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Five Interview Myths: Debunked

Forget everything you think you know about making a good impression.

There’s conventional wisdom surrounding best practices for job interviews, and there is practical, real-world advice. You’ve likely heard all manner of tips, from “dress for the job you want” to “never negotiate an offer during the interview.”

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Fortunately, we tapped the experts to tease apart the truth from the tired chestnuts. Here’s what we found out.

Myth #1: Dress for the Job You Want

This usually translates into wearing a suit or some other, more formal business attire. Unfortunately, following this advice to the letter can spell disaster for those hoping to score a spot at a company with a much more laid-back culture.

Take Laszlo Bock, for example. When the former GE and McKinsey & Co. executive landed an interview with Google, he was prepared to default to business formal, better suited to his previous corporate jobs. Google recruiter Martha Josephson intervened before he came in and told him to ditch the suit because wearing one would illustrate just how out of touch he was with the company’s culture.

He did wear a jacket (with a tie stashed in the pocket) and subsequently got the job as head of people operations.

Note that Bock didn’t show up in a hoodie and sandals. While those items may be in the wardrobes of many a Silicon Valley stalwart, it is important to offer visual cues that you do have it together, and one way to do that is the way you dress. Not only will it send subliminal vibes to your prospective associate, but science says certain clothing can also boost your confidence.

Myth #2: Turn Your Weakness Into A Strength

Most hiring managers are quick to sniff out the studied response that frames an actual strength as a weakness, such as “I am very hard on myself.”

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Try to be honest, Russell Reynolds Jr. writes in his book Heads: Business Lessons From an Executive Search Pioneer. He recommends offering a response that shows you’ve done serious self-reflection to prepare for this question and can admit responsibility and accept constructive criticism. “Be confident in the fact that this weakness does not make you any less of a great candidate, and show that you are working on this weakness and tell the recruiter how,” Reynolds suggests.

Myth #3: Never Discuss Money

This is a trickier one because sometimes the hiring manager will come right out and ask you to name your salary requirement during the Q&A. Not only does it put you on the spot, but it can also back you into a non-negotiating corner, right? Not necessarily, says Victoria Crispo, program coordinator at Idealist Careers.

If you do blurt out a dollar figure and then come to regret it, Crispo advises following up with the interviewer in this way: “After speaking with you in person and gaining a more in-depth understanding of your needs, the salary range that I request is ___________.” Add something that was mentioned in the interview to back you up, she adds, such as how you have related experience, or might be working beyond the typical 40-hour week in that position.

Myth #4: Find A Way To Fit In

Especially when you are nail-biting your way through the process to land your first job, it can be tempting to say things you think the hiring manager will want to hear–even if those things aren’t true. But as Brittney Oliver discovered after going on 100 job interviews, this strategy doesn’t guarantee success.

Companies are looking for candidates they feel will adapt well with their teams and their corporate culture. There were times I would pretend to be a good fit for a team out of desperation, when I knew in my heart that the job or the company wasn’t right. Don’t do this. Be specific about what you’re looking for in a job—and consider asking for an informational interview before you send in an official application somewhere. Either way, decide it’s a fit before applying for the gig.

Myth #5: Never Let Them See You Sweat (Or Admit You’ve Been Fired)

With as many as 42% of workers leaving after one to two years on the job, hopping is much more commonplace and accepted than it once was. Whether you’ve been laid off, or simply open to new opportunities, it’s best to be upfront instead of brushing it off.

Just keep in mind that the interview isn’t the right place to bash a previous employer, no matter what the circumstance was that caused you to leave. “Know why you’ve made the decision to move on from your past employers, and communicate that to your interviewer should he or she ask,” says Jason Niad, managing director at Execu|Search, a recruitment firm headquartered in New York.

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While you are navigating this challenging portion of the conversation, remember to keep your body language and tone in check. Keep your arms uncrossed, make eye contact, and maintain an upbeat voice. You can also use it to your advantage. “Working in multiple jobs in multiple companies can be a great way to develop a wide range of both technical and soft skills,” says Niad.

Research has shown time and again that interviews aren’t necessarily prompting the best hiring decisions. And another set of studies indicates that it’s because the interviewer is often trying to make sense of anything the interviewee says as well as the fact that tangential information exchanged during the conversation serves to weaken the value of quality information.

While it may not make much sense to continue using this tool as a hiring mechanism, no one has implemented a universal replacement yet. With that in mind, it just pays to put your best foot forward and not fall prey to poor advice.

Related: Have You Mastered The Art Of Interviewing?

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About the author

Lydia Dishman is a reporter writing about the intersection of tech, leadership, and innovation. She is a regular contributor to Fast Company and has written for CBS Moneywatch, Fortune, The Guardian, Popular Science, and the New York Times, among others.

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