32 Myths About Interviews: Learn The Truth About Preparing For And Performing In Interviews
In my many years as an interview coach, I've continually seen clients come to me with a number of misconceptions about how to practice for interviews, and how to perform in them. I'm in no way blaming them for having these views, because the interview game is a highly counterintuitive one. It really goes against anyone's common sense, and it is not what it seems. People are very surprised to learn that their thinking that seems so obvious and natural about interviews is actually the direct opposite. These commonly held beliefs can be extremely harmful. This article lists 32 myths and the truth about each myth.
32 Myths About Interviews
Learn The Truth About Preparing For And Performing In Interviews
Bill Cole, MS, MA
Founder and CEO
William B. Cole Consultants
Silicon Valley, California
In my many years as an interview coach, I've continually seen clients come to me with a number of misconceptions about how to practice for interviews, and how to perform in them. I'm in no way blaming them for having these views, because the interview game is a highly counterintuitive one. It really goes against anyone's common sense, and it is not what it seems.
People are very surprised to learn that their thinking that seems so obvious and natural about interviews is actually the direct opposite. These commonly held beliefs can be extremely harmful, as you are about to see. They can ruin an interview.
As an interview coach, I help my clients navigate the interview waters in four major areas. One is to demystify the entire process. That takes a lot of their stress away when they see how the game is really played. Second, I help them understand the mechanics of the interview. This is the etiquette, the do's and don't's about how to behave, and the behavior that is expected. Third, I help them craft great answers to questions. Finally, I am an internationally-recognized expert in performance psychology and I give them mental strategies and stress-busting ways to reduce tension and get into the zone.
Let's take a look at the most common interview myths that derail people, and how you can avoid falling victim to them.
MYTH: If I practice my answers, they'll sound stilted and rehearsed in the interview.
TRUTH: When actors practice for a role, they eventually deliver their performance in the real event naturally enough that the audience doesn't think, "Wow! What great acting!". Instead, the audience just accepts what they see and hear as natural and real. It's the same with interviews. At a minimum, you need to "know where you're going" on an answer. Don't plan your answer word for word, in a scripted way, like an actor. Only YOU know what you practiced so there's no stress to have a perfect memory. In the actual interview, you can change your answers slightly from what you practiced and no one will ever know. You don't want to memorize the answer, because pressure can impair your memory.
MYTH: I should change my answers for each interview, or I might get bored, and sound too choreographed giving the same response over and over.
TRUTH: There is an art to freshly delivering the same answer across multiple interviews, the same way an actor must deliver their lines with freshness night after might in a play. If you don't practice, you'll have to ask yourself how fresh you will sound, compared to how scared you'll sound if you don't know what to say. I strongly suggest you prepare as well as possible.
MYTH: The less I craft and plan my answers, the less I'll have to remember under pressure.
TRUTH: That is actually a true statement! If you have little to remember, you can't forget what isn't there! Of course, I joke. That's like saying, before a big exam in school, "You know, if I don't study, my mind won't get confused with facts under the pressure of the test. My mind will be clear!". Yes, your mind will be clear. It'll be clearly thinking, "What did I get myself into? How do I get out of this?" Preparation for an interview is key. Anything less and you are just deceiving yourself.
MYTH: I'll just wing the whole thing. How hard can an interview be?
TRUTH: An interview is commonly quite stressful. It can look simple, but when you finally sit down and have another person looking right at you, judging your answers, you will feel the pressure. Winging it is a sure-fire way to fail. Don't do it. Prepare.
MYTH: I don't need to tell any stories. I just like to give the facts.
TRUTH: Facts bore and stories engage. It's best to have a mix, but if you don't give examples, and tell stories about your successes, you're missing out on the most persuasive element in giving a good interview. People love to hear stories.
MYTH: If I brag about myself the interviewer will view me as an arrogant egomaniac.
TRUTH: While you are interviewing, the door won't burst open, and no one will rush into the room, telling the interviewer how great you are. YOU have to do it! I know you're afraid of being seen as boastful, cocky and arrogant, but all you need to do is to state the facts of your accomplishments, have some stories that show your successes, and use third party testimonials. That's where you say, for example, "My bosses have all said that I'm a self-starter, and that I always go the extra mile." Do this and no one will think you are full of yourself. Instead, you'll be seen as confident. Isn't that who the interviewer wants to hire, a confident person? You won't be bragging. You'll be persuading the interviewer that you are the ideal person they are seeking.
MYTH: The interviewer knows what they're doing. After all, they do this all the time.
TRUTH: Most interviewers have not had any formal training in this role. They may only have found questions on the internet, from notes from their own times as an interviewee, or from a company interviewing manual. It is the rare interviewer who has studied the art of interviewing. So they may NOT know what they are doing.
MYTH: I'm sure the interviewer will ask clear, logical and pertinent questions, and articulate them so I can easily understand them.
