There are lots of things we might like to assume about the job interview process…the very first thing being that there are actually things we can absolutely count on from one interview to the next. Ways THEY must behave. Rules they will follow. Things we can do to land the job for sure. Assumptions all.
One of my favorite moments from The Odd Couple tells us what happens when we assume. (It’s about 5 minutes; truly a classic scene where Tony Randall as Felix Unger makes his point with panache.)
Obviously I’m leading up to the idea that interviews and the interview process are often inscrutable, as much as we wish we could find a magic formula to apply each time. (As some online information might lead you to believe.) But alas…there are indeed things we should never assume about the job interview process. And so…here’s my promised list:
Things NOT to Assume about your interview
- Having the best skills means you get the job.
- Not having all the required skills means you won’t get the job – and shouldn’t even apply.
- If they call your references you got the job.
- If they haven’t called your references yet you didn’t get it.
- Interviewers (even nice ones) will return your calls, e-mails, or desperate texts. (Some places have rules about only HR contacting you during the interview process; and even they might not answer you until they’re sure what they want to do. Sorry.)
- Not hearing back within the next week or so after your initial interview is a bad sign – or means anything at all.
- Waiting weeks & weeks for a second or third interview means you’re out of the running. (I once waited months and I was the top candidate.)
- Following up a lot is smart since it helps them remember you. (Oh…they will.)
- Not following up at all is smart since this way you aren’t bothering them. (Occasional phone calls or e-mails is not a bother unless they tell you it is. Just don’t stalk them or get all nuts if you don’t hear back.)
- You and the position you’re interviewing for is their #1, #2, or even #3 priority. (If they had all that spare time, they wouldn’t need to hire you.)
- Because you were nervous during the interview you won’t get the job. (Nerves are normal. Just try to stay in the moment, listen, be yourself, and answer as best you can; you’ll get through it. Taking time beforehand to think about some stories showing how your skills/experiences match the job requirements will help. Practicing ahead of time also helps.)
- If the interview went smoothly and you really hit it off with the interviewer, you got the job.
- The interviewer will like you better if you share lots of personal stuff. (It’s about the job and whether you’re a good match for the company; it’s not a blind date.)
- The interviewer knows what s/he is doing. (If they’re new to interviewing, try to find your own ways to talk about past experiences showing what a great fit you are. Just watch to see if they’re ok with you leading a bit – and be careful not to come off as pushy or condescending. )
- The interviewer doesn’t know what s/he is doing if the questions are mostly general or those frequently-asked ones like greatest weakness or greatest strength. (A good interviewer can use these to assess a lot more than you think.)
- They can never go higher than the highest stated salary for the position.
- Getting the highest salary possible is always a good thing.
- If you get away with a lie it won’t be caught later. (Unless of course you’re Don Draper on Mad Men who even lied about getting his job offer.)
- If you tell them the truth (rather than what you think they want to hear), they won’t hire you. (Got a great e-mail recently from a reader who already had an offer, and so decided to be honest about her situation with another job she really wanted but had assumed wouldn’t want her under the circumstances. She got the 2nd offer.)
- They won’t do a full background check. (Always assume they will. And if you have some credit issues, you might want to read here.)
- Your version of what an interview process should be has anything to do with reality.
So what’s my main point about assumptions?
To borrow from the immortal words of Felix Unger…when it comes to interviews, NEVER ASSUME! You’ll know when you know and not a minute before. In the meantime, try to stay relatively sane. And don’t try too hard to beat the system by finding the perfect answer or some secret interview sauce that will always work. One size does not fit all when it comes to interviews. Just be yourself, do your best, follow up politely (but not too often), and wait as long as it takes for them to do what they have to behind the curtain.
And in the meantime…don’t stop looking until you have an offer in hand that you actually want!
Oh…and as always…feel free to add your own things job seekers should “never assume.”