By Ron Kness
When interviewing for a job, it seems like you are at a disadvantage being you are the one answering questions. But there are six unwritten rules that gives you a leg up on others who are interviewing that might not know these six secrets.
The Six Unwritten Rules of Interviewing
Some rules are clearly defined in life, but when it comes to interviewing, the unwritten ones are subtle, but in a tight race, it could be the difference between an offer letter and a ‘thanks for your time and have a nice life’ note.
Rule #1 – Be succinct on the “Tell us about yourself”-type questions.
Most likely somewhere in the interview you are going to be asked the question “Tell us about yourself.” Some interviewees will reveal very little about themselves (either by choice or because they are not prepared to answer the question) while others go through their whole work history … whether it is relative or not.
Both are mistakes. Concisely walk your interviewer(s) through the relevant parts of your career. Why relevant? Because in doing so, it provides evidence that you have a performance record at doing similar work.
Another question frequently asked is “Tell us about a time when …?” What an interviewer is really asking is about your competence, commitment and compatibility in a job similar to the one you are interviewing for. Now is a good time to share a story relevant to these three Cs.
Another question that tests how well you do on the three Cs is “Do you have any questions for me?” What they are really asking is “Do you care enough about this job that you researched the company well enough to ask a question or two that could not be answered by simply searching Google.” In other words, it tests your resolve as far as how badly you want this job.
Rule #2 – Understand the role of each interviewer.
How you answer questions depends on the position of the person asking them. Your answer to an immediate supervisor will be different than questions asked by middle management or even top management. Tailor each question to the person asking it. Being able to do this requires some preparation in thinking about answers and some thinking on your feet.
Rule #3 – Make sure your body language is saying the same thing that you are speaking.
Body language should be saying the same thing as the words coming out of your mouth. However, an experienced interviewer will pick up differences between what you are speaking and what your body is saying. How you are sitting, your facial expression, eye contact, posture etc. all speak loudly about you.
One place where many interviewees fail is not maintaining eye contact. Not only does looking someone in the eye show them you are actually listening to what they are saying, but it shows you are self-confident and assertive by being able to do so. Many people cannot as they are intimidated by the person asking questions. And it can be even worse if a panel is asking questions.
Rule #4 – Have more than one career story.
Because many upper-level jobs have multiple interviews, each with a different person, you should have multiple stories about your career. Why? Because quite often interviewers will collaborate with each other after the interviews and if you told each one a different story of your career, it reflects well on your preparedness for that interview overall.
Rule #5 – Following up will not speed up an offer.
Most of the how-to-interview material written always recommends to follow up an interview with a thank-you email or handwritten note the day or so after your interview.
Some like to also send a follow-up email if they have not heard back by the follow-up date established during the interview. If that date did not come up during the course of the interview, be sure to ask “When should I look for a response?”
If after that amount of time has elapsed and you have not yet heard anything, it is a good gesture to let them know you are still interested but know that it most likely will not speed up an offer if there is going to be one.
What can speed up an offer or decline is letting them know if you have an offer from another company. This is just good etiquette to let them know. You may be on a waitlist meaning they want to hire you, just not for that position and they are waiting for a job to open up that is better matched to you.
Rule #6 – Check with the people actually working at that company.
People working at the company you are applying to will give you a much clearer picture as to the company climate than will the person interviewing you. For one, if they are in HR in the company, you will not get an unbiased answer. If the interviewer is a third-party hired to interview for the company, that person may not even know anything about the company culture, so they can’t give you an honest answer either.
Talk to some of the employees that work there and ask their honest opinion of the company. Most likely, they will tell you the truth — good or bad.
Besides the recommended preparation as far as dress, answers to commonly asked questions and your own prepared questions, be sure to brush up on these six unwritten rules of interviewing and get ahead of your competition.