Your Interviewer Is Not Your Friend

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I’m going to tell you something that shouldn’t come as a surprise. Ready? Okay… Your interviewer is not your friend.

But you already knew that, right?

So why do so many job candidates seem to make this mistake? Those who’ve read my other blogs and How to Get a Legal Job: A Guide for New Attorneys and Law School Students know that I spend a great deal of time talking to hiring decision-makers, including hiring directors, interviewers, personnel managers, and recruiters in many different industries—in other words, the people who will be interviewing you. These interviewers complain that, time and time again, job candidates make the critical error of behaving as if the interviewer is a trusted old friend.

This is not a two-way street. Your interviewer doesn’t care about you. He cares only about himself and his employer. When he asks you about yourself and your goals and your interests, what he really wants to know how well you’re going to fill the employer’s need and whether he wants to work with you. Keep that in mind as you answer his questions.

You don’t owe the whole truth. Honesty is a good thing. I would never recommend that a job candidate lie or otherwise be dishonest. However, just because you should be truthful, doesn’t mean that you have to offer up the whole dirty truth in every circumstance. There’s almost always a positive way to explain even bad circumstances. Think about how different it sounds to an interviewer if a job candidate says, “I left my previous job because my boss was a micromanaging jerk who never gave me a moment’s peace,” compared to, “I’m interested in working at your company because of the opportunities to work independently.”

Familiarity is not appropriate. Be on your best behavior. Casual behavior like putting your feet up on a table and speaking in slang are no-nos. Both your verbal language and your body language should reflect your respect for the interviewer and your understanding the workplace.

Nothing you say is confidential. Finally, remember that there’s no such thing as “off the record” or “just between us” when it comes to the job interview. Anything you tell the interviewer is fair game to end up in your file at the employer.