How to make sure the real you comes through in job interviews
Of course you want to come across as professional. But to land the job you’ll also want to seem authentic.
By now, you probably know the essentials to online and offline branding:
- Include a professional headshot;
- Maintain a clean online image;
- Be consistent with user names.
But, don’t employers want to get to know the real you? Don’t your new connections want to learn more about you than what’s underneath the glossy veneer?
The answer to both questions is most definitely, “yes.” They’re not looking to hire or network with a robot; they’re looking for authenticity, real people they can get to know. Similarly, as you make new connections and research prospective employers, you’re probably looking for a genuine sense as well, not stodgy, not impersonal— authentic.
Yes, it’s OK to let down your guard a little. In fact, you should! (This doesn’t mean you should post photos of keg stands from Senior Week.) Keep professionalism in mind as you slowly reveal yourself in a personal light. Here are three ways to project your individuality and your most genuine self:
Mention something personable and memorable without getting too particular. I recently started taking up cardio tap dancing. It’s a little quirky, a little outside-the-box, but most importantly, people remember it. Whenever I mention it, it never fails to gain an inquisitive look and follow-up questions.
The next time you’re networking, if you feel uncomfortable revealing something at first, ask them about a hobby. By being on the receiving end and hearing about someone else’s story, it can hopefully open you up to the possibilities of sharing one small nugget.
This will connect you to the other person on a deeper level, one beyond typical work banter. Chances are, when you follow up via email or for a follow up conversation, this new talking point will come up and you’ll be on good ground to move the conversation forward.
Find your voice. When it comes to personal branding, consistency is key. On one hand, you’ll want to build relationships through manners and behaviors but also by using your unique voice. Representing the real you involves your distinct way of sharing things. Maybe something funny happened during your morning commute? Should you tell that story? If so, how would you tell it?
It’s not just what you’re saying that matters, but also how you’re saying it. Do you speak with gusto and animation? Mirror this in your online posts, too. Have you recently read an inspirational story about a millennial entrepreneur? Did you watch an adorable video about Cocker Spaniel puppies? Go ahead; share it while adding your two cents.
By revealing your genuine side, you may notice other people start opening up as well, and as a result you’re making stronger connections. Wouldn’t you prefer to know a new contact also owns a Cocker Spaniel? Your conversations just became more enriched!
Warning: Make sure the conversation piece you’ve chosen is appropriate given the context. For example, if the person on the other end has asked for your resume or for the answers to business-related questions — the answers of which could lead to you being interviewed for a job — be sure to play it straight. You’ll get your chance to tell the Cocker Spaniel story soon enough.
Present yourself as three-dimensional; one-dimensional is boring. In my experience as a recruiter, I sought job seekers with well-rounded lives who weren’t afraid to share a bit during an interview. While I valued a hard work ethic, I also prized candidates who enjoyed their whole lives, not just their jobs. The idea was the more diverse they were, the more they could bring to the group as an employee. I often held group job interviews at a restaurant to see how the person interacted with their potential peers in a casual setting.
Candidates who did well weren’t necessarily always the ones who aced questions about the job, mainly because few job-related questions were asked. Instead, I evaluated behavior, authenticity, voice, manners and interactions. I would try to gauge answers to the following questions:
- What made the candidate interesting?
- Who were they, really?
- Could this candidate handle themselves well with a client?
- Would they be cool to work with if there’s a tight deadline and everyone’s feverishly working until 10 p.m.?
- Might they want to grab a beer with the team after? (One hiring manager actually mentioned this as a qualifying factor).
When you start representing the real you, you own who you are and other people sense it, too. You’re revealing the real person behind your profile, resume and business card. Through this process, you’ll probably find that relationships will start to feel more real. That’s mainly because they are.