Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Authentic Interviewing

By now you've probably heard about Hillary Clinton's emotional "moment" yesterday in New Hampshire - how at the end of a 2-hour Q&A with NH residents she suddenly teared up as she spoke about the importance the upcoming U.S. presidential election has for her. This rare personal glimpse into Hillary's personal life turned some people off and convinced others to vote for her (or think more seriously about doing so).

Watching the clip of the Hillary's "moment" made me think about the importance of authenticity in interviews, in our case, job interviews. So much of the time job seekers are memorizing answers and caught up in "interview speak" that little room is left to get real. Yet isn't getting real what really matters?

Years ago I read somewhere that your skills get you an interview but your personality gets you the job. True! The trick, though, is to find ways to share your personality authentically without risking the potential backlash that can come from too much sharing. Some random recommendations:

  • Always tell your truth in interviews. By this I mean not only being honest about dates and details, but also being honest about who you really are, what you stand for, and what you value.

  • Share your passions. If there's an issue in your industry that you feel strongly about, share it. Authentic passion is a powerful force and one that cannot be ignored lightly.

  • Keep your responses short. A great antidote to saying too much is to always keep your answers to 1-2 minutes in length. Once you talk beyond the 2-minute mark you'll probably find yourself getting vague, repetitive, or inappropriately emotional, so stop while you're ahead.

  • Share positive rather than negative emotions. Never say anything negative about anyone or anything in an interview - you're the one who looks bad no matter what "they" (whoever they are) did. Share positive emotions like joy, pleasure, excitement, or anticipation, though, and the interviewer will likely remember you - for all the right reasons.
  • Be yourself. Don't use any interviewing advice unless it truly resonates with you. Find your own words and use them rather than copying what experts suggest. Socrates was right: To thine own self be true. Listen to expert advice but tailor it to your personality.

I have to admit that I haven't given Hillary Clinton's presidential candidacy too much thought to date. But after yesterday, I can see that she is driven by a passion that I resonate with. I don't know yet if I'll vote for her, but I definitely will not be able to ignore her anymore.

Would that be such a bad thing for employers to say about you?

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