Job interview advice often focuses on how you can best present yourself. However, a part of the job-hunting process that deserves an equal amount of attention is how the interviewer is presenting the position.
As an applicant, you need to figure out how much of what they are saying is true, and how much of it may be BS, says John V. Petrocelli, professor of psychology at Wake Forest University and author of "The Life-Changing Science of Detecting Bullshit." BS-ing is different from fibbing, he says: "Lying involves discussing or communicating something that one does not actually believe," while "BS-ing is simply communicating without any regard for truth, genuine evidence, or established knowledge."
While the hiring managers might not be trying to be deceptive, they could be making the position sound better than it is. It's important to be vigilant during a job interview so you don't accept a position only to be disappointed by it later.
"You're making a lot of assumptions based on a single interaction," Petrocelli says. "And people can be good with that interaction. They can be very chummy and inviting and warm. But is that the way they interact all the time? Probably not."
Here are three ways to suss out BS during and after a job interviewing.
Don't simply take the interviewer's word for details about what a position entails or how a company operates. Do your own research and cross-check what they are telling you with past and present employees, says Amanda Augustine, career expert for TopResume.
"Look for employees on LinkedIn, search for company reviews on sites like Glassdoor, Vault, and CareerBliss to see if anyone is complaining about any bait-and-switch tactics employed by the employer's hiring team," she says. "Check your network to see if you know anyone who currently or previously worked at the company to ask for their insights."
"Be wary if your interviewer only seems to repeat exactly what you read in the job description and isn't able to elaborate further," Augustine says.
Ask probing, specific questions about the role, your responsibilities, and how managers measure success. If they are vague or can't answer these questions, that's a bad sign. If you are being interviewed by multiple people separately, ask them all the same question and see if the answers vary.
"Consider asking questions about how your performance would be measured, the primary tasks or duties you'd be assigned, or the skills that will be most vital to doing this job well," she says. "If your interviewers don't seem to be on the same page, consider it a red flag."
To Petrocelli, "data collection" is key. "The No. 1 reason people fail at detecting BS is they feel they are not susceptible to it," he says. "They don't ask enough questions. They don't ask clarification questions."
There is one question you should always ask, according to career coach Angelina Darrisaw. "A telling question that is a 'must-ask' in a job interview is 'Why is this role available?,'" she says. "Knowing if it is a new role that has been created, if the previous employees quit, got promoted, or were fired, is critical information needed to help you assess culture."
If a hiring manager is secretive about this, "you are right to feel concerned," she says.
Regardless of what role you're applying for, communication is important, she says: "If communication is consistently unclear, it is appropriate to raise red flags and ask questions until you receive the clarification you seek."
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