How to Be Yourself and Win that Interview
Written by Clare Chong
Your personality can make or break your next interview, according to a 2019 study by TopInterview and Resume-Library. 70 per cent of employers would rank an applicant’s personality as one of the top 3 aspects in determining whether to offer a position, more so than appearance or qualifications. When asked which personality trait employers typically value in their candidates, “authenticity” was rated as the most significant characteristic.
Authenticity? How do I show that in an interview?
Here are a few tips on how best to come across as being yourself in an interview:
1. Practice and Prepare, but don’t over-rehearse!
Although it is sound advice to do your homework about the company before the interview, you should not memorise your script to the point where you sound like a robot.
Consider the key points you wish to share with your interviewers when preparing for common interview questions such as “why should we hire you?” using bullet points instead of paragraphs. Each point should only consist of a couple of keywords instead of a full sentence. Then, role-play yourself in a mock interview with a friend using these bullet points. In this way, you can come up with natural yet insightful responses during the real interview without sounding over-rehearsed.
2. Show that you are inspired and interested in the company and the position.
Ask yourself what “sparks joy” about this job opportunity you are applying for. This could come in handy when you are responding to questions such as “Why did you apply to our company/this role?”. Typically, interviews would reply with something generic like complimenting the company in vague and general terms. Unfortunately, such robotic answers would not be memorable or “spark joy” in your interviewers. It would be more helpful to brainstorm specific factors that attracted you in the first place, such as projects that you may be handling, the company’s mission or the impact on society with regard to the problems you could be solving.
When responding to questions like “tell me about yourself”, it is also smarter to highlight what motivates you to take on prior roles and what’s exciting about those opportunities. Sharing about aspects of the job that you enjoy would put you in a more relaxed and positive position to respond to your interviewers. For instance, you could share that you enjoy the sense of accomplishment of helping your clients solve their problems instead of merely stating your previous job scope like a laundry list.
3. It is okay to pause. Yes, really.
Do you dread the awkward silence in between questions and answers?
Don’t fear it--use it to your advantage instead.
Some hiring managers would listen to your reply and then deliberately not respond for slightly longer than necessary. This is a common tactic used to trigger candidates into volunteering more information about the question posed. Most job applicants, like yourself, cannot bear to stand the awkward long pauses and would hurry to fill in the silence with babble and repetitions. Sometimes, such hurried responses could jeopardise your interview. You could instead smile and ask your interviewers, “Did that answer your question?” or “ Is there anything else you would like to know?”
If you are faced with a question that you don’t have an answer to, it is perfectly fine to pause and ask for clarifications. Buying yourself some extra time to ponder would come across as authentic and thoughtful rather than panicky (if you had tried to mask your response with jabbering and incoherent sentences).
4. Show Humility without self-deprecation.
One of the most challenging interview questions would be those that asked you about your “greatest weakness” or “worst failures”. Weaker candidates may try to mask a strength as a weakness (e.g. I’m too hardworking”) or go above and beyond by discounting their past achievements. (e.g. I was a lousy manager). Saying that you have never experienced any failures or setbacks would similarly raise eyebrows about the authenticity of your response.
A frank answer that showcases a growth mindset would highlight to your potential boss that you are someone who is self-aware and reflective. Using the STAR method (Situation, Task, Actions, Results) to share an aspect that is non-essential to your work functions would be more prudent.
In short, stop pretending to be perfect because nobody is.
Being the best version of yourself
While it is important to be natural in a job interview, take note that you should still aim to show the BEST version of your authentic self as much as possible with the above suggestions.
Do you have any other tips to share when it comes to winning your interviewers over with your personality?