career, interviewing, job search, learning

Authenticity and interviews: why it’s important

Anyone who really knows me will tell you that I don’t have much of a sweet tooth. (This saddens many who come to my house for dinner only to find I forgot to make dessert.)

So I was surprised today when I was buying a bottle of water at the airport and found myself suddenly craving a Snickers.

As I was considering this purchase, I noted that there was a candy bar much like a Snickers but was all-natural, organic, etc. My ego and id had a quick summit meeting and decided that if I was to give into this temptation, I would get the more expensive but potentially healthier choice.

I just broke into it, and–it’s fine. But it’s not the thing it’s pretending it is: a Snickers. It isn’t authentic.

Authenticity is often easy to achieve in our personal lives. With work, it can be a bit more difficult. I know many people that assume a slightly different persona, a different way of communicating, when they are in a work context.

This extends to interviews as well. Interviews are not scenarios in which we often find ourselves. The interviewer is frequently not trained in how to effectively interview and evaluate talent. The interviewee often feels anxious, nervous, uncertain. In many cases, there is a lot on the line for them if they don’t nail this interview.

This sets the stage for a very inauthentic interaction–especially on the part of the interviewee, who probably doesn’t have as much experience in interviewing as the interviewer.

Unfortunately, perceptive interviewers pick up on the fact that they aren’t seeing the ‘real you’. There is a lot riding on making this hire for them; they need someone they know they and their team can effectively work with. If they can’t see that through the interview, they will hesitate to make an offer.

How can a candidate address this? Practice. Ensure that you work with an interview coach and do mock interviews that are videoed. Watch the video–do you see the real you? Ask for feedback from the mock interviewer; did they feel like you were your genuine self, or did they sense a shift as soon as you moved from breaking the ice to the formal interview questions?

This can be a tough process, but it’s immensely valuable in preparing to be your most authentic self in the interview for your dream job.



2 thoughts on “Authenticity and interviews: why it’s important

  1. Hm. If it takes so much effort to arrive at a version of a “real you” that is sufficient for the firm, would it not be better to find a firm that likes the REAL “real you” as it is, without video practice?

    Posted by cavegirlmba | February 14, 2014, 2:01 am
    • Thanks for the comment.

      From my perspective as a recruiter and occasional job seeker, interviews are atypical communication scenarios. Job seekers often go into interviews with a very different set of thoughts and emotional triggers than they have in typical daily interactions. That can result in them not coming across as not the person they usually are; they talk too quickly–or too much. They don’t demonstrate the enthusiasm they feel for the company or the role. They come across as nervous and unprepared. If you, the interviewer, have never interacted with this person before (and see what they are like under normal circumstances) this is the only impression you will make.

      I have seen this in my recruiting career; the candidate who was very articulate, low key, and funny on the phone with me comes across as wooden or inarticulate in the face to face interview with a hiring manager(as an example).

      Since this isn’t something that most people do regularly, and yet has such a critical impact on their careers, I strongly recommend that they practice with a coach.

      Posted by Jon J-B | February 14, 2014, 9:55 am

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