Don’t ASSUME!

Since graduation is only about two months away for most college seniors, and that means that many of them will (or should) be starting to interview, I’m going to spend some more time writing about interviewing strategies. A recent article from the Huffington Post talks about some assumptions that job seekers may make that can get them in trouble. I’m going to summarize those assumptions and add a few of my own.

The article by Susan P. Joyce, which first appeared on Work Coach Café last spring, describes three assumptions that people make when they go for an interview:

“1. The interviewer knows how to interview.” Several years ago I sat in on 17 mock interviews, and one of the first things I realized was that some of the interviewers were much more adept at interviewing than others. If you’re interviewing with a large corporation, odds are that the interviewer—or at least the first interviewer—is a professional in the human resources field and has been trained in interviewing. But interviewers at smaller organizations (or the specialized managers in large organizations, who may be the ones who make the final decisions) are unlikely to have had much training in interviewing strategies (and some may have had none). Joyce suggests that it’s easy to tell whether you’re talking to a professional interviewer: If they spend more time talking to you than asking questions and listening to you, they are not proficient at interviewing, and you’re going to need to take some initiative or you’ll find yourself having no time to tell them why you’re a good fit for the job. Gently interrupt when the interviewer brings up something about the job relevant to your experience, or find an opportunity to redirect the conversation to talk about the skills you would bring to the organization.

“2. The interviewer is focused on you and the interview they are conducting.” If conducting interviews is not the primary responsibility of the interviewer, odds are good that he or she is squeezing you in between other tasks. . .and those other tasks may seem more pressing. Joyce says you can tell if this is the case by paying attention to the interviewer: Does the interviewer seem distracted? Is he or she checking the time often? Does he or she stay attentive when you respond? If you find yourself in a situation where the interviewer does seem distracted, your best strategy is to be concise and, according to Joyce, maintain eye contact as much as possible.

“3. The interviewer has read your resume and remembers what is on it.” It’s quite likely that the interviewer has read many resumes, and he or she may not have had time to review yours again right before the interview. If the interview starts with a series of questions that could have been answered by reading your resume, you know that the interviewer doesn’t remember (or hasn’t read) your resume. This one is fairly easy to deal with: Start the interview by handing the interviewer a copy of your resume (unless you see one on the desk!). It’s always a good idea to take several copies of your resume with you to every interview, so that each person you talk with can have a copy.

Here are a few more assumptions that you should avoid making:

• That you have all the skills required for the job. No one goes into a new job knowing everything necessary to complete the work and mesh instantly with co-workers.

• That the transition will be smooth if you get the job. Everyone goes through stages of socialization when they take on a new job, even if it’s a new position within the same organization.

• That you were brought in because they really want you. It’s possible that the boss’s nephew is in line for the job, but they have to go through the motions to make it all look legitimate.

What it is safe to assume is that you need to have done your homework (Tips 37, 42 – 46) and be at the top of your game. You can also assume that a great interview will increase your chance of getting the job.