We’re constantly told to “be ourselves” in new situations, whether it’s when making new friends or starting university. But how does this translate into a job interviews?
It’s normal to create an “interview persona” of sorts when you’re interviewing, a different version of yourself which would be unrecognisable to the people who know you best. For example, you might have used clichéd expressions which you would never usually say in “real life”, or tried to hide certain parts of your personality. This could have been with the intention of fitting in with the interviewer’s personality or perceived company culture, however it is not advisable.
Of course you shouldn’t lose all of your inhibitions. It’s all about striking the right balance between being professional and being yourself. But first, let’s look at why it is so important to be yourself during the interview.
If you aren’t yourself, then the interviewer won’t get a true idea of whether you are a good cultural fit for the team and company or not. Company culture is defined by the people who work there, the dynamics at play between colleagues, the way the company handles challenges and celebrates successes. It is also made up of the core values which every employee is expected to live and breathe whilst at work.
Unsurprisingly, studies have shown that if a new hire is a poor cultural fit, they will most likely struggle with their workplace wellbeing, and this is often a main reason that they choose to leave an organisation.
You should think of the company culture as the personality of the company. You wouldn’t choose to spend a large portion of your time with a personality that you clashed with, so why would you risk working for a company which is the wrong cultural fit for you?
In addition, putting on a different persona is tiring at the best of times, and in an interview, your focus and energies should be channelled into showing off your strengths and skills, whilst gauging whether this opportunity is right for you. With that in mind, how can you be yourself in the interview room?
Although you should show the interviewer who you are, you can’t let your guard down completely and be overly familiar in the interview, but you can channel some of your most suitable personality traits into your performance. This starts with identifying which of your personal attributes would be beneficial to the role.
Think back to your research about the job, particularly any information you have surrounding the required skills for the job, plus the company culture and values. What parts of your personality will be a good fit, and why? For example, you might be applying for a job where strong interpersonal skills are a must, and you have always found yourself to be a great listener who can build up trusting relationships with people.
So you know who you are and what you can personally bring to this role, but how can your interview performance reflect this?
The first thing to look at is your interview answers. “How would your colleagues describe you?” is a common interview question, and you may have previously answered with something generic such as: “They would say I’m a team player.” Now you understand the importance of being yourself however, you might give a more authentic answer, for instance: “They would say I have a positive attitude, especially in the face of challenges. I don’t like complaining, and I prefer to focus on solutions to problems.”
You should try to elaborate on your answers where possible. Show examples of your personality traits in action. These stories will show how you react in certain situations, which will show the type of person you are.
If you can strike up a rapport with the interviewer, you will instantly feel more confident about being yourself in the interview. Again, this starts with changing your approach ahead of time.
Remember that your interviewer is just another human being, and they have been in your seat before, no doubt feeling nervous too. Furthermore, remember that any intimidation you are feeling is mostly fear of the unknown. You can try to get an idea of the person you are meeting beforehand by asking your recruiter about your interviewer’s professional background and career, as well as looking up their LinkedIn profile.
Body language is important. When your interviewer meets you in reception, greet them with a broad smile and open body language. Throughout the interview, try to keep the dialogue two way – give clear and detailed answers, but remember to listen to the interviewer as well. At the end of the interview, ask the interviewer professional questions about their own career, and their favourite aspects of working for this company.
Lastly, it is essential that you take steps to relax yourself and get into a positive mentality before the interview. If not, you may find yourself overcome with negative thoughts and interview nerves, which can get in the way of you being yourself. Your recruiter is there to help you – speak with them beforehand, and they can reassure you that there is nothing to be nervous about – this is a two way conversation not a one way interrogation session.
In short, your interview persona should not be a far cry from your true self. The objective is to embrace the personality traits which you can bring to this opportunity, and make sure that these come across in a professional way in the interview room.
If you are unsuccessful in getting the job, then perhaps you just weren’t the right fit for the culture, and this outcome was for the best. Stay true to yourself, and no doubt you will find an opportunity which is the perfect fit for your personality.
Thea is responsible for the UK & I marketing team as well as driving the strategic direction of the marketing function, looking closely at opportunities for growth, positioning in the marketplace and sales support. She was appointed to the Hays UK & I Board in July 2017, following joining the UK business in the summer of 2016.
Prior to her current role she was the Vice President of Marketing for the Hays Americas business, joining the business in 2012. Under her management she built the marketing function from general support to a strategic driver of sales, establishing a central marketing unit supporting Canada, US and four Latin American countries.
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