How real should you be in interviews?

I love it when my blog readers suggest topics for discussion. One reader suggested this article for discussion – It’s a job interview, not a beautiful pageant.

From reader 1: The article primarily discusses how a  job interview should be treated – as an avenue to express one’s true self or as a formality to get through to obtain the coveted offer letter. More than the article, I enjoyed reading the comments by other readers. There are arguments for both sides of the case.

Personally, I believe that an interview should be 80% an expression of one’s true self, and 20% playing to the gallery. I believe most, if not all, interviewers know that, while an interviewee says he/she wants to join a company because of its reputation/ corporate philosophy/ strategic vision/ other BS, what he/she really means is that this was among the few notable job postings that were spotted and seemed at least mildly appetizing. I’m sure similar things are true of things the interviewer says to the interviewee.

The game has to be played, but, I believe unless most of it is approached with an expression of true personality, all involved parties are in for some surprise, that may not always be of the pleasant kind. Thoughts? Experiences?

From reader 2: I agree that an interview is a mix of acting and truth.  It makes eminent sense to want to highlight your best side.  In many ways, a job interview is like a dance.  In partner dancing, the two dance partners are never equal.  Instead, it’s about creating complementary movements.  The recruiter takes the lead; you follow by interpreting the right cues and signals in real time.  You try out your footwork, maybe stumble, maybe test some new moves.  You see if you like the music.

My own 2 cents: It really depends on each person career and life situation.  I agree with reader 1 and 2’s comments if the person has the financial stability to wait until they find the right company and job situation, but many don’t in this economy and there aren’t as many opportunities.  I think the most important objective of an interview is to get an offer   It’s nice if you can get more offers and then spend more time asking  in-depth questions about the job afterward.

Even if you don’t like the “music” of a company, you may still have to take the job.  One of my clients had to do exactly that even though she knew she would hate the job because she was facing financial hardship in 3 months if she didn’t accept the job.  So what did she do?  She focused on showing why her qualification and experience can add uniquely add value to the company and help them solve issues and got the offer.  She was definitely qualified but she knew the culture was the wrong fit.  The job however, give her financial cushion for at least 6 months while she waited the market out.  Moral of the story is be creative and practical.  Everyone is faced with different and more challenging situations in this economy, do what you need to survive first.

What are your thoughts?  would love to hear it.  Good luck out there!

– Lei

One thought on “How real should you be in interviews?

  1. Ajantha Suriyanarayanan

    @Lei, I completely subscribe to the survival concept. This ties in well with an earlier post about how some interviewees prefer candidates whose resumes dot display a gap. Granted, some jobs may seem more strenuous than others and some office cultures less desirable. It still can’t hurt to pretend to be interested In the job nevertheless.

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