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Career Advice

Am I really supposed to "be myself" in a job interview?

Posted by Glassdoor Team

Career Advice Experts

Last Updated December 14, 2021
|6 min read

Job seekers often believe they need to dazzle their interviewers with knowledge and problem-solving skills, and while you definitely want to impress, an interview is a give-and-take experience.

It’s a time for both the applicant and the hiring team to learn about each other and determine whether they can work well together. If you put on a show, you limit everyone’s ability to know if you’re a good fit. If you want to want to start your new job confident that you made the right decision, you've gotta be yourself during the interview.

If you want to want to start your new job confident that you made the right decision, you've gotta be yourself during the interview.

How to prepare for an interview

Before your interview, check Glassdoor for company reviews on things like salaries, benefits, and company culture. Use these reviews to help you better understand the company and feel more relaxed during your interview.

Take your prep a step further by using the Interview Questions tab within the Careers menu to search for — or add — questions that your prospective company actually asks during interviews. Use this tailored information to help you plan for those not-so-common questions that go beyond the skills you bring to the table.

Passing the personality test

Part of an interview is determining whether a candidate will mesh with the culture at a company. According to a 2019 study, 70 percent of employers rank a candidate’s personality among the top three factors when making a job offer, while nearly 200 U.S. employers said authenticity is the most important quality in a candidate. 

Typically, an interviewer is trying to figure out:

  1. Will they enjoy working with you?
  2. Are you genuinely excited about the opportunity?
  3. Do you have the core capabilities to do the job?

The first point, “Will they enjoy working with you?” is very subjective. Avoid trying to guess what you can say to sway the interviewer in your favor. Instead, be honest about your work style, the types of environments where you thrive, and how you interact with other people. (Example: “I work best in a collaborative office environment with weekly deliverables.”)

This is also an opportunity for you to determine how your prospective team interacts and what kind of camaraderie and collaboration you can expect.

Although the interviewer will likely lead the conversation about your skills and experience, remember that you’re the expert on yourself.

When it comes to your enthusiasm for the opportunity, specifics matter. Whether you’re drawn to the type of work you would be doing or the core values of the company, speak your truth. For example: “I’m excited to work for this company because you’ve been a leader in diversity, equity, and inclusion and have a lot of women in leadership roles.” Your answer should show that you’ve done your research and you’re genuinely interested.

The third point — qualifications — is where you really get to shine, showing how your personality and skills are a match for the job. Although the interviewer will likely lead the conversation about your skills and experience, remember that you’re the expert on yourself.

Get ready by reviewing the job description and the company’s goals and note how your specific background makes you uniquely qualified. 

To thine own self be true (within limits)

Are you an ultra-marathoner on the side? Maybe you’ve taught yourself to knit or play an instrument. Talk about it! Those details can reveal important character traits about you, like discipline, commitment to long-term goals, problem-solving skills, and a willingness to try new things.

At the same time, consider context and relevance. Some hobbies or associations could be interpreted differently depending on the type of job you’re seeking. For example, it’s tough to translate winning a prize for trying 100 different beers in a month at your local bar to on-the-job skills.

Similarly, your involvement with a political party could work to your advantage when interviewing for a government affairs gig but may suggest bias if you’re interviewing for a job as a political reporter for a newspaper.

You don’t have to be a completely open book in an interview. Just pick and choose the chapters that highlight your best qualities.

Don’t be afraid to discuss the F-word

Everyone experiences failure, but what you learn from it can tell a manager a lot about how you solve problems and recover from setbacks. While an interview may include a softball question about your strengths and weaknesses, a more popular tactic is to ask about failure — and it’s an incredible opportunity for honest discussion.

For example, it’s not a dealbreaker to be a lawyer who lost a case because most great lawyers have lost a case. Instead of explaining why you lost, discuss how you analyzed the loss, any action plans or strategies that you developed based on your analysis, and subsequent successes borne out of your analysis.

A valuable prospective employer knows they'll be with you in both good times and bad. Learning how you respond in the bad times can help them decide if you’re a good fit for the team.

Practice, but don’t make it perfect

Unless you’re an actor, you’re not winning any interview points by memorizing a script. It’s okay to bring reference notes during an interview as long as you don’t spend the entire meeting reading them. Instead, opt for a little candor in your interview by taking your time and giving responses that reflect your authenticity.

As you’re working out your answers to practice questions, avoid writing full paragraphs in favor of bullet-point highlights.

When answering questions, take a breath before you start talking to give yourself more time to think. That pause can also signal to the interviewer that you're really thinking about the question.

A job interview is not a pageant. It’s not about impressing a panel of judges with congeniality, a command of facts, and the ability to twirl a baton while roller-skating.

Being yourself in an interview doesn't mean everything you say has to be unscripted. It's important to come prepared with your own thoughtful questions for the interviewers to help you learn if the company is a good fit for you.

Ask questions about company culture, long-term professional development opportunities, and how individual success is measured within the company. Remember to listen to the answers and take notes.

The responses you get could either be the green light — should you accept an offer with that company — or a red flag that it’s not the right fit for you. 

It's time to let yourself shine bright

A job interview is not a pageant. It’s not about impressing a panel of judges with congeniality, a command of facts, and the ability to twirl a baton while roller-skating. (Though all of those are admirable traits.) It’s a chance for both sides — the employer and the prospective employee — to determine if they’re compatible. 

Just as misrepresenting interests or expectations on a dating app inevitably backfires in a relationship, pandering or exaggerating who you are in a job interview is a recipe for professional disaster.

When you’re searching for the right long-term work environment, bringing your authentic self can help you shine out amongst the competition, nail the interview, and start earning what you're worth.

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