You don’t say…

Author: Scott Duncan

I have interviewed more than 3000 people.

That’s a lot of job interviews.

I’ve seen a lot in those interviews. Profuse sweating, tears, crises of confidence, casualness bordering on blasé, people bringing in food, complete lack of preparation, blatant dishonesty etc etc.

Perhaps most striking however is just how similar many of the interview answers tend to be. And by similar, I mean exactly the same, I mean almost verbatim. It is almost at the point where you can, with a relatively high degree of confidence, predict what the answer may be.

Now I understand that clichés exist for a reason. I use them a lot. Not even trying to be funny, sometimes I’m just lacking in imagination. But in a job interview I steadfastly believe the most important advice I can provide is to just be yourself (is that a cliché?).

Let me expand on this, the full list of advice that we might typically provide would include:

  • Do your research on the company and the person interviewing you;
  • Understand your motivations and drivers for the role;
  • be prepared to clearly and succinctly explain the roles you’ve had, and the achievements you’ve been responsible for (quantifiable metrics here please); and
  • Have insightful and intelligent questions prepared (just another opportunity to impress).

BUT the most important thing is to be yourself!

At this point I’m somewhat torn – just which Dr. Seuss quote works best for this post…. I think I’ll just use them both.

“Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind”

Today you are YOU that is truer than true. There is no one alive that is YOU-ER that YOU”

– Dr Seuss

Openness, honesty and transparency are differentiators in job interviews. Candidates with personal confidence feel comfortable being open and honest. It goes further than that, really what we’re talking about is vulnerability. Job interviews are not easy. They’re a somewhat artificial construct that hopefully you don’t get too many opportunities to practice. I know they’re a high pressure situation, and if you want the job it’s only natural that you feel nervous/excited. It’s an emotional roller coaster putting yourself out there!

It sounds counter-intuitive, but often the most refreshing answer we encounter in a job interview is “I don’t know”. It signifies honesty, vulnerability and trust. It allows true rapport to be built between you and I, it makes you more accessible as a human being, and quite possibly more attractive as a candidate. We’ll have a connection, a genuine and sincere connection. We all have to remember just how human a process this really is – please refer to Emma Mackie-Watts’ excellent post here.

So start fighting the instinct to be someone else in a job interview, just do the preparation and be the best version of you that you can be.

Pro Tip: Don’t dip into the well of “I don’t know” too often in a job interview.