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10 Job Interview Myths That You Must Know

One important reason people fail at interviews is because of several
misconceptions, or myths, about what really happens during the course of an interview.
All of us know that the purpose of interviews is for an interviewer to hire someone who
will perform well in a particular job, but beyond that few people fully grasp how
interviews really work and what makes one candidate stand out more than another.
This lack of understanding represents a major obstacle to maximising
performance when sitting before an interviewer and trying to give your best answers.
Interviews are no different to other endeavors in life: the better you understand
how they work (or don’t work), the higher the probability of tackling them successfully.
An understanding of the underlying dynamics inherent in most interviews is an important
start to improving your interview performance.

Myth no. 1: The best person for the job gets it

Sometimes this is true—especially in a situation where everyone knows
everyone else, such as when a company is recruiting internally. However, this is often
not the case. In order for the best person for the job to win it, a number of very
important things need to be in place (and even then, there’s no guarantee).

These include:

  • The interviewer knows what questions to ask and how to search for the
    truthfulness in answers. These two things may sound simple enough, but I can
    assure you that a large proportion of people conducting interviews have
    received no training, lack interview experience and often do not even go to the
    trouble of preparing for the interview.
  • The interviewer is not taken in by the charm, good looks, great humour or anyother aspect of the interviewee. This can be a difficult obstacle, even for experienced interviewers.
  • The interviewee has learned how to clearly articulate their skills, key achievements and how they can add value to the organisation.
  • There is no personality clash between interviewer and interviewee.
    Neither party is having a bad day.

Some employers usually the ones who have been badly burnt by hiring the wrong
people in the past—go to great lengths to set up professional hiring procedures designed
to minimise hiring mistakes. Whilst some of these procedures are effective in improving
candidate selection, they do not guarantee that the best person for the job will actually
win it.

In the final analysis, choosing someone for a job involves at least one human being
making a decision about another, and no matter what we do to eliminate subjectivity, as
human beings it is impossible to put aside our predispositions, predilections and
personal preferences—no matter how much we may try to.

In the final analysis, choosing someone for a job involves at least one human being
making a decision about another, and no matter what we do to eliminate subjectivity, as
human beings it is impossible to put aside our predispositions, predilections and
personal preferences—no matter how much we may try to.

  • In the final analysis, choosing someone for a job involves at least one human being
    making a decision about another, and no matter what we do to eliminate subjectivity, as
    human beings it is impossible to put aside our predispositions, predilections and
    personal preferences—no matter how much we may try to.
  • If you happen to know that you’re the best person for the job, avoid taking the
    interview for granted. Behave as though you’re competing against formidable
    rivals. Take the time to prepare properly. Just because you’ve got a lot of
    experience does not mean you know how to convey this message at an

Myth no. 2: Interviews are like school exams- The more you say, the better you’ll do –

Yes, interviews are a bit like exams in so far as that you’re asked a number of
questions to which you need to respond intelligently, but there the similarities end.
Unlike exams, where lots of accurate detail is important, interviews are more about
interacting and rapport building whilst simultaneously articulating smart answers. And a
smart answer is often not the most detailed. In fact, long and overly detailed answers
can drive interviewers to distraction, despite their technical accuracy. Knowing when to
stop talking is a skill all successful interviewees have.

Also unlike many exams, there are often no right or wrong answers in
interviews. We’re all different and come to interviews from different backgrounds and
business sitations. What is important at an interview is to justify your actions and talk
about your achievements in a confident manner.

Myth no. 3: Interviewers know what they’re doing

Some interviewers are very good at what they do, especially full time
professionals (provided they’re not suffering from interview fatigue). However, many
managers and owners of small businesses often flounder because interviewing is not
something they do on a regular basis.

Some sure signs of a bad interviewer are:

  • They do most of the talking.
  • They sound as though they’ve made up their mind about you in the first five
  • They seem to pluck their questions randomly out of the ether.
  • Their phone keeps ringing and they answer it.
  • They sound like very sharp and less-than-honest salespeople when it comes to
    selling the job.

Some sure signs of a good interviewer are:

  • They have their questions carefully prepared in advance.
  • They want to know what you’ve done and how you’ve done it, including
    specific examples.
  • They let you do most of the talking.
  • They may want to interview you more than once.
  • They will try to make you feel at ease.
  • They are genuinely interested in your accomplishments, skills and the type of
    person you are.

