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What It Means To ‘Be Yourself’ In An Interview

Posted by | July 25, 2015 | Scholarships_CareerTips

Source: Ask A Manager

“I am a recent graduate looking for an entry-level job. I have been trying to prepare my answers ahead of time to some of the common questions, and I have examples of my previous work experience with things like “dealing with an angry customer” and all that.

I am trying to improve my interviewing skills because I am frustrated that I haven’t been hired anywhere, but my mother told me not to over-prepare and I should “be myself” and “say what I really think” instead of trying to tell them exactly what they want to hear. I’m not sure this is the best advice and I’m confused. What should I do?”

Well, it’s certainly true that you should be yourself rather than telling them what you think they want to hear, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t prepare. Thoroughly preparing and practicing for an interview is one of the best ways to do well in them. Let’s break this down a bit.

What “Be Yourself” Really Means In An Interview

“Being yourself” is important so that you’ll end up in a job and culture that’s a good fit for you, rather than one where you’re miserable or don’t do well. So that means that you shouldn’t hide your personality or put on a very stiff and formal interview persona. You need them to get an idea of what you’re going to be like to work with day-to-day, because if it’s not a good fit, you both need to know that now.

Otherwise you risk ending up in a job where you’re either uncomfortable with each other – or worse. For instance, if you’re naturally chatty and they hate chatty, it’s important that they see that in the interview so that you don’t end up in a job where they’re constantly nagging you to be less chatty, when you can’t. You might be thinking that you just want the job anyway, but truth is, you don’t want to work somewhere that wants you to be something you’re not.

Now, obviously, your professional self is probably a bit different from your social self. So “be yourself” really means “be your professional self.” You’re not going to slouch halfway down in your chair during the interview, or tell a dirty joke, or refer to a customer in bad faith, even if you do those things outside of work.

What you need is your professional self. You probably still have some personality at work, but you put a professional sheen on it, right? That’s the self you need to be in the interview. And if you haven’t had a job before and you’re totally baffled by all this, then just be warm, friendly, and polite. And considering you’re a recent graduate, just being really polite and eager to work — not eager to make money, counts for a lot.

However, none of this has anything to do with whether or not you work on your answers ahead of time and rehearse for the interview. Preparation is key to you doing well in an interview. Go through questions such as “tell me about a time when you had to deal with an angry customer” or “tell me about a time when…” question.

Practicing answers ahead of time means that when you’re sitting in the interview and get asked one of these questions, you actually have a good answer ready, rather than trying to wing it and maybe not being able to come up with a good response right away.

That said, remember not to over-prepare. This is where you’re doing so much that you’re stressing yourself out. Ask yourself; is how you are preparing making you feel more confident? If you’ve passed the more-confident stage and gone into the agonizing-and-freaking-out stage, then you might want to pull back a bit.

In general, preparing is incredibly helpful and a good thing to do, even when you only need to be yourself.