The Best Job Interview Advice is NOT to be YOURSELF
I’ve read thousands of job interview advice posts. 99.99% of them say that there is only one word you need to be successful in a job interview: yourself. The first four letters are true. But the last four letters are not. Let me tell you why the 0.01% advice is 100% correct.
Around ten years ago, my mentor and I were shooting the breeze. I can’t remember the specifics, but I will never forgot two words he told me that were the secret to interviewing well (and falling flat on your face).
“Most be people use the advice to be yourself,” he began, “But let’s face facts. It doesn’t work.”
I had to challenge him on this. “So you’re saying we should lie and be someone else?”
“No, no, no! Never lie. The truth is always easy to remember. But that’s not my point. Let me explain. The advice to be yourself is good. You can only be you. But the advice fails to give you a course of action. When someone tells me the secret to acing a job interview, I tell them to make sure they come to that interview armed with your stories. Stories connect us, and in a job interview, it’s all about making a connection is a short period of time.”
We talked a couple more minutes that day. I have to admit, I didn’t get his advice at the time, which is strange because I love stories! Looking back, I probably didn’t want to admit that my ego was hurt because I had been giving the advice to people for years to just be yourself.
Sometime later, I had a lightning bolt moment about his advice: tell your stories. Job Interview questions are normally written in what Human Resources Professionals call a “behaviorally descriptive interview” style. Every questions like this, “Tell me about a time…” or “Provide an example when…”. It’s really just a way to start a conversation, to share a story!
What my mentor was trying to teach me was this:
· Study that job description. It will give you clues to the kinds of stories the interviewers want to hear from you.
· The clues are the “skills” in the job description like communication, teamwork, time management, etc.
· Don’t just be yourself, but arm yourself with your success stories that speak to those skills.
Remember, every good story has a beginning, middle and end. The best stories are short, sweet and leave you with a lesson. It’s ok to tell a story when you screwed up, but that story better end with how you solved the problem or learned something from it. Study your stories with your mind, but tell them from your heart. And lastly, keep your stories at a professional level.
I hope the advice to tell your stories works for you at your next job interview! Take care and may your soft skills shine.