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Myths About the HR Professional as the Candidate in the Job Interview

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Most people would think that the job interview as the candidate would be a ''slam dunk'' for the HR professional who knows everything there is to know about the hiring process. The truth, however, is that most HR professionals find job interviews as daunting as the rest of the candidates do when they sit on the ''other side of the desk.'' And many of them blow it!

The following are some myths and truths about the HR professional interviewing as a candidate, followed by some tips worth reviewing—even if you are an expert:

Common Myths

1. The HR professional feels calm and relaxed during the interview because this is familiar "turf."

FALSE. The HR professional is vulnerable to the same anxieties as anyone else. You are going out to "sell yourself" just like everybody else, and it is not unusual to want to make a good impression. The same fear of not wanting to "make a fool of yourself" is as present for you as a professional as it is for all the other candidates.

2. The HR professional can relax during the interview because this will be an informal interview between professionals.

FALSE. It is a mistake to think of this interview as an "informal" interview between professionals—even if it is. While you may feel more relaxed because you are talking to a colleague, that colleague is attempting to find the best person for the job, not a new friend.

3. The HR professional can "talk shop" about the frustrations of the job because he or she will be talking to a "colleague."

FALSE. Becoming too familiar, or unprofessional in any way, may hurt your chances of being taken seriously as a qualified candidate for the position. Using language or discriminatory remarks that are in any way inappropriate for a job interview will be a huge mistake, even though you are speaking to someone who knows the truth about what goes on behind closed doors.

4. The HR professional has contacts in the industry, and that will ensure that he or she gets the job.

FALSE. While it is true that knowing people in the industry will be a tremendous help in getting the interview, there are no guarantees that you will get the job once you begin the process. You will be on your own to try to convince the interviewer that you are the best person for the job.

5. The HR professional doesn't have to prepare for the interview because he or she knows the process and what the employer is looking for.

FALSE. This is the biggest mistake of all. Not preparing or taking the process seriously because you are an HR professional may be your own undoing. You should know what you are seeking, analyze what the interviewer is looking for in a candidate, and prepare to sell yourself—just like everyone else.

Preparation Tips

1. Know what you are seeking.

The first thing worth spending time on before you begin your search is determining what you are seeking in your next job. Do you want a job just like the last one? Do you want more of something in your next job? Or do you want less of something that you don't want to do again? Here's your chance to make your wish list.

There is a simple exercise that will help you with the answers to these questions as well as assist you in looking inward to determine when you were working at your fullest potential. Begin by making a list of the tasks you were energized by at your last job—in other words, things about your job that "turned you on." Think about the last time you were so involved in a project or task that you woke up thinking about how you could improve the situation. Write those experiences down and try to determine what the satisfying factors were.

By making lists of motivating experiences from your last two or three jobs, you will hopefully begin to see patterns of projects and tasks that stand out. Analyze what you did before and begin to ask yourself some important questions about what you are seeking. The answers to these questions will give you possibilities for fulfillment in future jobs that have similar responsibilities.

2. Assess what is needed to perform the job.

Any salesperson will tell you that in order to sell anyone something you have to know what he or she needs. Job postings are "pieces of gold." Read through job postings to find out what your customer (the interviewer) is looking for—what is the need?

Read the job posting three times:
  • Read the first time for content.
  • Read the second time for words—vocabulary. What words appear consistently in almost every posting?
  • Read the third time and read between the lines. What would it take to get this job done? What are they looking for?
Once you have analyzed the job posting, begin a list of qualities that are necessary to do the job so that you can compare and contrast yourself as a fit for the position.

3. Assess your skills.

"What can you bring to this position?" is an important question and one that your preparation will help you answer in a confident and self-assured manner. To aid yourself in the assessment of your skills, divide a piece of paper into three columns and label the columns "knowledge-based skills," "transferable skills," and "personal traits." Begin to fill out what you have to offer in each column.

Knowledge-based skills are skills learned through experience or education—business savvy, employment law, compensation, benefits, training, management, coaching, leadership, etc.

Transferable skills are skills that are general (you can take them with you to almost any job)—communication, listening, decision making, judgment, initiative, negotiation, planning, organizing, time management, etc.

Personal traits are qualities that make you who you are—flexibility, friendliness, dependability, decisiveness, reliability, calmness, high energy, patience, a good attitude, loyalty, high integrity, detail-orientedness, etc.

When you are finished, sit back and check the list. You might be surprised at how easily the list comes together, describing who you are and what you have to offer. By dividing your skills in this way, the task becomes manageable.

The next task is to compare what "they are seeking" with "what you are seeking" against a possible match with "what you can bring to the position." When you have completed these exercises, you will be better prepared to sell yourself as the "solution to the problem" and a serious candidate for the job. The ideal win-win situation is to find a position that will fulfill your needs while being the best fit for the position you are seeking.

The HR professional may be knowledgeable about the hiring process, but there are no guarantees when it comes to getting hired. Assessment and preparation will make a big difference in your success. Don't let the industry myths get in the way of your getting the job you want and deserve.

About the Author:

Carole Martin is a professional interviewer and coach. In addition to having her own website businesses, and, she has been an interview expert and writer for for more than eight years. She has authored four books: Interview Fitness Training, Boost Your Interview IQ (voted one of the 10 best career books of 2004), Perfect Phrase for the Perfect Interview, and her latest book—which was just released—Boost Your Hiring IQ.

Carole's background includes more than 18 years of human resources management (SPHR) experience in technical and non-technical industries and a master's degree in career development. She has been a consultant for companies in the Bay Area, helping with hiring procedures, and coaches clients nationwide and beyond on interview techniques for any walk of life. One of her specific niches is coaching candidates who want to be federal agents. She is also an adjunct faculty member at John F. Kennedy University in Pleasant Hill, CA, where she has taught classes for the past eight years, and is an interview coach at the Haas School of Business at University of California-Berkeley and at UCLA.
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