In recent years, the organisational behaviour discourse has strongly focused on one quality – authenticity. Whether it is about leadership styles or recruitment conversations, the ability to confidently project your true self has many rewards in the new age workplace.
It garners trust from peers, bosses, and teams and enables closer interpersonal connections. After all, everyone wants to work with a human, not a robot. Many corporate leaders today believe that authenticity is great for business too.
That’s what makes authenticity so important in job interviews. Interviews are infamous for being “conversations between two liars”. The interviewer is already keen on taking everything the interviewee says with a pinch of salt. Throw in a few robotic, scripted responses to even famously clichéd questions like where you see yourself in five years and from that point on, the entire interview becomes a slippery slope.
And yet, when preparing for interviews, the last thing we think about is personality and authenticity because we focus too much on saying the “right” and “correct” things.
While it is important to be correct, it is also equally important that the interviewer sees that you actually mean the things you say in an interview.
So what can do you differently in order to appear authentic the next time you are interviewing for your dream job? To start with, be authentic.
Prepare your messages, not scripts
Job interviews are a lot of like marketing and PR storytelling. Your career needs to have a story and a credible brand. Think deeply about the turns your career took or the jobs you switched. Dig deep into your true capabilities and skills, strengths and weakness. And then develop the top three messages you want your recruiter to know about your career story, skills, and performance. It is important that you ensure that nothing you say during the interview contradicts these messages but at the same time, don’t have “bytes” ready.
Let the conversation flow, and say what you need to say without repeating clichéd sentences or prepared scripts. Scripts are easy to spot and they usually diminish the interviewee’s credibility – do away with them at all costs.
Let your answers have some nuance; make them engaging
Usually, the most common answer to “tell me about yourself” is a laundry list of educational qualifications and past designations – nothing more than what the resume already has.
In an interview conversation, it is important that you highlight the aspects of the jobs or projects that you enjoyed, the ones that were challenging, and how you overcame them.
This not only communicates your articulation skills to the interviewer but also, your individual contribution to past projects becomes apparent and credible. It is important to note that when you relate your achievements or enjoyable aspects of past projects and job roles, you automatically sound more enthusiastic and engaged. That is the kind of positive attitude every employer is looking for, whether they put this down on the job description or not.
It is quite all right to pause and think
Another common challenge that interviewees face that leads to diminished authenticity and credibility is that when they don’t quite know how to answer a question, they keep talking – hoping to arrive at an answer in the process. However, this tactic is rarely successful.
Every interviewer knows you are only human and the penalty for not knowing an answer is not quite as bad as you think it is. When faced with such a question, it is best take a minute’s pause to think. That will either help you arrive at an answer or give you a good way to deflect the question or to just say that you don’t know. It is only honest, and helps you gain points for authenticity if not for the right answer.
Don’t be vague – about anything
If you have done your due diligence about the employer and have prepared well, you will not feel the need to be vague about anything. Clarity of thought is a reflection of honesty and authenticity – make sure it translates into everything you say during the conversation. This becomes especially crucial when you explain why the particular role or organisation interests you or why you are a good fit.
Instead of vague and seemingly insincere appreciation like “you are doing great things in the industry”, it is always better to talk about their specific projects, offerings, and campaigns, how they interest you, and how you can contribute to them. This shows you have done your research and can hit the ground running if hired and at that same time, it is also a reflection of the authenticity of your answer.
Remember, everyone has weaknesses
A whole generation of us was trained to believe that the smartest answer to a question about weaknesses is to dress up strength as weakness instead. However, in authentic workplaces and for authentic hiring managers, one’s ability to recognise and articulate one’s areas of development is an important hiring criterion. So move away from the traditional line of thought and be honest about your areas of development. It demonstrates your keenness to learn and grow.
Authenticity has the ability to help people charm their way into developing lasting bonds with hiring managers, clients, peers, and teams. It is this ability that sets apart a high EQ workforce from the rest. According to renowned psychologist, career coach and trainer Dr Jennifer Newman, it is all about forging connections.
She says, “Authentic job applicants develop a genuine emotional connection with the interviewer. There’s warmth and a sense of competence in the interaction.
They reveal things about themselves in an honest way by being direct and answering questions completely. They don’t omit things, conceal relevant experiences or falsify their history. They show they are self-reflective and they describe what they think when answering questions.
They are straightforward about how they feel and explain why they think things occur in their answers… So, the ability to be authentic can net a job offer, especially in a close race.”
We couldn’t agree more!