The internet is rife with advice on how to answer common interview questions. However, if everyone follows the exact same advice and quotes the exact same answers all the time, employers will be left with a bunch candidates who are not authentically representing themselves. If you’re a job seeker, constantly conforming to what you think employers want you to say could be to the detriment of your individuality, and result in you winding up in a job that doesn’t really reflect your personality or best interests.
Consider this: most of us will spend more time at work than doing any other single activity in our lifetime. Needless to say, the better the match, the more time you will spend enjoying yourself! So, how can you make sure you’re being authentic throughout the job hunting process, and bag a role that makes you sing in the mornings?
1. Get to know you
According to the Daily Telegraph, ‘Tell me about yourself?’ is one of the top 10 most commonly asked interview questions, so it is really important to be prepared for this one. Take time to consider what really motivates you. I’m not talking about external things such as money or praise for a job well done. Consider your intrinsic motivators; the things you truly enjoy doing. If you haven’t found pleasure in a work context before, look at what you enjoy doing in your spare time. Is there a topic which particularly interests you or a sport you enjoy playing? What types of activities have you enjoyed throughout the course of your studies?
2. Match your intrinsic motivators against work tasks
Once you understand your intrinsic motivators, you can begin to match them to work activities which will motivate you in the same way. This will prepare you to talk passionately about your motivations in an interview. Think about what would totally thrill you and bore you to tears. Most importantly, be honest about it. There is no point in preparing yourself to wax lyrical about how much you enjoy administration tasks if this simply isn’t true, particularly as you would potentially be talking yourself into a role you won’t enjoy. Whilst it might seem counter-intuitive to openly admit that something like teamwork is not for you, there are lots of jobs which require someone to operate on their own initiative and not be phased by a lack of team to support them. More often than not there will be ways to put a positive spin on things!
3. Understand the job
Job titles can vary wildly from one organisation to another, so it is really important that you spend time reading the job description to properly understand what will be expected of you on a day-to- day basis. It is unlikely that you will find a job which only requires you to do tasks which thrill you, try to be open minded to a certain extent. Only you can judge whether the balance is right for you.
4. Find out about the company
It is essential that you consider not just the job but also the company and industry you are approaching for work. Think about whether there are any companies or industries for which you wouldn’t want to work. If you have strong views about fracking, maybe Oil and Gas isn’t for you! Conversely, if you can find company or industry links to your intrinsic motivators, you can use this to your advantage during the recruitment process. This doesn’t have to limit you to a particular industry or company. The better you understand yourself, the easier it will be to find a variety of matches to your personal motivators. So, if you love working with technology, you can match this interest to a company where you get to use modern technology, a company which manufactures technological devices or a project which will require you to implement new technology.
5. Prepare yourself for your authentic interview
This final step is the one most commonly missed and it is all about finding the actual words you will use to describe yourself. It might sound simple but if you talk about it to yourself before you do it in an interview, you will start to find a narrative that makes sense, rather than waffling around the subject when it really matters in the interview! Go through the various requirements in the job description and what you have learnt about the company, before finding your personal narrative for each of the points raised. That way, rather than preparing for specific questions, you will be ready to discuss any aspect of the role or company and demonstrate that you have really thought about how you will contribute if you are successful. Oh, and don’t forget to make a note of questions you have about the role and the company beforehand. It is important to have a few prepared in case some have already been answered by the time you get to asking!
About the author: Elaine Howell is an HR professional, specialising in resourcing, employee relations and change management. Elaine is passionate about career coaching.