My Best Interview Advice? Be Authentic.

My Best Interview Advice? Be Authentic.

Over the course of the last twenty years I have interviewed and coached countless 40+ job seekers.  I find that most tend to focus on doing what everyone else does and blending in.  They follow generic guidelines for resumes, ask typical questions in interviews, and do whatever else it takes to be liked and accepted.  This is the exact opposite of what resonates with most Recruiters and Interviewers.

Want better interview results?  Follow these tips on Effective Interview Strategies for 40+ Job Seekers:

  • Be human.  Treat your interview as an opportunity to create and build a new relationship, one which may later be tapped as part of your professional, and perhaps personal, network.  You will find that both of you are much more likely to remember this experience and each other if you take the time to engage in a genuine give and take exchange.
  • Be confident.  Even if you are desperate for a job, understand that faking your way through an interview to get the job only gets you the job for so long.  If you are not a good fit for the position or the culture, you’ll be looking for another job in the not-too-distant future.  And if you come across as desperate, Interviewers automatically eliminate you from consideration because they conclude that you are not really interested in that job with that company; you just want a job.  Instead, enter the interview with confidence in who you are and what real contributions you have to offer.
  • Be aware.  Know who you are, what you want, and how to articulate both before you enter the interview.  Assess your talents, strengths, and wisdom.  Local employment commissions and even some non-profits such as AARP offer free assessment tools to help you gain insight into your make-up.  Doing this work before the interview helps you talk intelligently about all you bring to the table in the course of the interview.
  • Be bold.  Know what makes you different and share it with your interviewer when they ask why they should hire you for the job.  Candidates that look and sound like everyone else are quickly forgotten during the process of interviewing numerous others.
  • Be passionate.  Regardless of whether your passions are work related or not, take the opportunity to talk at least briefly about your passions.  This makes you more memorable, demonstrates a fire within you that all employers seek to tap, and helps establish a personal bond between you and your interviewer.  Also, when you share your passions you exude positive energy, and this is contagious (and memorable).
  • Be intentional.  Prior to the interview, research the company, its competition, the industry, and prospects for the future.  Network and utilize blogs and such web sites as to gain insight into the position as well as the organization’s culture, positive and negative attributes, current issues, etc.   You not only gain a good sense for whether the position and company are a good fit for you, you also walk into the interview with big picture, high level insight into the organization’s opportunities and challenges.  Applying this insight in the context of your strengths and experience helps Interviewers visualize you in the position and as part of their organization.
  • Be open-minded.  Seek to learn from your Interviewer and the interview experience.  You may learn something about yourself as the result of a particular question, or something about a future trend that stirs your passion.  You may even learn that this sort of position or this sort of company is not a good fit for you.  Walk away from the interview asking yourself, “What did I learn today?”
  • Be generous.  Interviewers expect most candidates to be takers of their time and energy and to contribute little to their day.  Look for opportunities to give away your wisdom or knowledge in some way that helps the Interviewer with a particular challenge.  If you do this in the context of a current situation within the organization, you help the Interviewer see you as the kind of problem-solving, contributing employee they are seeking, even though it may be for a different role.
  • Be inquisitive.  Be prepared to ask really good questions during your interview.  Make the questions relevant and specific to current issues within the organization, to its needs and talent gaps, and to its future objectives and challenges.   The answers will provide tremendous value if you are later faced with choosing to accept the offer or not.

I find it interesting that many also seek advice on what NOT to say or do in an interview.  To that I ask the question, “Well, do you want to focus on those things that are detrimental to you or those things that are beneficial to you?”  Focus on the positive.  Focus on those things that move you forward and bring value to you and to those with whom you associate.  Focusing on the negative only brings about more negative and makes it much more likely that you will say the one thing you were trying not to say.

If you limited my interviewing advice to two words, my message is simply this:  Be authentic.  Both you and your Interviewer will consider the interview to have been time well spent.


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