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How to Interview with Your Whole Self

Published: Mar 15, 2021

Topics: Interviewing  Job Search  

It’s natural that interviewing can sometimes feel unnatural, as it can often be difficult to know “who you’re supposed to be” during an interview. You might think that you need to interview in a certain way and try to be what hiring managers are looking for, rather than just being yourself. However, the truth is hiring managers want you to be yourself. They don’t want to hear memorized answers. They want to get to know the person they’ll be working with—not a programmed robot who’s memorized the perfect script.

The best way to solve this problem of feeling like you need to be someone other than you are is to focus on bringing your whole self to your interviews. When you do that, you become much more attractive to hiring managers, not to mention relieve a lot of unnecessary interview stress.

Here are three essential tips for bringing your whole self to interviews.

1. Identify your unique character traits and strengths—and approach your interviews with the belief that the company would greatly benefit from having you on their team.

During your interview prep, it’s essential that you get to the heart of why you believe you’d be the most valuable hire for the role you’re applying for. And the answer will lie in the combination of everything you bring. The whole package. Not any one specific thing, but everything together. All the character traits that make you good at what you do. For example, your patience, empathy, communication skills, analytical thinking skills, teamwork skills, logical thinking skills, etc. All these things are important.

To find out what makes you unique, ask yourself during your interview prep: What is it that makes me especially good at my job? What are the traits and skills I have that make me good at it? Why specifically do I enjoy doing it? Why am I passionate about it? Why did I choose it? 

For example, if you work in human resources, maybe people feel comfortable opening up to you about their concerns. Maybe coworkers or employees have even said that you’re a very approachable person. If so, this would be a key character trait that makes you succeed in this role, and makes you unique. While you might think that everyone is approachable, and you don’t give it a second thought, the truth is not everyone is, and not everyone finds it easy to get information needed to solve problems. In fact, that’s something that requires gaining people’s trust. And that’s something that you, in this case, have that others might not. That is one of your core strengths.

Here’s another example: Say that you’re good at teaching yourself new things and enjoy learning new things. And say that, in your current job, you learned how to quickly use a certain new software program to use it to fill a need that a customer had requested. This is not something everyone is good at. Some people might require more structured learning and more time (and might not find it all that enjoyable). If this is something you excel at, it’s something to bring to hiring managers’ attention. It’s a specific, valuable asset that you bring to the table.

Other unique traits that you might bring could be found in answers to questions like these: Am I wired to look for efficiencies and look for better ways of doing things? Am I inclined to help out others when I have valuable information to share? Do I have a knack for bringing people together to communicate for a greater outcome? Am I good at synthesizing information into useful data and communicating it in a clear way? Do I have a good sense of how to interpret feedback and implement it to create more effective outcomes?

Whatever your traits and assets are, it’s important to bring as many of them as possible (if and when appropriate) to your interviews.

2. Create human stories around what you do—and get as specific and detailed as possible.

Storytelling is extremely important in interviews. To get across all that you want to get across to hiring managers, you need to be able to tell clear, concise stories, with beginnings, middles, and ends. It’s also extremely important to infuse your personality and traits into those stories. This means you need to get specific and include details. Getting specific will paint visceral pictures that stick in the minds of your interviewers. Details are what make stories powerful and set them apart from lists of vague accomplishments.

For example, when you get a common question like “Tell me about a time you dealt with a challenging situation” or “Tell me about a time when you had a difficult decision to make,” make sure to tell a story about a specific situation filled with details highlighting your traits and strengths.

Going back to the example above, if you speak about a time an employee approached you with a concern that you were able to solve, get specific about what that employee came to you for, what you specifically did for them, how you made that employee feel, and what that employee said to you about what you did for them. You might also talk about feedback you got from others for doing such a good job, how you went on to help others, and maybe add that you went on to create a more efficient onboarding and training process and a clearer informational document for future hires. In this example, it’s important to speak about the human interactions and connections—after all, you’re a human resources professional.

3. Take pride in your character traits, accomplishments, and stories.

To truly bring your whole self to interviews, it’s essential to feel proud of your character traits and accomplishments—as well as the stories that highlight them. If you don’t think that what you do and have done is a big deal, or anything special, then you won’t present it that way in your interviews. But when you really believe that what you have to offer is unique (and it is!), then you won’t feel like you need to rely on memorized answers. Instead, you’ll trust yourself and your value.

In other words, you’ll project confidence. And when you’re confident, truly seeing the value that you bring, it becomes a lot easier to communicate with others and not too worry (as much) about other’s potential judgment. In fact, if you continue to work at understanding what makes you unique, communicating what makes you unique, and taking pride in that, you’ll become so comfortable with yourself and who you are that you’ll be able to easily and effortlessly sell yourself—your whole self—to others, including hiring managers.

Natalie Fisher is best known for helping professionals land their ideal roles and achieve explosive salary growth (even with little experience). If you want to dive deeper into interviewing with your whole self, check out her free Ultimate Guide to Behavioral Interviewing. In it, you’ll get more than 10 examples of compelling interview stories. The guide includes fill-in-the-blank templates for you to fill in your own stories, as well as 25 more questions you can ask yourself to help you find the stories you want to tell in your next interview.

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