Workwrite Resumes

How NOT to prepare for your job interview

Don't end up on the job interview garbage truck.

Photo by David Blackwell

Almost every day, someone asks me about how to prepare for a job interview.

  • Are the lists of questions I find on Web sites and blogs really the ones employers ask?
  • Are the answers they give the right ones?
  • Am I really expected to memorize those answers?
  • How much do I need to know about the company before my interview?
  • Can’t I just wing it? I’m good at shooting the breeze.

One problem: These aren’t very useful questions. There are thousands, maybe millions of books, blogs, and Web sites offering information about how to conduct a job interview. Many of them make it sound like you just have to figure out what the interviewer is going to ask and memorize those answers to be hired. I haven’t found that to be true.

Here are a few hints for things to cross off your list of interview advice.

1. Do NOT read any more lists of the 100 most common interview questions.

The most common questions are far too general to be of much use for any one person with any specific company. Unless this is your very first interview, you know the questions will all mean:

  • Tell me about yourself.
  • Why should we hire you?

Other lists outline oddball questions, which are entertaining, but knowing about them won’t help you much with your interview preparation. Besides, do you really want to work for a company that bases its hiring decisions on which color M&M you would prefer to be?

2. Do NOT memorize any more answers.

Interviewers are much more interested in finding out about you than they are in finding out if you can memorize the perfect answer to their question. Although it is hard to believe when you’re in the throes of a job search, you really are important to the company that calls you to interview. You may be working for and with them very soon, so they want to find out as much as possible to see if you are “their kind of person.”
3. Do NOT play it cool.
This is not the time to play hard to get. Nor is it the time to hang back to see if you really want the position. Your enthusiasm about the company and the position are critical. If you want to work for them, let it show. If you don’t, cancel the interview or go into it knowing you are just practicing.

4. Do NOT wait for the interview to find out more about the company and the position.

Yes, you are supposed to ask questions at the interview, but not the kind of questions you can find the answers to BEFORE the interview. Take every opportunity to research the company. Here’s how.

5. Do NOT assume that you have the job because you are “good at interviewing.”

I know quite a few people who think they are good at interviewing because they are comfortable talking with people. Being extraverted is an asset for interviews because you may not become so nervous that you find it hard to collect your thoughts. If just the thought of interviewing doesn’t scare you half to death, feel grateful. For some people, it is enough to keep them out of a job search.

On the other hand, talking too much is not an asset. The job market has been depressed for a long while, and it doesn’t appear to be roaring back this week. Companies are not hiring just any old sweet-talker who gets past the HR machine. There is more to the interview than getting your foot in the door, so don’t underestimate the process and preparation it takes to land the job of your dreams.

If your last interview didn’t win the job, or if you have serious doubts about your ability to hold up your end of an interview conversation, contact me to talk about ways I can coach you regarding specific issues in your job history or problems you’ve had with interviewing in the past.

Leave a Reply