February 8, 2010 | Barb Carr

Career Development: Interview Myths That Keep You From Landing The Job by Captain George Burk

The economy stinks! Jobs are scarce and the jobs that are available, people scramble to fill them. Unemployment, according to many “experts,” is the highest since the late 1970’s and many people have simply stopped looking. While jobs are scarce, advice for job searchers is abundant. With the abundance of this information, there always seems to be as much confusion about what advice to accept and what to ignore.

Kara Greene of Career Counselors Consortium and executive coach Barbara Frankel and this writer (guest columnist, Captain George Burk), offer a few tips that can help job seekers stand out from the competition, avoid some of the major pitfalls and, hopefully, get the job.

The tips are useful for any type of organizations—public, private and non-profit.

The bold quotes are some interview gaffes by job candidates. I didn’t make them up.

Hard to imagine anyone could be so dumb and have so little common sense and personal decorum. The examples, based on a survey of 3,061 U.S. hiring managers and human resources professionals by Harris Interactive found the top 10 most outrageous mistakes.

Myth #1. Ask questions at the end of the interview. There’s an element of truth in this bit of advice. Be prepared to ask questions that relate to the job. The myth is that you must wait until the interview’s over or it’s your turn to speak.

The interview is a two-way street. You want them to hire you and you want to make sure it’s the type of organization where you want to work. When you wait for the interviewer to ask you if you have any questions, “it becomes an interrogation instead of conversation,” says Greene.

“Candidate answered cell phone and asked interviewer to leave her own office because it was a private conversation.”

Approach the interview as a sales call. The product you’re selling is you and you’re selling yourself to the employer. “You can’t be passive in a sales call or you aren’t going to sell your product,” Greene says.

For example, Frankel says, if the interview says, “Tell me about yourself,” you should first respond to that question and then complete the response with your own question, like, “Please tell me more about the position.” The interview should be a dialogue, not a one-way discussion.

“Candidate told the interviewee he wouldn’t be able to stay with the job long because he thought he might get an inheritance if his uncle died—and his uncle ‘wasn’t looking too good.'”

Myth #2. It’s okay to have flaws. That’s life and reality. Almost every interviewer will ask you to name at least one flaw. Often, job seekers are told to avoid the question completely by providing a “good flaw.” An example of a “good flaw” is “I’m too committed to my work.” Generally, this kind of response serves to hurt you more than it helps. “Every competent recruiter can see right through that,” Greene says of faux flaws.

“Candidate asked the interviewer for a ride home after the interview.”

Recruiters conduct interviews all day, every day. They’ve seen it all and have an innate ability to see through candidates who try to dodge questions.

For those who may consider themselves nearly perfect and “flaw-free,” earth to candidate…everyone has weaknesses. But, according to Frankel, supply your interviewer with one genuine flaw, explain how you are working to correct it, and then move to a new question.

“Candidate smelled his armpit on the way to the interview room.”

Myth #3. Identify all of your strengths and skills to the employer. Certainly, you want the interviewer to know why you are a valuable candidate, but a literal “laundry list” of your skills and abilities won’t win you any points. What you will be asked in an interview is what can go wrong in certain scenarios and how you would respond.

“You don’t want to list a litany of strengths,” Frankel said.

Often, some of the more typical responses are, “‘I’m a good communicator,’ ‘I have excellent interpersonal skills,’ ‘I am responsible,'” Greene says. “You have to give accomplishments. I need to know what did you accomplish when using these skills.”

“Candidate said she could not provide a writing example because all of her writing had been for CIA and it was ‘classified.'”

Green recommended doing a little “spade work” before the interview so you can be better prepared to answer this question. She tells clients to find out as much as possible about the potential job role and the organization. “What makes an interview powerful is to give an example related to their particular needs or challenges that you have demonstrated in the past.”

Generally, provide three strengths, with examples. You will get much further with a handful of real strengths than an unconvincing list of traits.

“Candidate told the interviewer he was fired for beating up his last boss.”

Myth #4. Let the employer know your salary expectations. Salary is one of the most difficult questions to answer in an interview. The fact is you don’t have to answer when asked about your desire salary.

“When an applicant was offered food before the interview, he declined saying he didn’t want to line his stomach with grease before going out drinking.”

According to the book, Acing the Interview: How to Ask and Answer the Questions that Will Get You The Job, a good answer would be “I want to earn a salary that is commensurate with the contributions I can make. I am confident I can make substantial contributions at your firm. What does your firm plan to pay for this position?”

Greene suggests a response similar to: “I prefer to discuss the compensation package after you’ve decided that I’m the best candidate and we can sit down and negotiate the package.”

“A candidate for an accounting position said she was a “people person” not a “numbers person.”

Myth #5. The employer determines if you get the job. Yes, the employer is obviously the one who offers you the position, but interviewees have more control in the hiring process than they realize. According to Greene and Frankel, candidates have a larger say in the final hiring decision than they believe.

“Candidate flushed the toilet while talking to the interviewer during a phone interview.”

Greene says, “They should call the interviewer or hiring manger and say: ‘I’d really like to be part of the company.’ It can’t hurt, it can only help you.”

Send a “Thank you“ note to the interviewer and follow-up periodically. Once a month until the position is filled is a good rule of thumb, twice a month at most. You want to show your continued interest but, at the same time, you don’t want to come off as a pest.

An email thank you from a web site or directly from you is fine. But, when you know the interviewer’s (hosts) work or home address, a written note with postage and mailing it shows a personal touch and that took the time to write to them. It adds an extra touch. Most of your “competitors” don’t follow-up with any type of a “Thank you.” They choose to take way of least resistance and effort…and wonder.

Remember: there are three types of people: Those who watch what happened; those who wonder what happened; and those who make things happen.

“Candidate took out her hair brush and combed her hair.”

Acing the interview encourages candidates to conclude the interviews with one question: “Based on your interview, do you have any concerns about my ability to do the job?” If the answer is yes, ask the interviewer to be explicit. “Deal forthrightly with each concern.”

Some other blunders and other detrimental mistakes candidates made during an interview: dressing inappropriately was the biggest mistake a candidate could make.

Talking negatively about a current or former employer was second and appearing disinterested was third.

Other mistakes included appearing or sounding arrogant, not providing specific answers and not asking good questions.

“If a candidate is overly negative, plays the blame game, is easily frazzled or doesn’t come prepared it usually ends up a red flag for employers,” said Careerbuilder.com spokeswoman Rosemary Haefner.

“We have met the enemy and he is us.” ~ POGO, cartoon character

I opened a Fortune Cookie this week that was with our meal.

“You will live the life that makes all others not envious, but proud of you.”

I can only hope and pray it is so!


Authored by: Captain George Burk, USAF (Ret), Plane crash and burn survivor (excerpts from Karen Noonan, TradePub.com). Captain Burk is a motivational speaker, author and writer, and we are pleased to announce that he will be a speaker at the 2010 TapRooT® Summit in San Antonio, Texas October 27-29, 2010. For more information about Captain Burk contact him at:

480-212-6321 cell

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