I’m going to tell you something that shouldn’t come as a surprise.
Your interviewer is not your friend.
But you already knew that, right?
So, why do so many job candidates seem to make this mistake? Those who’ve read my other blogs and How to Get a Legal Job: A Guide for New Attorneys and Law School Students know I spend a great deal of time talking to hiring decision-markers, including hiring directors, interviewers, personnel managers, and recruiters in many different industries—in other words, the people who will be interviewing you.
These interviewers complain, time and time again, job candidates make the critical error of behaving as if the interviewer is a trusted old friend.
1. This Isn’t A Two-Way Street
Your interviewer doesn’t care about you. She cares only about herself and her employer. When she asks you about yourself and your goals and your interests, what she really wants to know how well you’re going to fill the employer’s need and whether she wants to work with you. Keep that in mind as you answer her interview questions.
2. You Don’t Owe The Whole Truth
Honesty is a good thing. I would never recommend that a job candidate lie or otherwise be dishonest. However, just because you should be truthful, doesn’t mean that you have to offer up the whole dirty truth in every circumstance (and remember that there’s almost always a positive way to explain even bad circumstances). Think about how different it sounds to an interviewer if a job candidate says, “I left my previous job because my boss was a micromanaging jerk who never gave me a moment’s peace,” compared to, “I’m interested in working at your company because of the opportunities to work independently.”
3. Familiarity Isn’t Appropriate
Be on your best behavior. Casual behavior like putting your feet up on a table, speaking in slang, and other mannerisms are fine when you’re among friend, but are no-nos during an interview. Your interview should be a friendly give-and-take, but it is not a conversation between friends. Both your verbal language and your body language should reflect your respect for the interviewer and your understanding the workplace, especially if you’re applying to be the interviewer’s subordinate rather than her peer.
4. Nothing You Say Is Confidential
Finally, remember that there’s no such thing as “off the record” or “just between us” when it comes to the job interview. Anything you tell the interviewer is fair game to end up in your file at the employer.
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