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7 unspoken rules for job interviews everyone should know

As a candidate, you often feel like you’re in the dark at the end of a job interview. What Hiring Managers Do really think how well you did? What does this radio silence mean after an interview?

To demystify the hiring process, we asked a mix of career experts to reveal the biggest unspoken job interview rules they know. Although not often shared with job applicants, these are truths everyone should know.

Rule #1: Investigators want a highlight video, not an exhaustive list of everything you did.

Job applicants are guaranteed to be asked a version of “Tell us about yourself” and “Why are you interested in our company/our role?” said Anyelis Cordero, founder of Propel on Purpose Coaching, a career coaching service designed for first-generation professionals.

You may think you can just repeat what your resume says. But that would be a mistake.

“Investigators expect [you] so that you can guide them concisely throughout your career. This is an area that many experienced professionals struggle with, especially first-generation professionals, because the unspoken rule here is that the interview wants the best time,” Cordero said.

“Since most interviews are 30 minutes long, if you don’t practice, you’ll make the mistake of spending too much time on this answer and not leaving enough time to answer the other questions.”

Other job interview questions also come with silent subtext and expectations.

Job hunting is all about demonstrating your competence, commitment and compatibility, said Gorick Ng, career counselor at Harvard University and author of “The Unspoken Rules: Secrets to Starting Your Career Off Right.”

“The interview question ‘Tell us about a time when…?’ is really a skill question like, “Have you done similar work before?” and ‘Do you have a good head on your shoulders?’ The interview question ‘Do you have any questions for me?’ is really an engaging question like, “Do you care enough about us to do enough research to ask a question you couldn’t find the answer to on Google?” And the ‘Tell us about yourself’ interview question is really about competence, commitment and compatibility,” Ng said.

Rule #2: To be a better candidate, you must understand the role of each person you are interviewing with.

Tailoring your questions and answers to the roles that individual interviewers hold is one of the best unwritten rules for a successful interview, says Daniel Space, a senior human resources business partner for large technology companies.

“The way I respond to what a peer is going to ask me in an interview will be a little different from what I say to a manager,” he said. “I know what the peer wants is, ‘Can Daniel do his job? Can he hold the team? Is he good at collaboration? What the manager wants to know is ‘Can Daniel do his job without too much interference from me? Can I trust him to make tough decisions? What level of support should I provide? »

“It is important to enter a job search process knowing how to tell the story of your career. But if you want to be an even stronger candidate, you need more of a story to tell interviewers, because they often debrief each other.

Sharai Johnson, a Latinx and Black engineering talent sourcer for a large tech company, said she wants job candidates to understand the differences between a sourcer, recruiter, and hiring manager. Johnson said a sourcer’s job is to generate interest from passive talent; sourcers can schedule the first interview and then assign tasks to a recruiter, who will be in contact with candidates until the end of the hiring process but will not make final hiring decisions.

“A recruiter and a sourcer can make the case for a candidate, but ultimately the hiring manager is the one who can actually get budget approval and send the ‘yes’ or the ‘no,'” a Johnson said. . “It’s just important to understand these moving parts and people, so you know who to talk to and who to ask questions.”

Rule #3: Your body language makes a big difference.

Laura Hunting, CEO of Found By Inc., a talent agency and executive search firm specializing in design, said an unspoken job interview rule is that a candidate’s body language can speak. as loud as the words he actually speaks.

“Be aware of how you’re sitting, what you’re doing with your hands, your facial expression, your eye contact,” Hunting said. “Your body language sends signals and impacts your success in an interview, whether or not your interviewer is aware of its impact on their comments.”

Hunting recommends giving facial cues and eye contact to show you’re an active listener. It’s a small step, but it can make a big difference.

Rule #4: You must be prepared with more than one career story to tell.

It’s important to go into a job search process knowing how to tell your career story. But if you want to be an even stronger candidate, you need more of a story to tell interviewers, because they often debrief each other.

Space said that ideally you should have three or four success stories that you can alternate between interviewers because he’s seen hiring panels in which it counts against candidates if they tell the same story every time. people they were talking to.

“If they have this incredible story of how they sold this really difficult client, if the five people were told this story, it helps them sometimes because it makes them stronger,” he said. “But in other cases, it actually helps to have different stories.”

Rule #5: Follow-up will not speed up a deal.

Not hearing anything after an interview that you thought went incredibly well is frustrating to deal with. “Am I ghosting?” you can blow. The good news is that the silence is usually not personal and likely due to other ongoing interviews or internal bureaucracy.

But the bad news is that those nudges and “Just followed!” emails will not speed up the process. If you’ve followed up and held people accountable for their deadlines and you’re still hearing radio silence, that’s your cue to move on.

“I’ve yet to see a candidate email a recruiter and all of a sudden a recruiter is like, ‘Oh, I totally forgot about you. Yeah, they want to make you an offer.’ “

– Daniel Space, Senior HR Business Partner

Space said the timing of the follow-up depends on your situation, but if you’ve reached out, understand that your nudges won’t change investigators’ minds about their decision.

“Nobody likes to hear that,” he said. “But I’ve yet to see a candidate email a recruiter and all of a sudden a recruiter is like, ‘Oh, I totally forgot about you. Yeah, they want to make you an offer. They know who you are and who you are in the placement.

What in fact can accelerating a job offer means having another in hand. If you hear silence after a job interview, you may be on a waiting list. That silence may mean “they liked you, but didn’t like you enough to immediately make an offer to you, so interview other candidates,” Ng said.

“It’s your cue to increase your market value and your leverage to prove to this business, ‘Hey, if I’m good enough for this other business, I must be good enough for you,'” Ng said. “If you get another offer and you’re facing a delay in acceptance, let this company know and see if they can speed up your decision.”

Rule #6: A thank you note can be a networking opportunity, but it won’t get you the job.

Thank you notes can be a way to connect with someone after a job interview. If you are in a traditional work environment, these may be expected or desired, so check with your recruiter if you are unsure about sending one after an interview.

Just understand that it will very rarely make a crucial difference between being hired or not. “If you make a decision based on that, that’s bad leadership, because someone just took an extra step of administrative duties rather than demonstrating their skills or worth,” Space said.

“Never, ever, ever, in 20 years of working with executives from eight different companies who were hiring en masse, has a manager ever said, ‘Well, we should go with this person because they sent a thank you ‘”, did he declare.

Rule #7: No matter how good the interview makes you feel about a potential employer, check with people who Actually work there.

Bernadette Pawlik, a career strategist with 25 years of executive recruiting experience, said one of her unspoken rules is to “never take a job without talking with your peers.”

Talking with colleagues who have worked with your potential new boss will give you a much clearer picture of company management and culture than the cautious response you’ll receive in a job interview.

“No one is going to say, ‘Yeah, I’m a terrible manager’… But if you ask your potential peers how the job is done and they don’t mention manager support, that tells you that this potential boss can be a terrible manager,” Pawlik said.

“It’s the everyday reality that makes the difference between going to work looking forward to it or going to work thinking, ‘Oh my God, so many more days until Friday,'” she added.

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