It’s very normal for you to form an “interview persona”, essentially a different version of yourself which your close friends and colleagues wouldn’t recognise. This interview version of you can occur through trying to hide your bubbly and chatty personality. More often than not, you do this in order to fit in with the interviewer’s personality and the perceived company culture and while I understand how this can happen, I would recommend you refrain for forming this interview persona.
During an interview, it’s important to strike a balance between being professional and being your true self. Below I explain why it is so important to be yourself during the interview.
The company culture and the ‘real you’ need to match
First and foremost – if you aren’t yourself, then the interviewer won’t get a true idea of whether you are a good cultural fit for the team and company. Company culture is defined by the people, the dynamics at play between colleagues, the way the company handles challenges and celebrates successes, plus the core values which every employee is expected to live and breathe whilst at work. Unsurprisingly, studies have shown that if a new hire is a poor cultural fit, they will most likely struggle with their workplace wellbeing, and this is often the main reason that they choose to leave an organisation.
Think of the company culture as being the personality of the company. You wouldn’t choose to spend a large portion of your time with a personality that you clashed with, so why would you risk working for a company which is the wrong cultural fit for you?
In addition, putting on a different persona is tiring at the best of times, and in an interview, your focus and energies should be channelled into showing off your strengths and skills, whilst gauging whether this opportunity is right for you. With that in mind, how can you be yourself in the interview room?
Emphasise your best personality trait
As I say, you can’t let your guard down completely and be overly familiar in the interview, but you can channel some of your most suitable personality traits into your performance. This starts with identifying which of your personal attributes would be beneficial to the role.
Revisit your research about this opportunity, particularly any information you have surrounding the required skills for the job, plus the company culture and values. Where might your personality traits overlap with what the hiring manager is looking for? For example, you might be applying for a job where strong interpersonal skills are a must, and you have always found yourself to be a great listener who can build up trusting relationships with people.
So you know who you are and what you can personally bring to this role, but how can your interview performance reflect this?
Be authentic answering interview questions
Let’s start with your interview answers. “How would your colleagues describe you?” is a common interview question, and you may have previously answered with something generic such as: “They would say I’m a team player.” Now that you understand the importance of being yourself, you might give a more authentic answer, for instance: “They would say I have a positive attitude, especially in the face of challenges. I don’t like complaining, and I prefer to focus on solutions to problems.”
I would also recommend elaborating on your answers where possible, by relaying anecdotes and examples of your personality traits in action. These stories will show how you react in certain situations, which can be highly indicative of the type of person you are. I will add a note here that whilst I would advise thinking about your interview answers and planning your examples so that they reflect your personality, don’t prepare these answers word for word. Doing so will make you sound overly scripted and insincere, defeating the entire point of being yourself in the interview.
Remember to stay on top of your nerves and remain yourself
Lastly, it is essential that you take steps to relax and get into a positive mentality before the interview. If not, you may find yourself overcome with negative thoughts and interview nerves, which can get in the way of you being yourself. Speak with your recruiter beforehand, and they can reassure you that there is nothing to be nervous about – this is a two-way conversation not a one-way interrogation session. I would also advise giving yourself a pep-talk, reminding yourself of all of your best personality traits, and solidifying this image of yourself in your mind.
In short, your interview persona should not be a far cry from your true self. The objective is to embrace the personality traits which you can bring to this opportunity, and make sure that these come across in a professional way in the interview room. Stay true to yourself, and no doubt you will find an opportunity which is the perfect fit for your personality.
For more information on your recruitment needs, please contact your local consultant.
About this author
Maureen joined Hays in 2000 where she specialised in Senior Accounting and Finance recruitment. With over 17 years’ experience, Maureen is the Director for Cork, Limerick and Galway along with over overseeing the Banking and Construction & Property operations in Cork. She also provides training expertise in the area of candidate screening and interviewing.