Even if you’re a wildly extroverted, optimistic person who loves meeting new people, job interviews are hard. You’re trying to cram an entire career’s worth of accomplishments into a meeting that may last less than hour, while also determining if the job will be a good fit for you. The trick is to learn how to deal with some of the more annoying aspects of interviewing … without getting flustered or losing sight of your goals.
Preparation is the key. If you’re in the midst of a job search, get ready to handle some of these issues:
1. The job listing has no salary range.
This one is more common than not in the U.S., where the majority of job listings don’t include a salary range. In fact, you’re probably so used to it, you never even thought of it as a problem.
But not knowing the budget for the position can put you a bad spot for obvious reasons. You don’t want to invest in a multi-interview process if your asking price is $25,000 above their range.
So, should you ask about budget up front? Depending on your situation, some experts say yes. Nick Corcodilos of Ask the Headhunter advises asking headhunters or employers about pay early on. But that’s only if they contact you with an opportunity. If you’re applying through an online listing or through a networking contact, you probably need to wait until at least the second interview to nail down the salary range.
“If you’re dealing with the employer directly and your first interview is an interview with an HR person, there’s not much point in asking what the job pays,” writes Liz Ryan at Forbes. “Until they call you for a second interview the information isn’t especially useful to you, except as market research — but the HR person is unlikely to tell you the pay range in any case at that stage.”
Ryan advises job seekers to have a salary target in mind. Note that’s “salary target,” not “salary history” — your previous pay has no bearing on what you should be asking for during an interview process. Instead, base your ask on market data. PayScale’s Salary Survey generates a free report with an appropriate range based on your skills, experience, education and location.
2. The employer keeps throwing you curveballs.
When it comes to the interview process, it’s wise to expect the unexpected. Plan on interviews running long, starting late, involving more people than initially indicated. Prepare to answer questions about holes in your resume, plans for the future, your greatest strengths and weaknesses.
You can cut down on some surprises by asking smart questions during the initial conversation with the hiring manager/HR representative. When scheduling an in-person interview, ask who will be attending, and what you should bring to the meeting. Then, over-prepare.
A certain amount of surprise is inevitable, no matter how well-prepared you are. But pay attention. If the hiring manager keeps cancelling interviews, for example, they’re telling you something about how the company does business. Even if everything runs as expected, the interview process can tell you a lot about a company’s culture and how they like to work. Make a note, and consider whether it matches with your preferences.
3. The interviewer asks a lot of vague, open-ended questions.
“So, tell us about yourself.”
If that makes you cringe, it might be time to change your perspective. Open-ended interview requests like these are an opportunity to show your best qualities. The key is to develop your elevator pitch, the 60-seconds-or-less overview of who are you are and why you’re the perfect hire.
Alison Doyle, Job Search Expert at The Balance, offers several sample scripts in her overview. For example:
“I recently graduated from college with a degree in communications. I worked on the college newspaper as a reporter, and eventually, as the editor of the arts section. I’m looking for a job that will put my skills as a journalist to work.”
4. The interview process goes on forever.
“It shouldn’t come as a huge surprise that many companies have long interview processes consisting of multiple steps,” writes Richard Moy at The Muse. “While the unpleasant reality is that you typically won’t be offered your dream job after one or two interviews, there are times when the process drags on for what feels like forever.”
If you’re stuck in what seems like an endless loop of interviews, it’s perfectly OK to ask about the time-frame for hiring or what the next steps will be. Just try not to do so when you’re at your most frustrated. If you find yourself tempted to email a hiring manager when you’re annoyed with how long things are taking, step away from the keyboard and wait until you’re calmer.
5. You don’t get the job.
Rejection is such a common part of the job search process, it’s easy to forget how devastating it can feel, especially when you really wanted the job. (Until you’re looking for work again, that is.) But rejection often offers opportunity.
“If you sincerely liked the people and the organization and would want to be considered when another opportunity opens there, the biggest mistake you can make is giving up on the employer and the people you liked,” writes Susan P. Joyce at LinkedIn. “Instead, send a nice thank you note to the hiring manager, the recruiter, and everyone else who was in the interview process.”
Thank the hiring manager for the opportunity, and you might discover that the door isn’t closed as tightly as you thought. Another job may come up that’s a better fit. You might also use your thank-you note as a way to ask for constructive criticism about your candidacy and interview, and learn something that will help you the next time.
Above all, be kind to yourself. Every highly successful person has dealt with failure — Oprah, Richard Branson, Steve Jobs, you name them. A temporary reversal is just that: temporary.
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What’s the most annoying thing that you’ve had to deal with while job searching? We want to hear from you. Tell us your story in the comments or join the conversation on Twitter.