Candid Thoughts from a Senior Recruiter

Remember when you were a kid and whether starting a new school, going on a date, or stepping into any new situation for the first time, to help you overcome your nerves your Mom or Dad would say “just be yourself….”?  While possibly eliciting eye rolls at the time, there is always a seed of truth in the clichés, including this one, that pepper our lives in the form of sage advice. The wisdom in being who you are could not be more true nor better advice when it comes to the art of interviewing. Being authentic, communicating transparently, and basically “being yourself” will often trump having the “perfect” answer to the question or even having ALL the skills and knowledge that the job description indicates for the “ideal candidate”. At Speakeasy, having seen the opposite, we always gravitate to the individual who comes across in an authentic and real manner.

As organizations all over the world are experiencing talent shortages, one of the ways they are combating the shortfall is hiring for attributes rather than skill set. Companies have begun to realize that they can teach skills but there are certain attributes which cannot be so easily taught. Take Google for example, they are a hiring powerhouse and because of their clout they could presumably hire only the most “qualified” candidates or the job. However, they have taken a totally different approach and primarily choose to measure candidates based on attributes that will align with their famous culture and/or round out a team. Those that often rank highest tend to have little to do with the job per se’…things like grit, intellectual humility, learning ability (as opposed to already being an expert), a proven desire to take ownership yet the self-awareness necessary to know when to step back and be a teammate, to name a few.

Whether it be Google or elsewhere, each organization has their own set of cultural norms, things that “fit”, and attributes they feel are necessary to be successful in the job. With this in mind, if you go into an interview and try to be someone you aren’t you will never come across as authentic and likely won’t get the job. And if you do, then what…you have now put yourself in a situation where potentially the job or company isn’t a good fit for YOU. Most companies, and all interviewers, want to make a connection with a candidate and a true connection can’t faked.

To be clear, the advice is not to skimp on preparing for an interview as you need to do your homework on the company and understand how you think you fit the role. But beyond that, focus on nonverbal communication and these simple recommendations to confidently and authentically own your career – and be yourself:

  • Focus on having a conversation
  • Listen to the question and take a pause to think before you answer
  • Make good, comfortable eye contact
  • Remember good posture
  • Sit still in your seat and avoid extraneous hand and feet movement
  • Have a sense of your listener – Answer the question and give detail but balance that by not going on and on

Most importantly, while the point is to be yourself, it is also still an interview. Be professional while still being authentic – which should simply mean a real, yet polished version of you. While it won’t necessarily guarantee you the job, you will most likely make a true connection with the interviewer(s) and that always leaves a lasting, positive impression.