Confessions of Hiring Experts

If you worry about every possible way you can blow a job interview -- from mispronouncing the boss's name to babbling incessantly when you don't know what else to say -- you're going to walk in there feeling like you're destined to fail.  True, job interviews are rife with opportunities for you to embarrass yourself, but hiring managers are more forgiving than you might think.

We consulted some hiring experts about what is really going on inside their heads when interviewing job applicants.  They offered the following insights: 

They like you -- they really like you
"I tend to walk into every interview wanting to hire that person," says Christine Peterson, Senior Vice President of Marketing for TripAdvisor.  In addition to having the right skills and experience, she says, candidates who come across as "nice, smart and fun...are going to have to work pretty hard to convince me NOT to hire them," Peterson says.  She's seen her fair share of applicants who didn't meet these standards, including one otherwise-qualified candidate who was cut from consideration after she insisted that the receptionist who greeted her for her interview throw out a perfectly good pot of coffee and make her a fresh pot.  While Peterson is willing to give most applicants the benefit of the doubt -- after all, they put in the time and effort to submit an application and come in for an interview -- she believes no amount of qualifications will make up for "jerkness."

They don't want to hear what you think they want to hear
"Interviewers have gotten very smart to pick up if someone's saying just what a book is telling them to say," says Mary Gormandy White, a professional consultant in Mobile Ala..  By only saying what they think the employer wants to hear, job candidates are simply putting on an act, and employers can see right through that.  "You have to be yourself in an interview and you have to be sincere," she says. 

They don't expect you to have all the answers
"Employers are more interested in how you find answers to things you don't know than in having you pretend to know something you don't," says Linda Finkle, executive coach at a management consulting firm based in Potomac, Md.  In some cases, she says, the interviewer may ask a question that he or she doesn't expect you to be able to answer simply to see how you handle it.  If you ever find that you don't know the answer to an interviewer's question, the best thing to do is to admit that you don't know, but either add that you could give an educated guess or provide a way you might go about finding the answer.  Most importantly, if you don't know, don't try to fake it.  "Not knowing is OK.  Making something up or pretending to know is not," Finkle says.  

They want you to want them
According to Michele Minten, director of Centralized Recruiting for a Chicago-based recruiting company, one of the worst things a job candidate can do is not express genuine interest in the job or the company.  As much as the recruiter wants to sell the candidate on the position and company, he or she also wants to know that the candidate actually wants to work in that position or for that company.  Peterson agrees.  "When I hear applicants expressing energy and enthusiasm for our company and our product, I want to hire them," she says.

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