In my senior year of college, while others were making plans for backpacking trips to Europe or figuring out their summer hang out plans before grad school, I decided it was time to launch my career. It was 1993, we were just coming out of a recession, and many of my friends who had graduated the year before were having a tough time finding a job.
I landed interviews with several different companies, but I was hungry for the entry level position at a major New York City based media company. Of the list of potentials, this was the job I desperately wanted. For this interview, I plunked down my low limit student credit card and paid more than I could afford at the time to look the part with a sharp black suit and corporate heels.
When I arrived, there were ten other soon-to-be college graduates collected in a formal conference room, all potential candidates for the hand selected beta class that would initiate this company’s sales training program for new university recruits.
They put out coffee and pastries in the middle of the table, but we were all so nervous that we didn’t bother to help ourselves to the fare. We were too busy reviewing the robust list of senior level leadership interviewers that we would be meeting with that day.
Each of my first few interviews went smoothly, and then there was that “one” where I felt the disconnect. The conversation flow wasn’t smooth with this particular interviewer, and I was starting to let the nerves get to me. And then this person asked the last question: “Do you believe that you will be able to compete with other candidates here today who have graduated from more prestigious schools for this position?”
Nerves magically disappeared.
I was awarded a full tuition academic scholarship from a highly regarded private university in New York and graduated with honors. I hustled all four years to make money working in retail stores and waitressing; participated in and held leadership roles in university organizations; managed a dorm floor as a Resident Assistant (which by the way, paid for my housing); all while earning my business degree. And here’s the icing on the cake – I would be kicking off my career with NO student loans, a major challenge for most college graduates today.
I snapped back, looked the interviewer in the eye, and it felt completely natural to say, “I’m not going to compete. I’m going to set an example for them.”
If you are trying to find the “right” answers to fit someone else’s idea of the perfect candidate in order to get the job...
When you share the authentic version of you in a job interview, it increases the likelihood that you will land the gig that is right for you. How you construct your resume, and how you present yourself, should be a natural extension of who you are. Don’t diminish or re-create who you are in the interview to fit the job position. Let your qualities shine through your words and actions.
Remember, there’s an energy transfer going on here. When you are completely yourself, you are relaxed and comfortable. The interviewer will feel this in your demeanor and in how you speak, and they will connect with you. They will see you as confident and self-aware. And if the position is right for you, they will believe you are a fit. And if it’s not a match, say thank you for the opportunity and continue to swipe right. You don’t need to “sell” yourself when you are sharing yourself with ease.
Needless to say, I got the job. It was a sales position, and apparently, I had sold my interviewer.
Let your authentic self be your personal north star. It will take you to the right destination.