Inexperienced interviewers generally don’t ask the right questions and can easily
be swayed by factors that have little to do with your ability to perform in the job. So if
you are being interviewed by an inexperienced interviewer, don’t wait to be asked a
good question one that will allow you to talk about all your wonderful skills and

Rather, take the initiative in as unobtrusive a way as possible and talk about
the things you feel the interviewer might really want to know. Unfortunately, this may
not always be possible especially if you’re being interviewed by a forceful personality
who loves the sound of their own voice.

If ever you find yourself in such a situation, don’t panic. Remind yourself that
interviews are just as much about rapport-building as they are about answering
questions. So nod your head, smile and make all the right noises talkative interviewers
love people who agree with them.

Myth no. 4: Never say ‘I don’t know’ –

Interviews are about making a positive impression by answering questions
intelligently and building rapport with the interviewer. To this end, many interviewees
feel that they have to provide the perfect answer to every question put to them,
irrespective of whether or not they actually know the answer.

Clearly, a great interview is one in which you can answer all the questions
(and you should be able to do so if you take the time to prepare correctly); however, if
you don’t know the answer to something, it is better to admit to it rather than pretend to
know and start waffling.

Most interviewers can pick waffling a mile away and they don’t like it for a
couple of very important reasons: first, it is likely to make you sound dishonest; and
second, it will make you sound considerably less than intelligent. You may as well not
attend the interview if you give the impression that you’re neither honest nor bright.

Trying to answer a question that you have little idea about could undermine an
otherwise great interview. This does not mean that you cannot attempt answers that you
are unsure of. There’s nothing wrong with having a go, as long as you make your
uncertainty clear to the interviewer at the outset. Here’s what an answer may sound like:

I have to be honest and say that this is not an area I’m familiar with, though I
am very interested in it. If you like, I’m happy to have a go at trying to address the issue,
as long as you’re not expecting the perfect answer.


I’d love to answer that question, but I need to be honest upfront and say that
this is not an area that I’m overly familiar with, though I’m very interested in increasing
my knowledge about it.

Myth no. 5: Good-looking people get the job –

I suppose if the job was for a drop-dead gorgeous femme fatale type in a
movie, then good looks would certainly help, but for most other jobs the way you look
is not as big a deal as many people make out.

As we’ve already discussed, there will always be an inexperienced employer
who will hire on the basis of superficial factors, but most employers are smarter than

The claim that good-looking people get the job over plain-looking people
makes one seriously flawed assumption that employers make a habit of putting
someone’s good looks before the interests of their livelihood. All my experience has
taught me the contrary. Most businesses find themselves in highly competitive
environments and employers are only too keenly aware that a poor hiring decision can
prove very costly.

This is not to say that appearance and a bright personality are not important
factors at an interview. It is very important that you dress appropriately and try your
best to demonstrate all your friendly qualities. Good looks are certainly overrated in
interviews, but an appropriate appearance and a friendly personality are not.

Myth no. 6: If you answer the questions better than the others, you’ll get the job –

Being able to articulate good answers in an interview is very important, and
failure to do so will almost certainly mean you don’t get the job. However, interviews
—as we’ve already seen—are much more than just giving good answers.

They’re also about convincing the interviewer that you will be a nice person to
work with. To put it another way, it doesn’t matter how good your answers are
technically, if the interviewer doesn’t like you there’s not much chance you’ll get the job
(unless your talents are unique, extremely difficult to find or the interviewer is

So avoid thinking about interviews just in terms of answering questions
correctly. Interviews are also about establishing rapport and trust, and whilst there is no
fail-safe method in doing this, there are things you can do (and things you should not do)
that will go a long way towards improving your skills in this all-important area of

Myth no. 7: You should try to give the perfect answer –

I’ve heard too many people stumble over their words, repeat themselves and
talk in circles because they’re trying to articulate the perfect answer—or what they think
constitutes the perfect answer.

Some people are so obsessed with delivering the perfect answer that they
don’t stop until they produce what in their opinion is a word perfect response. Because
we can never be entirely sure of what the interviewer wants to hear, some of us will
keep on talking in the hope that we’ll cover all bases. The problem with this approach
is that we end up talking too much, leading to the interviewer losing concentration
which, of course, is the last thing you need at an interview.

The reality is that in most cases there is no such thing as the perfect answer.
The lesson here is: it makes a lot of sense to settle for a good answer that gets to the
point rather than meander all over the place searching for the elusive perfect answer.