TRUTH: You'd be surprised how often an interviewer asks poorly formed questions, irrelevant questions, or questions that just don't make any sense. Maybe they even have poor diction or mispronounce their words. Part of your job is to clarify and rephrase these bad questions so you retain the spirit and accuracy of the question so you can answer it.
MYTH: My sparkling and engaging personality will more than make up for any weak answers I give.
TRUTH: Charm only can take anyone so far. If you don't have the substance, you'll quickly be found out.
MYTH: It's a mistake to admit a true weakness, so it's better to make one up, or to say I really don't have any.
TRUTH: A common interview question is "What is your weakness?", and you are expected to answer it. If you don't, you can be viewed as evasive or arrogant. Everyone has a weakness. The trick is to choose one and state it in such a way that it is not a deal-breaker. You can even frame your answer to highlight your ability to creatively problem solve as part of how you manage this weakness.
MYTH: I should answer immediately after the question is posed, because if I take time to think, the interviewer will think I don't know what I'm doing.
TRUTH: Any person has the right to think. It's natural to pause before answering, so you are positive you understand the question. The interviewer will respect your sense of self-control and thoughtfulness.
MYTH: I should never tell the interviewer "what they want to hear", or it could be perceived as pandering.
TRUTH: You don't want to tell them what they DON'T want to hear, do you? You will often give answers that are expected, politically correct, obvious or protective for you. Part of being smart at interviewing is avoiding saying the wrong thing. Your first priority is to play your cards close to your vest and protect yourself at all times by not volunteering information that places you in a bad light. Be selective and intentional in what you provide the interviewer.
MYTH: If I don't understand a question, a term or a phrase in a question, it's best to pretend to grasp it, and attempt an answer, so I look like I know what I'm doing.
TRUTH: This is a great way to sound like you don't know what you're doing. Even if you fake your way through the answer, what will you do if the interviewer has a follow up question?
MYTH: If I ask for clarification of the question, the interviewer will think I'm either not listening, or not very knowledgeable.
TRUTH: You don't want to answer a question you don't understand, do you? Plenty of interviewers ask poorly worded questions that don't make sense. By asking for verification and clarification, you are helping yourself, and actually helping the interviewer to improve their questions as they go.
MYTH: If I reframe, paraphrase or question the interviewer's assumptions in their question, the interviewer will think I'm confronting them, or that I don't like their question.
TRUTH: You have the right to reframe or rephrase any question, as long as the premise and accuracy of the question is preserved. Doing a paraphrase is extremely common and very helpful to give you time to think. It also shows you are listening accurately. It would be very rare for an interviewer to take offense at this. Instead, I'm sure they would realize they are asking poorly-framed questions, and adjust.
MYTH: If the interviewer asks the same question twice, I should simply answer it again. Otherwise, if I point out that they already asked it, that will just embarrass the interviewer, and they'll dislike me.
TRUTH: You won't irritate the interviewer if you point out the redundancy. Do you know for sure that they did not ask the second question to test you? Maybe they wanted to see if you were paying attention, or if you had the courage to speak up to someone in authority. As long as you do this diplomatically, it'll be fine.
MYTH: To impress the interviewer, I need to do a virtually flawless job.
TRUTH: Thinking you need to be perfect will just add to the pressure of the interview. It's best to seek to do a solid job, not a perfect one.
MYTH: There's no need to hold an actual "mock interview" ahead of time to prepare. I can just be random and casual about prepping.
TRUTH: Doing a "formal" mock interview has tremendous value. In doing one, many people will suddenly feel the stress like they are in a real interview, and that has real value. Better to feel the stress in advance so you can resolve it, than to first feel it at the interview, and to have to deal with it in real time. You may not be able to resolve it then.
MYTH: I'm sure the answers I create in practice by myself will be excellent. There's no need to have any independent person review them.
TRUTH: Unfortunately, people delude themselves all the time when they finally hire an interview coach. The coach listens and says that changes would be advised to their answers, and the person is shocked. That's why you should engage an interview coach as early in the process as possible, so if you need to change your answers (which is necessary 90-95% of the time), you'll have the actual time to do so and practice them before your interview. There's nothing more demoralizing and stressful than trying to make last minute alterations to answers you've been practicing for weeks with an interview right around the corner.
MYTH: I don't need to ask any questions about the organization. I know all I need to know.
TRUTH: Asking many high-quality questions about the organization sets you apart from other candidates. The worst thing you can say to the interviewer, when they ask if you have any questions is to say no. That marks you as being disinterested in them.
MYTH: It's fine to use the regular jargon, special inside phrases and technical nomenclature I always use. I need to be who I am.
TRUTH: You can be who you are, but you'll also alienate the interviewer. They won't understand what you're saying, and they may not care to expend the effort to ask you to repeatedly translate what you mean. It's better to use language that everyone commonly understands and to define any needed special words as you say them.
MYTH: It's fine to use my "daily street language" and slang I use with my friends I always use. I don't want to be fake and overly formal.
