Authenticity and Job Interviews

From my past experience as a job seeker, I performed the best on job interviews when I didn’t care about being weird. Sometimes people give well-meaning advice about what not to do during interviews, but this primes the interviewee into behaving as average as possible and suppressing personality.

For example, a younger peer advised me not to wear my hat, a homburg, to an interview, because it was “weird”. As I approached the interview room, I felt fake for pretending to be a non-hat-wearing person when I would normally wear my hat. I felt self-conscious and awkward, and I pretended to be a normal, non-hat-wearing person.

When the interviewer asked me, “If I was blind, how would you describe the colour blue to me?”, I was more concerned with not being weird, and giving him the answer that I thought he wanted, than with answering honestly and being myself. The other interviewer thought that it would be an “easy” question for me because of my background in cognitive science and artificial intelligence. While one could argue that the question is actually “very difficult” to answer seriously because of the massive scope of the problem, one could also argue that my mind was simply not tuned to creative thinking that day. (Because I didn’t have my hat.)

That was my second interview of a week of five interviews.

I didn’t care much about preparing for my fifth and last interview, which was a phone interview at the end of a long day. I no longer cared about speaking formally, and I instead spoke casually and honestly, saying whatever came to my head with little censorship. When the interviewer asked about my skill level in Unix/Linux, I answered something ridiculous and pretentious like, “I know there are always going to be Linux gurus and Unix gurus, but I’m pretty good with the command line compared to the other students in my program.” My other answers were similarly spontaneous and atypical. This turned out to be a good thing, because I was eloquent and effusive instead of stilted and stale. I also learned during the interview that the job was much more interesting and appealing than I had initially thought.

I got the job.

For a previous summer job, I knew I performed really well on the interview too, because I answered honestly and I was being myself, although it was more about the integration of cognitive science & AI with my personal goals and motivations. I learned that you should be yourself and answer honestly during a job interview. If they don’t like your true personality, then the work environment may be a poor fit for you anyway.

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One Response to Authenticity and Job Interviews

  1. Pablo says:

    Being yourself is the best way to project confidence. But there’s more to that, one must also love oneself, because its also very easy to just shut to the world and say “I don’t care how people see me” and continue being oneself while deep inside, resenting the world.

    To love oneself means knowing yourself and being proud of who you are. If one loves oneself then its very easy to love the rest of the world. And warm powerful smiles come naturally :)

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