Be Yourself

“Be yourself. Everyone else is taken.” Oscar Wilde.

A recent post from The Muse promised to reveal the number one attribute hiring managers are looking for.  The answer will surprise no one: they’re looking for “fit.” Fitting in to the team is the most important factor in whether you succeed at a new job. In fact, many HR professionals will tell you that people get hired for skills and fired because of fit.

So fit is the most important, and the most difficult, thing to determine during the interview process. Part of the problem is the way most interviews are designed. Many hiring managers ask hypothetical questions that allow a candidate to answer theoretically instead of providing examples of past behavior.  Behavior-based interviewing solves some of that problem by changing questions from “How would you handle this issue” to “Tell me about a time you handled this issue.” But that doesn’t solve the other part of the problem: the candidates themselves.

Interviews are like first dates, and that means that people feel pressure to “say anything.” Candidates want the interviewer to like them, so much so that they may actually fudge a little in their responses. “You love foreign movies? I LOVE foreign movies!” Candidates will claim to be anything they think the interviewer wants them to be. They’re not necessarily being dishonest; they think they’re just giving the hiring manager what she’s asking for.

Here’s the problem with that.

When you present yourself as something you’re not, you run the risk that the interviewer will take you at your word. You could wind up in a role that’s a terrible fit for you and that will make you miserable at work. When you’re miserable, you stack the odds against being able to do a good job.

How do you combat the urge to exaggerate or invent qualities you don’t have? First, avoid the mistake that most candidates make: thinking that an interview is a one-way conversation. You have a responsibility to discover whether this job is a good fit for you. Your success  – and the success of the company  – depends on it.

Learn to present your personality in a way that helps the interviewer understand how you roll. “I’m an introvert.  Although I work well as part of a team [present examples of this in your past careers], I do need some quiet space during the day where I recharge my batteries by focusing on a project. How would that fit into the work flow of this team?”

Here are some questions that can help both parties decide if you’re a fit for the job.

  • Ask about team time versus alone time (extrovert / introvert)
  • As about management style to determine how independently you’ll be working
  • Ask about the pace and volume of work to determine if it’s a fit for your energy level
  • Ask about your greatest strengths and how you’ll be able to use them in this job
  • Ask about how people get along in the office and celebrate success if relationships are a part of what makes work worthwhile for you

Don’t be afraid to show who you are during the interview.  It’s better to miss a chance at a job than to be fired in a few months because you weren’t the right fit.

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