The Importance of Authenticity: How to Be Yourself in an Interview
In search of the golden rule for staying true to oneself in the high-stakes environment of job interviews, we’ve gathered twenty insights from seasoned professionals, including coaches and CEOs. From embracing your unique story to the importance of being comfortable in your clothes, these tips will guide you to present your most authentic self. Discover the collective wisdom that can help you make a genuine impression.
- Embrace Your Unique Story
- Highlight Your Personality via Storytelling
- Balance Professionalism With Authenticity
- Make Connections Through Vulnerability
- Practice Authenticity, Dismiss Doubts
- Candidly Discuss Growth Areas
- Foster Genuine Connection with Self-Awareness
- Trust Your Intuition
- Avoid Guessing Interviewer’s Mind
- Assess Mutual Fit Honestly
- Prepare for Natural Conversation
- Showcase Your Side Hustle
- Lead With Your Values
- Connect as Individuals
- Arrive Early, Stay Composed
- Back Claims With Evidence
- Stay Honest, Remain Calm
- Use Humor to Ease Tension
- Take the Pressure Off Interviews
- Be Comfortable in Your Clothes
Embrace Your Unique Story
When it comes to job interviews, don’t be afraid to embrace your uniqueness. You bring a blend of experiences, skills, and perspectives that no one else can. Remember, your individuality is your greatest asset, and only you can tell your story. Confidently and transparently share how your unique qualities will add value to the team.
After a long career in one profession, I decided I wanted to pivot in a completely different direction. It was important for me to reflect on what set me apart and how my skills aligned with the roles I pursued, even though the career path was very different. I was able to show up to interviews being true to myself while confidently sharing my unique narrative and how it complemented the organization I was hoping to join.
It’s not just about fitting into a role; it’s about showing how the role fits you.
Highlight Your Personality via Storytelling
As an experienced recruiter, my top tip for candidates aiming to maintain authenticity and be themselves during a job interview is to focus on storytelling.
Share real-life examples from your experiences, emphasizing challenges you’ve overcome and achievements you’re proud of. By weaving narratives into your responses, you not only provide concrete evidence of your skills but also allow your personality to shine through. Be genuine in your communication and share the lessons you’ve learned from both successes and setbacks.
This approach not only showcases your professional capabilities but also ensures that the interviewer gets a true sense of who you are and what you bring to the table.
Balance Professionalism With Authenticity
I know you can feel pressured to be super professional in an interview. And sure, an interview is definitely a performance where you need to bring your A-game. But it’s also important to be yourself. (Or at least bring the parts of your personality that you want to bring into your professional life.) Why? Because if you land this job, you’ll be doing it for 5 days a week, 8 hours a day (at least!). If you’re some fake version of yourself in a job interview, and they hire that version of you, now you have to keep showing up playing that character!
You can decide how authentic to be in an interview. But if there are parts of your personality that you need to express while working, it’s okay to show that in your interview. For me, that’s humor. If jokes aren’t welcome in your office, I don’t want to be there, either. So you can bet I’ll try to make a joke in an interview to see how that lands! So my tip? Start by giving yourself permission to be authentic.
Make Connections Through Vulnerability
Sharing moments of vulnerability, when appropriate, such as discussing challenges you’ve faced and how you’ve overcome them, can help you feel more like yourself. When you discuss challenges you have faced in your past jobs, it can help you make more meaningful connections with those who are interviewing you.
Always maintain professionalism and focus on the lessons learned and growth achieved through those experiences, and share this with them as well. It can show your determination and critical-thinking skills, which are helpful during an interview!
Practice Authenticity, Dismiss Doubts
When under stress, it’s challenging to let our true personality shine through, which is particularly problematic during job interviews. Practice, however, makes perfect. The more interviews you participate in, the easier it becomes to be transparent.
To prepare for showing your honest self, consider seeking a voice coach who specializes in “elevator pitches.” Rehearsing your answers to typical questions in the mirror, much like actors do, will boost your confidence. Nerves can also stem from “impostor syndrome,” the feeling of not being qualified for the position. It’s important to dismiss such doubts, build self-assurance, and concentrate on the reasons why you are the right fit for the job.
If there is a skill you lack, be upfront about it and have a plan for how you will address this gap. Remember, interviewers have a challenging task, and a brief acknowledgment of your appreciation for the opportunity to meet can help to break the ice and make a positive initial impression.
Candidly Discuss Growth Areas
One tip for showing authenticity is by being candid about your limitations. It shows you have a realistic understanding of yourself and are ready to keep growing, which is highly valued in any professional environment. When discussing areas for improvement, I recommend framing them in learning and development.
For example, if there’s a skill you might lack, mention how you’re actively and practically working on it. This approach will highlight your honesty and also a proactive attitude toward self-improvement. However, it’s important to balance this by also discussing your strengths and how they align with the job’s requirements. This demonstrates self-awareness and a strategic mindset, which prove that you’re both aware of your limitations and also focused on leveraging your strengths effectively.
Foster Genuine Connection with Self-Awareness
Focus on genuine self-awareness and honesty. Employers appreciate and respect authenticity and just want to get to know the real person behind the resume.
If your career has evolved unconventionally, or you’ve had to take a career break for personal circumstances, be honest. Avoid giving rehearsed or overly polished answers; instead, speak from the heart. Use your own words, and let your personality shine through in your responses.
By establishing a genuine connection with the interviewer and showing a genuine interest in the company and the role, you’ll leave the interview knowing that you have been true to yourself. If you are the right fit for the company, the employer will recognize it.
Trust Your Intuition
Follow your intuition. Pay attention to your gut feelings about the job and the people interviewing you. If something doesn’t feel right, it may not be the right fit for you. Celebrate that self-awareness rather than turning it into a frustrating moment or feeling like you wasted time. Realize that each interaction is getting you closer to where you belong.
