Posted about 6 years ago by Daniel Eley

Bringing the 'Real You' to an Interview

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​Daniel Eley, Head of People & Development at Jamie Oliver talks about the importance of bringing the real ‘you’ to your interview. 

The Setup:

So, you’ve met with the recruiter. It wasn’t a job interview at that stage because they said they wanted to help you find the right role.  Because they said that, you chatted to them like you would to a friend. Well, maybe not a friend, but someone that you knew you could be honest with so that they could help find you the job which would suit you best. It went well.

Then you get the call. They’ve put you forward for a role and you’ve bagged an interview. With any luck you think it will be a good idea to prepare. You find out about the business and perhaps the department, you probably look the interviewer up on LinkedIn, stuff like that. Then, finally, you’re at the interview. You’ve worked out your story about why you want the job, why you’ll be good at it, what you want to do in the future. The whole lot. It’s been rehearsed over and over in your head. You know exactly what you’re going to say. Brilliant!

Except, there’s just one problem. You’ve learned your lines, but you’re not here for an acting job. You want to be in marketing. Or IT. Or HR. So the fact that you’ve learned your lines just means one thing: you’re not going in to the room as you. You’re going in as the person you think they want you to be. Sadly, that’s a big mistake.

What’s Wrong With Doing Lots Of Preparation?

Nothing. That’s exactly what you should be doing. In the past 10 years I’ve interviewed well over 3,000 people. The ones that didn’t get the jobs didn’t prepare. But the ones that prepared every line they were going to say until they prepared their own personality right out of the window didn’t get the jobs either.

It’s important that you know your stuff, but it’s just as important that you turn up with your own character on display. Too many people leave their personality in the waiting room and collect it again on the way out. That’s no use to me or the people interviewing you!

We need to make a decision about whether you’re the right person to do the job. That means we need to get a glimpse of your character and get a feel for how you think and what you believe in. We can’t do that if you’re trotting out learned lines that you think will impress us.

But I Need To Be Impressing You Every Step Of The Way, Right?

Right. But you need to impress us with how you would do something. Or with the way you have handled things in the past. We want to see your smile. But if you know what I’m really like you might not give me the job!

Very true. And that’s a win-win: you avoid a job that’s not right for you and the employer gets to select someone that’s truly right for the role.

If ‘you’ rock up as ‘interview you’ then they have no chance of working out whether you’re the right person for the job.  But if you can let your personality shine through, well that’s quite another matter.

So Why Is That Better?

Think of it a bit like a first date. You turn up intending to impress. You say all the stuff you think will get you to the next date. You build expectations that you’re someone you’re not and soon they find out. They get disappointed and stop calling.

But that first date could have been so different. You could have let your personality shine through. They could have seen who you really were. You could be on the Isle of Fernandos already.

Instead, you end up eating chocolate cake in your pyjamas on your own at 10am on a Sunday. Not a great look.

And What’s All This Got To Do With Getting A Job?

Well, as an employer I want to meet the real you. I need to have the chance to work out whether the real you is right for the job we have on offer. If I just get to meet the ‘interview you’ then I don’t have a good chance to make that judgement.

If you give me the chance to meet the real you I can save you all the time that you could waste in the first six months of a new job realising that it’s completely wrong for you and that you want to leave.

The Point:

I need to meet you, not ‘interview you’. Do yourself a favour: don’t leave your personality in the waiting room. Displaying who you really are at interview will give me a much better chance of working out if this is the right job for you.

If it isn’t the right job for you, then you just dodged a bullet. And if it is the right job for you?  Then you’ll love it. And stay. And be happy. Isle of Fernandos, here we come!