9 Pieces Of Job Interview Advice You Should Feel Free To Ignore
The digital era has changed the rules when it comes to interview etiquette.
There's no doubt that this generation of women is poised to kill it in the workplace, and despite the obstacles that persist—or because of them, more accurately—the big job, the raise, the plush bennies and the huge promotion have come sharply into focus.
And yet, while working women are finally having their moment in many significant respects, a lot of the advice floating around out there about how to actually make those things happen hasn’t really caught up. That’s because aside from being as dated as a 1990s résumé template, much of it is homogenous and feels as if it was written by a mansplainer who assumes we all work in a giant cubicle in corporate America.
The result: A lot of the “tips” end up being mired in old ideas of propriety and behavior that's deemed "ladylike." And it’s not just that the info sucks; following the wrong advice could cost you. “You shouldn’t listen to everything you hear,” says Kathryn Minshew, CEO of the career site The Muse.
“Career advice changes based on things like your experience level, industry, dynamics of your office culture, and your individual values. It’s not a one-size-fits-all approach. And job advice changes all the time, especially with technology and social media in the picture.”
We know you’ve got the solid stuff covered: a firm handshake, good eye contact, no gum chewing. But for the fuzzier, gray areas, here’s the new intel you need to give yourself some serious hire-able vibes or the bump you want at your current job.
Forget it: Personal stuff is off limits at the office.
Take it: You can admit that you’re a human.
It used to be that your boss and co-workers would basically know nothing about you outside of what you like to eat for lunch every day. But today we have work wives, happy hours with our bosses, and windows into each other’s private worlds via social media. It’s totally cool to talk to your work people about the awesome music festival you hit up over the weekend, Minshew says. Does that mean you should friend request your boss? “Different workplaces have different norms,” she acknowledges. However, for your superiors, LinkedIn and Twitter are generally safe bets, while Facebook and Instagram are more intimate, so she advises against that.
Leave it: Just be yourself in a job interview.
Take it: Be the best version of yourself in a job interview.
Listen, we aren’t advocating for a fake you—authenticity is good and letting your personality show can be a good thing when it comes to standing out from the pack. However, you can’t roll up to a meeting with a potential employer and act like you would if you were at brunch with your girlfriends. Instead, act as if you’re, well, asking someone for tens of thousands of dollars—because that is more or less what you're doing. If the conversation swerves into personal territory (oh hey, you both love Spanish wine) keep your anecdotes clear and crisp, and avoid rambling.
Leave it: Writing a thank-you note on insanely expensive card stock.
Take it: Sending a thoughtful email.
To clarify: If you want to dish out bank on pretty stationary, you aren’t going to be docked any points. But in an increasingly media-savvy world, sending a professional email is totally acceptable, and if you’re dealing with a tech company, it's probably even preferred.
Leave it: Your job needs to be everything.
Take it: Not having a dream job is totally okay.
Follow your passion! Chase your dreams! These are probably phrases your high school guidance counselor doled out as career advice when you were trying to decide on a college major. And while being a yoga instructor in Bali probably sounds like a pretty sweet gig, insisting that your job should be a utopian cubicle of happiness could be tripping you up. “This advice is actually a brutal exercise in feeling dazed and confused,” says Joan Kuhl, a career consultant in New York City and founder of the research firm Why Millennials Matter.
“People have a lot of passions, and what you’re passionate about may change. Also, certain jobs that may seem attractive to you now may not truly leverage your skills in a way that satisfies you over time.” While you should absolutely have a job you dig, it’s fine to be practical about your needs—like, y'know, paying rent. There’s always time to zone in on what you love post 9 to 5.
Leave it: Prepare for every oddball question you may be asked by a prospective employer.
Take it: Come with your own oddball questions to ask your prospective employer.
It’s easy to get caught up trying to prepare for every single random thing you might be asked. Rather than stressing yourself out by overplanning, come up with some interesting questions of your own. Try: What are some of your biggest challenges right now and how can I help you solve them?
Leave it: Practice your phone voice.
Take it: Prepare for the video interview.
If you’re expecting your potential employer to set up a time to hop on the phone, feel free to skip this advice as well. But more and more job interviewers are opting for video interviews to get a better sense of someone. Make sure you have a professional sounding username for the video conferencing services, including Skype. And make sure your camera isn’t shooting up your nose (see, all that selfie practice is going to come in handy). Practice with a friend first to get it right.
Leave it: Your salary should be a secret.
Take it: Own what you’re earning.
Bottom line: By opening the talk with what you're hoping to make, you’re setting a clear tone for your intentions and expectations.
Leave it: Trust no one—especially that girl.
Take it: Get yourself a work wife.
Unfortunately, workplace culture has long been such that women are groomed to view other women as enemies. But research continues to show that strong female mentors at work will be some of your biggest allies, going to bat for you when you deserve a promotion or recognition. Make some solid office connections.
Leave it: Send your résumé to everyone.
Take it: Send your résumé to everyone—but tailor it.
In the good old days (like, five years ago), you could blanket apply to every job that interested you, but today, you need to stand out from the pile, Minshew says. “Take the time to tailor your résumé with keywords and write a cover letter that tells your story—then apply. When you put in the effort, it really does make the difference.”
Words: Andrea Stanley
Photo: Daria Kobayashi Ritch