Myth no. 8: You must ask questions to demonstrate your interest and intelligence –

Many interviewees are under the mistaken belief that they must ask questions at
the end of the interview. There seems to be a common belief amongst many
interviewees that this makes them sound more intelligent as well as more interested in
the job.

This is not true. Asking questions simply for the sake of doing so won’t
improve your chances of getting a job. It could even make you sound a little dull
especially if you ask questions about matters that were already covered during the
course of the interview.

Only ask a question if you have a genuine query. Acceptable questions include
those relating directly to the job you’re applying for, as well as working conditions and
company policies on such things as on pay, leave, and so on. Interviewers never mind
answering questions about such matters, but they do mind answering questions they
perceive to be irrelevant.

If you have no questions to ask, simply say something like: ‘Thank you, but I
have no questions. You’ve been very thorough during the course of the interview and
have covered all the important matters regarding the job.’ There’s nothing wrong with
including a compliment to the interviewer about their thoroughness and professionalism
—provided it doesn’t go over the top or sound like grovelling.

Two further points need to be made about asking questions. First, avoid asking too
many questions. On the whole, interviewers do not enjoy role reversals. Second, never
ask potentially embarrassing questions. These can include:

  • A question relating to a negative incident;
  • something that’s not supposed to be in the public domain;
  • A difficult question that may stump the interviewer.

The rule of thumb is: if you think a question may cause embarrassment, err on the
side of caution and avoid it.

Myth no. 9: Relax and just be yourself –

Whilst it is important to be relaxed and show your better side, it is also very
important to understand that interviews are not social engagements. Most interviews are
highly formalised events in which otherwise innocuous behaviours are deemed

In short, being your usual self could spell disaster (as contradictory as that may
sound). For example, if being yourself means leaning back on your chair, dressing
somewhat shabbily and making jokes, you might find yourself attending an inordinate
number of interviews.

Whilst interviewers like people to be relaxed, they also have definite
expectations about what behaviours are appropriate for an interview and you violate
these expectations at your peril!

Myth no. 10: Interviewers are looking for flaws

The danger with this myth is that it can easily lead to interviewees adopting a
defensive, perhaps even distrustful, attitude during the interview.

If you believe that the interviewer is assiduously searching for your flaws, it
will more than likely undermine your attempts to establish that all-important rapport and

It may also prevent you from opening up and giving really good answers. Rest
assured that most interviewers do not prepare their interview questions with a view to
uncovering your flaws. Questions are mostly prepared with a view to giving the
interviewer an overall or holistic insight into what you have to offer the company. A
good interviewer will indeed uncover areas in which you are not strong, but that is a far
cry from thinking that the interviewer is hell bent on uncovering only your flaws.

It is very important to treat every question as an opportunity to excel rather
than being unnecessarily guarded. It is only by answering the questions that you can
demonstrate how good you are. To treat questions as objects of suspicion makes no
sense at all.

Understanding the myths surrounding interviews gives you a great start for
success. Remember, interviews are no different to other endeavors in life: the better you
understand their underlying nature the higher the probability you’ll tackle them
successfully. An insight into common interview myths will arm you with the information
you need to prevent you from falling into those disheartening traps.

Just as importantly, a clearer picture of the true nature of interviews better
informs the rest of your preparation and will contribute to your confidence and

Summary of key points

  • The best person for the job does not necessarily win it—often it’s the person
    who gives the best interview.
  • Interviews are more than just giving technically correct answers. They’re also
    very much about building rapport.
  • Not all interviewers know what they’re doing; your job is to know how to
    handle the good and bad interviewer.
  • It’s better to be honest and admit ignorance than try to pretend you know an
    answer and come across as disingenuous and less than bright.
  • Good looking people win jobs—maybe in Hollywood movies, but on the
    whole, employers are keen to hire talent over superficial factors.
  • Striving to give the perfect answer can get you into trouble. It’s betterto give a
    good answer that’s to the point rather than searching forperfection; besides, often there’s no such thing as the perfect answer.
  • Do not ask questions for the sake of it. Only ask a question if you have a
    genuine query that has not been covered.
  • Interviews are formal occasions requiring relatively formal behaviours.
    Interviewers will expect this and may react negatively if they don’t see it.
  • Interviewers do not spend all their time looking for your flaws. They’re more
    interested in getting an overall picture of who you are. Avoid answering
    questions defensively. It’s much better to see every question as an opportunity
    to highlight your best points

Just know, when you truly want success, you’ll never give up on it. No matter how bad the situation may get.