How to come across as your authentic, true self during an interview.

“Don't sweat it. Just be yourself.” How many times have you received those words of wisdom before a big interview? 

While it may seem like straightforward advice, coming across as authentic in an unnatural setting like a job interview is much easier said than done. When you're so preoccupied with delivering the “perfect” interview performance, you often fail to give hiring managers exactly what they want — a glimpse of your true personality. 

According to a recent study conducted by TopInterview and Resume-Library, 70 percent of employers consider a candidate's personality to be among the top three factors in deciding whether to extend a job offer, substantially more important than education or appearance. What's more, when asked which personality traits they find to be most attractive when hiring, the nearly 200 U.S. employers rated “authenticity” as the most important quality.

Here are some techniques you can use to show your best, authentic self to prospective employers during the interview process.  

Practice, but don't over-rehearse

Preparation is the key to a successful interview, no doubt about it. However, it's important that you don't over-rehearse for your in-person interview (yes, there is such a thing). Should you practice responding to some difficult interview questions? Most definitely. Should you memorize your responses? Absolutely not. 

When you recite your answers during the interview like a robot, you run the risk of coming off as disingenuous to your interviewers. To avoid this issue, brainstorm the main points you want to communicate when answering tough interview questions like “Why should we hire you?”. Then, instead of writing out a full response in paragraph form, outline your answer using bullet points. Each bullet should contain only a couple of words to jog your memory. Finally, practice answering the question out loud using these bullet points as cues. This will help you create a thoughtful, yet natural response during the actual interview without sounding like an over-rehearsed, inauthentic robot.

Focus on why this opportunity sparks joy

When you're prepping for the interview, channel your inner Marie Kondo and ask yourself what about this opportunity “sparks joy.” In other words, consider what about this opportunity genuinely excites you. It could be the company's mission, the people you'll get to work with, the projects you'll get to work on, or the tools you'll get to use. Whatever it is, be sure to bring up this information during your interview, especially if you're asked to answer the question “Why do you want the job?”. Your true self will naturally come through in your reply.

Expect the unexpected [interview question]

Some employers, like Warby Parker's CEOs, ask oddball interview questions to throw candidates “off-script” in order to get a real sense of their personality. You could be the perfect candidate for a job on paper, but if your personality isn't a good fit for the team, you will not be successful at the company in the long run. 

While you can't truly prepare a response for these interview situations, there are some things you can do to feel more comfortable and ensure you come across as authentic. Do a little digging online to learn about the company culture and its core values, as this will help you gauge whether or not you'll be asked any oddball questions during the interview process. Don't attempt to rehearse a response to these types of quirky interview questions, even if you have an inkling of what they might ask. Remember, employers ask these questions because they want to see how you'll react. 

Answer these types of questions with honesty and tact and don't stress over your response too much. If you don't provide the type of answer the company is seeking, then you're unlikely to be a great cultural fit and wouldn't enjoy working there anyway. 

Don't pretend to be perfect

Your interviewers understand that no one is perfect, so there's no point in trying to pretend that you are during an interview. If you're asked about a weakness, don't avoid the question or provide one of those faux weaknesses (“I work too hard” or “I'm too dedicated”). Instead, share a work-related area that is non-essential to the job and explain the steps you've taken to improve. The STAR Method (Situation, Task, Actions, Results), which is typically used to answer behavioral interview questions, can be a great way to explain how you've overcome a professional shortcoming in a succinct, yet thoughtful, manner. Click on the following link to learn more about how to use the STAR Method during your next interview

Similarly, if you're asked to discuss a time when you failed at something, don't try to dodge the question or claim that you've never experienced failure. Instead, embrace this opportunity to demonstrate your self-awareness and commitment to professional development. Employers would much rather hire someone who is self-aware and capable of learning from their mistakes, rather than a candidate who pretends to be perfect. 

Embrace the pregnant pause

Many interviewers will ask a question, listen to your answer, and then not respond for what feels like an eternity. This is known as the “pregnant pause.” It's a tactic employers use in an attempt to pry additional information out of you. Most candidates can't handle the uncomfortable silence and rush to fill the void, jabbering, repeating themselves, and sharing additional details they had no intention of mentioning when the interview began. If you encounter one of these awkward pauses in conversation during an interview, resist this urge to babble. Instead, smile at the recruiter and ask, “Did that answer your question?” or “Is there anything else you'd like to know about [topic]?”. 

Final thoughts

Remember, employers aren't looking for the “perfect” interview answers; they're more interested in understanding if you are capable of doing the job well, if you're genuinely interested in the opportunity, and if they will enjoy working alongside you. Use your job interview as an opportunity to give the hiring manager a sense of what it's like working and interacting with you on a regular basis, and let the chips fall where they may.

Do you find it difficult to act natural in an unnatural interview setting? Find out how a professional interview coach can help you overcome this interview obstacle

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Photo credit: Austin Distel on Unsplash

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