TRUTH: Your goal is to make a particular impression on the interviewer. You'll have to ask yourself what type of impression street language makes. You want to be on your best behavior in an interview, and that includes your best efforts at the proper use of language.
MYTH: It's fine to say that's a good question", "I'm glad you asked me that question", "thank you for that question", etc.
TRUTH: Comments such as these are known as "editorializing the question". The interviewer may feel you are judging the worth of their questions. Comments like these also add nothing to your answer and they mark you as either trite, or as attempting to ingratiate yourself (kissing up) to the interviewer. It's best to simply listen, pause and answer.
MYTH: At the end of my answers, it's fine to say "Does that answer your question?", "I hope that's what you wanted to know", or "How was that?", etc., because that shows I want to be complete.
TRUTH: Repeated comments such as these can quickly become irritating to the interviewer, and worse, they can mark you as being very needy for the interviewer's approval. Let your answers stand on their own. If the interviewer wants more detail, they'll ask you for it.
MYTH: If the interviewer wants me to say negative things about my boss or company, I should just answer so I don't rock the boat and look disagreeable to the interviewer. After all, they expect me to answer what they're asking, right?
TRUTH: A cardinal rule of interviewing is to NEVER speak poorly of any person or of any organization. Don't go negative. Find a way to reframe your answer in more positive terms, while still essentially answering their question.
MYTH: If the interviewer asks me one of those silly brainteaser, puzzle, fantasy type questions, I'll just say I don't like those questions, and ask for a new question. I don't see their relevance to the interview.
TRUTH: Any question that gets asked in the interview is there for a reason. You just may not know what it is. You can do what you want, but if you give the question the back of your hand, and refuse to answer, or argue about its value, you run the risk of alienating the interviewer. You will also mark yourself as difficult, and as not much of a team player. You have nothing to lose by answering these types of questions. You can either be serious or playful. Both have their plusses.
MYTH: I don't need weeks or days of preparation. I'll just read over a few questions the morning of the interview, and think about what I'd say. That should be enough.
TRUTH: This is a recipe for disaster, and a virtual guarantee for feeling nervous. No one can give an interview with such a casual approach. You need to anticipate the questions they may ask, and actually give these answers out loud in practice, not just in your head. There is a world of difference between the two modes.
MYTH: People with good eye contact never take their eyes off the interviewer.
TRUTH: It's natural to look away from time to time. Constantly locking eyes with someone is not advised. The biggest eye contact flaw I see is people who need to look away when they are thinking of an answer. If they need to also think AS they answer, they continue to look away. That does not play well with the interviewer. You'll either seem disengaged, shy, or low on confidence. You should practice looking at the interviewer while you think, and as you speak.
MYTH: I'll just hope and assume the interviewer knows how much I want the position. There's no need to come right out and say it. I don't want to sound like a salesperson, or to seem pushy. I showed up for the interview, so it's obvious I want the job isn't it?
TRUTH: After many interviewees leave the interview, the interviewer thinks, "I wonder if he really wants to work here? I wonder if he really likes our school? That's because your passion and enthusiasm may have been missing, and the interviewer really could NOT tell if you were excited about them or not. To avoid that, you must TELL the interviewer you want the job, or that you want to come to their school. You have to be direct and obvious about it. Do that and you'll set yourself apart from the other candidates.
MYTH: I have a major disadvantage in interviews since I am a quiet and reserved type of person.
TRUTH: Maybe you don't have a disadvantage at all. It depends on the situation and the interviewer. If the interviewer is also quiet and reserved, you can more easily build rapport with them. If the position and role you are seeking calls for a more reserved person, you're all set. If the profession you are seeking admits a percentage of quieter people to their schools, you'll fit right in. There are many strategies I teach that can help reserved people in interviews.
MYTH: People who tend to be quiet and reserved (introverts) do more poorly in interviews than the more lively extroverts.
TRUTH: It really depends on the type of situation, as explained above. One thing is for sure. Extroverts tend not to be excellent listeners. Introverts generally are excellent listeners. So if you are quiet, you have that major advantage, and there are others.
MYTH: If the interviewer begins probing and asking follow up questions, that means the interview has become hostile.
TRUTH: It may not mean that at all. In fact, it's normal for every interviewer to ask for more information on certain answers. However, you can tell if the interview turns hostile by noting these signs: The interviewer cuts you off frequently, they seem to hurry you up, or they look impatient.
There are endless myths about the interview process. The problem with these myths is that what you don't know can hurt you. Myths can hold you back. Myths can prevent you from preparing properly and they can make you perform poorly. But once you understand the myths for what they are, falsehoods, you can guard against them. Then they'll no longer hold any power over you.
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To learn more about how interview coaching can help you improve
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and job interviews visit Bill Cole, MS, MA, the Mental Game Coach,
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Bill Cole, MS, MA, a leading authority
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