaged in your conversation. You quickly lose your confidence, stumble through your answers, and leave feeling defeated and depressed.
What’s the factor that decides which of these two scenarios you end up with? To a large extent, it all comes down to expectations. If you arrive expecting all the wrong things, and aren’t prepared for other contingencies, then you can be thrown off your rhythm and off your A-game.
If, however, you arrive expecting the right things—or better still, you arrive with no particular expectations whatsoever—then you’ll stand a better chance of approaching the situation calmly, coolly, and confidently.
Sadly, many jobseekers show up for an interview and have all the wrong expectations. They’ve believed some of the common job search myths that are out there—and when those myths are revealed to be just that, these jobseekers are left feeling unprepared and panicky.
A good way to prepare for your next job interview, then, is to go over some common interview myths—and to remind yourself that they are, well, exactly that.
Myth #1: You’ll have a good, well-prepared interviewer.
Maybe you will, but then again, maybe you won’t. Your interviewer is surely a busy person, and you can’t rule out the fact that he or she will arrive for the interview harried and unprepared, having not even had time to look over your resume very closely. Be prepared to refresh him or her on key points, and to roll with the interviewer’s potential lack of preparedness.
Also note that not all interviewers ask particularly good questions; you might get something like “so tell me about yourself,” and it’s imperative that you have a good narrative ready.
Myth #2: There’s always a right answer.
Sometimes an interviewer will be more interested in how you handle a high-pressure question than in what your answer is; don’t allow your desperate search for the “right” response to break your composure or to send you into a tailspin of “ums.”
Myth #3: Your answers always need to be short.
The more valuable information you can give the interviewer, the better. If you provide one-sentence answers to everything, it will leave the interviewer to think up still more questions—and they don’t necessarily want to do that.
Myth #4: Your qualifications are what ultimately matter.
Think the most qualified applicant always gets the job? Think again. What interviewers are looking for is someone who will fit into their company culture and prove easy to work with in the long run. Flexibility, friendliness, and enthusiasm can often be just as important as your qualifications, perhaps even more so.
Myth #5: The interviewer wants you to be ambitious.
When you’re asked where you see yourself in five years, the right answer isn’t necessarily that you hope to be climbing the corporate ladder. Interviewers often want to know that you’re looking for a job you can be content with for a long time to come, not merely a stepping stone to something better.
Prepare for your next interview by dispelling these myths from your mind—and be training yourself to expect the unexpected.