Interviews are such a crucial part of our career progression processes, perhaps the most crucial along with resume preparation and actual job performance. It’s therefore no surprise that there is such extensive and microscopic analysis of interview protocols and etiquette. Equally, there is an unshakeable thirst for information from the candidate, but amongst all this advice and information, some myths still permeate the general consciousness and weigh candidates down, needlessly undermining their interview performance. So, I thought it would be a good time to take a step back and debunk some of the most harmful interview myths.
1. You can never be too early to an interview. Actually, you can be too early. The optimal time to arrive at reception is perhaps 5 or 10 minutes before the start of the interview. If you arrive quite a bit earlier than this, (say 30 minutes early), and are announced by reception, you can disturb the preparation time (and potentially recharge time) of the probably time-pressurized and potentially interview-fatigued hiring manager/recruiter. This could make your hiring manager more stressed, cause him or her to forget some information, and make the manager less prepared, all of which will not bode well for a smooth interview. Never risk arriving late, but if you arrive too early, wait in the car and only enter reception 5 or 10 minutes before the scheduled interview time.
2. You must have a vice-like grip during handshakes with interviewers. Many interviewees have bought into the idea of the archetypal, vice-like grip during handshakes – believing it shows confidence and presence. This is not strictly true. What you actually need to do is offer a well-measured handshake that takes into account the strength of the other person, and adjust the grip so it’s firm but not crushing the other person or your hand. Match the power of the other person and don’t automatically offer a crushing vice-like grip as this may not be well received and could be interpreted as overpowering.
3. You can’t show nerves. Most of us believe that showing nerves at interview is a sign of weakness and that it well reflect badly on your application. This is not an absolute truth. Nerves can be a sign that you are passionate about the job and that you don’t want to fail, and most interviewers will be impressed by motivation and enthusiasm, as long as it does not get in the way of your content and delivery—and prevent you from getting your message across effectively. Of course, if the job requires you to be able to conceal nerves and display outward confidence in order to do the job effectively, (a security guard for example) this may have some bearing in your candidacy, but most interviewers know that interviews are uniquely stressful situations, and will account for this.
4. First impressions are everything. Many of us believe that the first impression is everything and that if we make a bad first impression, this will stick in the interviewer’s mind forever. This is not true, as research shows that people do remember first impressions, but the last impression generally has a much longer lasting effect. So, if you start badly, all is not lost, performing well throughout and finishing strongly can help to undo any initial damage.
5. Interviewers are in Zen-like control. This is a myth. Your interviewers are human too and may be time-pressurized, fatigued from interviewing all day, and may be a little nervous and apprehensive about meeting a candidate, particularly if you are a top candidate. Sure, they will have the upper hand as they may often hold more of the aces but it can be a more equal footing than you may think– and draw confidence from that.
If you found this article interesting, please look out for part 2. In the meantime, I’d love to hear what other interview myths you believe are in existence.