How to “Do You” in an Interview? Be. Yourself.
By: Teri DePuy
Understanding how nerve-racking interviews can be, it’s not uncommon for job seekers to come across as stiff, uncertain or overly talkative when trying to overcome butterflies. While it’s your intent to demonstrate a calm, competent and capable side of you, it doesn’t always turn out that way, does it? It can be
tricky. My best advice to manage nerves, self-doubt or other challenges that may prevent you from being your authentic self are:
- Prepare in advance
- Give yourself permission to Be. Yourself.
Tasteful humor to keep the energy light is okay; if you stumble on your words, own it and start over; if you have a brain freeze and can’t come up with the right response to a particular scenario, that’s okay too – politely suggest the interviewer move on and circle back to this one later. Try to let some of your natural personality rise to the surface and treat this the same as you would having a discussion with a colleague.
At the start of a job search it’s essential that you take some time to identify what it is that makes you unique and sets you apart from the competition. Once equipped with these qualities, you’ll want to create a concise self-introduction that builds on this information and ultimately answers, “What are your superpowers?” We are all distinctive individuals who possess traits and talents that are different from our peers – master this and you will have achieved a huge competitive advantage.
Sources to help define your superpowers are previous performance reviews, letters of recommendation, or compliments from customers, vendor or educators. There is no better way to answer, “What are you known for?” than to recite what others have already said. If you’re still stuck, then ask work friends who know you well, “When I’m at my best, how do I show up at work?” Or, “How would you describe my best qualities?” Then listen closely for the golden nuggets they have to share.
What are Your Wants and Needs
An important part of the planning stage is to define the 10 things, in order of priority, that are most important to you about your work. Consider the environment, the tasks required of the job, and the purpose. In other words, ask yourself, “How does this organization’s mission align with my ‘why’?” In having absolute clarity about what your wants and needs are will not only identify your priorities, but also serve as a guide for creating thoughtful and intentional questions you want to ask the hiring team. Remember, a job interview is a two-way process, meaning it is equally important for you to research and assess the company for fit as it is for the company to evaluate you.
The added value derived from this exercise is it also provides the narrative to respond to, “What is it you are looking for from your next (job, career or employer)?”
Create Your Stories
To highlight the best version of you be sure to write down the important points you want to make about specific work experiences, skills and abilities. These can be weaved into your self introduction or reply to the question, “Tell me about yourself.” To complement this body of work, compile a list of 8-10 stories that highlight your accomplishments and varied talents such as problem solving, leadership or planning skills that you will refer to in a behavioral interview.
When it comes to telling stories, be concise (one-two minutes) and follow a 3-part format to describe:
1) the circumstances,
2) your actions and role, and
3) the results of what you’ve described
This simple, yet organized approach lets you convey the main ideas of the situation without wandering off track or adding complexity.
The prep work is not done until you’ve practiced telling these stories out loud while being mindful to not use industry jargon or acronyms your listener is likely to not understand. If it feels awkward when you say it, then it will sound awkward when other hears it. Keep practicing!
Let’s talk about how to navigate interviews that feel more like a cross-examination rather than a conversation. It’s so easy to get nervous when on the receiving end of a series of rapid-fire questions, and once the nerves set in it can be challenging to relax. Therefore, it’s important to strategically change the cadence when possible.
For starters, engage in some neutral pleasantries at the onset of the meeting – you can make mention of some positive news you’ve read about the business, or make a complimentary reference about a mutual connection, or even comment about a recent accomplishment of a business leader. This warm-up will help you relax and come across in a friendly, confident, business-like way. The caveat is to keep the topics about business while remaining focused on the other person. Stay away from controversial subjects such as politics or religion.
Another strategy to move from an interrogation to a dialogue is with follow up inquiries of your own. Doing so can disrupt the “grilling” as the interrogator needs to take a pause, break their cycle and switch mental gears to give you an answer. Be careful, as overuse of this technique can be annoying and may not be well received.
An example for how to use this when responding to a question about how you would address a particular challenge in the workplace is ending your reply with, “Is this similar to how this task is done in your organization?” Or a different scenario may warrant a comeback such as, “I know that was a hands-on and tactical answer, is that what you were looking for?” Either are effective in getting the other party to engage in conversation.
Quick Re-Cap on Tips to Remember
|Know your unique
|Over-answer or ramble|
|Be clear about your own
wants & needs
|Wing it with answers on the
|Prepare success stories||Skip asking your own
|Set a conversational tone||Be an imposter|
The key to being yourself – albeit a prepared version of yourself, is to ensure
there is a true fit between you and the prospective employer. If your interview
persona is not a true reflection of the real you, then the stage is set for the
company to hire an alternative version of you which can lead to job
dissatisfaction, mutual disappointment or discord with your manager. Mastering the art of keeping the nerves at bay, knowing yourself, and being prepared, paves the way for you to Do You and do it well.