Avoid Guessing Interviewer’s Mind
The trick to authenticity in interviews is to avoid turning the interview into a Keynesian beauty contest.
A Keynesian beauty contest is a hypothetical beauty contest where judges are rewarded for choosing the most popular faces among other judges, not necessarily those they find most attractive. The economist John Maynard Keynes likens this situation to investors buying securities which they believe others will invest in, rather than securities that have intrinsic value.
Consequently, when an interviewee attempts to tell the interviewer “what they want to hear,” they are ignoring their authentic self and are simply trying to second-guess the interviewer’s criteria.
Instead, you should answer questions in a way that feels effective to you, not what you suspect may be effective to your interviewer. This way, you can focus 100% of your attention on providing good responses while staying true to who you are.
Assess Mutual Fit Honestly
During a job interview, consistently remind yourself that this is a mutual evaluation process. Recognize that the interview is not just about convincing the employer that you are the right addition to their team; it’s also about assessing whether the company and team align with your values and career goals.
Throughout the interview process, focus on responding in the most genuine and truthful manner. Avoid the temptation to provide answers that you think the interviewer wants to hear. Instead, share your genuine experiences, skills, and perspectives that are relevant to the position. This will not only allow the interviewer to get a true sense of who you are and the value you bring to their team, but it will also help you determine if the role and company are right for you.
Heidi Hauver, Chief People Officer
Prepare for Natural Conversation
Being yourself is great for helping your interview manager recognize you as a person. However, it doesn’t equate to admitting that coming late is your routine; this is plainly an unprofessional attitude. Be authentic in your role and expertise so that it doesn’t put overwhelming pressure on you when you join the company.
The key to being genuine with your manager is to avoid over-preparing for the interview. The massive storage of already prepared responses will push you away from exposing your inner being for work. Canned responses will put you at risk of responding like a robot. Prepare in general—for example, look for the questions but don’t memorize them. You will allow yourself to flow with the conversation.
Showcase Your Side Hustle
My tip is to highlight your “side hustle.” Discuss a personal project or entrepreneurial endeavor you’re passionate about outside of your main career. This not only showcases your authenticity but also your drive, creativity, and the ability to balance multiple commitments. It demonstrates that you’re a well-rounded professional with a genuine passion for your work, both inside and outside the traditional business sphere.
Lead With Your Values
When preparing for an interview, it’s important to define your values. Often, there’s a focus on leaving a positive impression, which can lead to altering one’s personality unintentionally. Leading with your values helps maintain authenticity.
For instance, if collaboration is a key value, frame responses to highlight collective successes with coworkers or problem-solving with other stakeholders. Being conscious of your values allows them to naturally influence your answers.
This approach is also useful for formulating questions for the interviewer. For example, asking, “I’ve found that collaboration is important to me in a work environment. As a remote-first company, how do you use technology to foster collaboration?”
Connect as Individuals
Avoid giving generic answers that could apply to anyone, because if you sound and act like everyone else, you will come across as phony. Instead, focus on connecting with the interviewer as a person and enjoy the process. Smile. Speak with your hands. Show that you are delighted when answering their questions because you are enjoying the conversation.
Arrive Early, Stay Composed
My advice is to ensure that you arrive early, with enough time to calm down and rehearse the main points you want to cover.
There’s nothing worse than feeling prepared and then having to rush on your way to the interview, which can often lead to being flustered and making mistakes that you otherwise wouldn’t!
Back Claims With Evidence
Be prepared to have examples to back up claims of previous achievements or previous work. This doesn’t mean an extensive history, but rather, if you’re claiming to have achieved “x” or “y,” then it does help to have some form of evidence to support your claims.
Stay Honest, Remain Calm
Research shows that recruiters decide whether they want to hire you within the first 90 seconds of an interview. Chances are, they won’t delve deeply enough into your resume to care about minor exaggerations.
However, most people become nervous about their lies being caught while the recruiter scans their resume. You may be caught in a lie if the recruiter focuses on something you exaggerated and questions you about it. Remaining calm and casual is the key to acing an interview, and the recruiter will notice a change in your demeanor.
You’re much better off being honest. If you’re afraid of inexperience, shift the focus of the interview to your strong qualities.
Use Humor to Ease Tension
Flipping the script usually helps set a better tone than the standard interrogation. The best way to do this, in my experience, is to acknowledge the awkwardness to the interviewers.
I’ve had a potential hire crack a joke, starting with “I’m sure you’re wondering why I’ve brought you all here today…” before explaining that he just wanted to clear the air a bit so we could all talk more normally. This was extremely impressive and very effective in managing a stressful situation, so I recommend this approach to others.
Take the Pressure Off Interviews
It sounds bad if I tell you not to take it too seriously, but—I would say that’s the number one thing that takes the pressure off. The best way to subvert the importance of an interview is to try to get another one. It’s like dating—if you’re only setting one date with one person, there’s too much riding on it. You want options, to take the edge off.
Do the same with job interviews—if you know there are options and alternatives waiting for you, you can afford to be more relaxed, more yourself. And ironically, you will perform much better when it’s not that serious.
Be Comfortable in Your Clothes
One aspect that I think a lot of people don’t consider is being comfortable in your clothes. By this, I naturally don’t mean that you should show up to the interview in your pajamas; instead, you should wear your interview clothes for a few days ahead of time.
Unless you’re regularly wearing a suit or formal wear, you’re going to be uncomfortable, and your body language will not be the same as usual. This does come through to the astute interviewer, so being comfortable in your formal wear is a great way to help you be yourself.