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5 Job Interviewing Musts That Became Surprise “Don’ts” for This Hiring Manager

Posted February 26, 2014 by Marcy Twete in Career Moves
As many of you know, I’ve recently made the journey from entrepreneurship here at Career Girl Network to the corporate sector. And while I certainly miss the CGN staff and interns, I’m incredibly happy with my choice. But it has not been without a few surprises. The biggest surprise came in two waves – first, that in my first month on the job, I had to hire a member of my staff. And second, the number of surprises I faced throughout the hiring process.

I’ve worked in the field of women’s career development for nearly 8 years, both in the nonprofit sector, and with launching CGN in 2012 and acting as its CEO for 2 years. And throughout that time, both I and my industry counterparts have made broad, sweeping statements about the interview process – things you absolutely MUST do if you want to get hired.

In the hiring process I just went through, though, I surprisingly (shockingly, really) found that some of these “Musts” are actually “Don’t’s”….or at least “Don’t Bothers.” I hope this list will help you to see that every interview process is different and every hiring manager is different. There is no blueprint for every single process. So keep these “might not always be true” statements in mind.

  1. Always send a handwritten thank you note for an in-person interview. For years, I’ve harped and harped and harped on writing handwritten notes and how important this part of the hiring process is to your success. But I immediately realized going through a corporate hiring process as the hiring manager two things. #1 – there’s not always time for a handwritten note! Sure, a handwritten note is great to receive, but I had the unfortunate experience of receiving multiple thoughtful and beautifully written thank you notes even after we had made our decisions in who was moving forward. And #2 – email will keep you at the top of the hiring manager’s mind much more quickly than handwritten notes will.
  2. There’s no such thing as over prepared. Going back to the beginning of my career, I knew one thing for sure, you couldn’t over prepare for an interview. I’d tell people to have their friend or spouse ask them questions in the days leading up to the interview. At one point, I even suggested videotaping your interview answers and critiquing them yourself. But here’s what I found out – someone who has prepared and prepared and prepared and has a perfect answer for every question….guess what? They’re not very interesting! I don’t want to know what you “decided” your biggest weakness was through multiple iterations of practice questions. I actually want to know what it is!
  3. Ask strategic questions. If you Google “questions to ask in an interview” you’ll find list after list of strategic Q&A’s to pummel your potential boss with. “Do you have any concerns about me? What is the structure for advancement in this job? How can I make your job easier?” These aren’t bad questions in any case, but are they really your questions. When I say, “Do you have any questions for me?” again, I actually want to know if you have curiosities or anything you’re concerned about in the job description. I don’t want to know what some interview blog told you to ask me!
  4. Always wear a suit. As recent as a few months ago, I and another career expert gave a presentation where we talked about the benefits of wearing a suit – it makes you sit up straight, you look more professional, you can’t sweat through it! All great things. But here’s the caveat – if you’re not comfortable in a suit – don’t wear one! Nothing is worse as a candidate or an interviewer than seeing that someone is visibly uncomfortable in their outfit. I would much rather sit across the table from a prepared, relaxed, and showing her best self candidate who was wearing a cardigan and a nice pair of slacks than someone who can’t wait to take off their jacket!
  5. Don’t talk about your personal life. Every HR manager in the world will tell hiring professionals you absolutely cannot ask personal questions. I can’t ask you where you live, what your family is like, etc. and I never would. And in most cases, I’d say you shouldn’t either….until now. The truth is, when you’re interviewing someone, you are 100% aware that you would need to spend 40+ hours a week with this person. You want to actually know who they are! If you have children, feel free to say so. Don’t gush over their photos, but it’s nice to know what someone has going on outside of work. If you’re a runner, talk about it. Let the interviewer get to know you both inside and outside work if you have the opportunity.

The biggest surprise for me is that there are no absolutes in the hiring process. Even people who “do everything right” sometimes aren’t the right candidates for a position, and that’s OK. So go do the interview that’s best for you, after all, you have to work there every day! You’d better feel good about it!

About the Author

Marcy Twete

Marcy Twete is a career fundraiser turned corporate responsibility executive, a career and networking expert and the author of the book "You Know Everybody! A Career Girl’s Guide to Building a Network That Works."