Interviewing feels like a performance. You carefully put on your costume, assemble your props, and repeatedly go over your lines until you can recite your strengths and weaknesses in your sleep. However, you’re not a character – you’re you.
Here’s how to give an award-winning performance, based on your true story.
First: Choose to Be You
I enjoy interviewing. I do!
I like sitting down with somebody who represents a company I desire to work at and having a conversation. I like to learn about them, I like learning about the company, and I like learning about available opportunity.
However, when answering the interviewer’s questions, I sometimes feel like I turn into a character. I want to be me, but I can only show the side of me that is motivated to obtain that position. I lose a bit of myself by reciting answers to interview questions that I looked up online in preparation. As much as I want to be an ideal employee, I want to be me. Because if I’m not, I have a hard time answering typical interview questions while inserting a bit of my own character…
Tell Me About Yourself
Here’s how the typical answer to this question goes from the “understudy” applicant:
“I am a(n) ___________ with a background in ________ and ___________. I have _ years of experience in ________, and seek to use my skills and experience to transition to the __________ industry. When I learned of this opportunity I knew it was a perfect fit!”
That’s a great answer. But apart from a few nouns and adjectives, the interviewer has heard this same response from all applicants before you. Over and over, in fact.
So, how do you make it yours? First let’s assume the interviewer has already read your cover letter, or at the very least skimmed your resume. They know you’re qualified for the position, or else you wouldn’t be there!
So cut right to the final act: Tell them why you applied for the position; tell them exactly why you want to work at that particular company, in that particular position! Do you believe in the company’s mission? Have you been a long-time customer? What emotional attachment or history do you have with the brand? What difference can you make?
This is your chance to show your passion for the company and the position. This is your opportunity to state your value. Take your time. And nail this part of the performance!
What is Your Greatest Strength… and Weakness?
It’s easy to identify your strengths – they’re the talents you exhibit repeatedly and therefore can justify if questioned. I like to believe my greatest strength is my ambition. I don’t settle for the status quo and am continually searching to improve my skills and take on leadership roles.
Your weakness, however, is much more difficult, in part because you can’t identify your greatest weakness, you can only identify moderate weaknesses. And simply saying “I have a tendency to _______” or “I am too ________” doesn’t say anything about who you are, or where you’re going next.
As the best performers know, to answer this question you need to look back at your failures and conflicts. What did you contribute (or not contribute) that resulted in a problem at work? What experiences can you share that exhibit that particular weakness? What steps did you take to resolve the issue? What are you doing now to make it a strength?
That is what the audience – the interviewer – wants to hear. Not some mechanically delivered cliché about being a workaholic or caring too much. Or having no weaknesses.
Do You Have Any Questions for Me?
Hopefully, you have been asking questions throughout the interview. You prepared a list of interview questions beforehand – both a general list that can be applied for any company and those specifically based on your research of this company. The rehearsals paid off; you are prepared.
So now take advantage of the “any questions for me?” window. Ask your questions so you can get to know the interviewer and company on a more personal level:
- Bring up questions you thought of during the interview itself (you were taking notes, yes?)
- Ask the interviewer about their role in the company such as “How long have you worked at the company?” and “What do you like most about working here?”
- Ask about the company culture, including ask for a walking tour of the facility
- Ask about exciting projects going on, or where the company is looking to expand in the future
Your questions show your character – the things you’re really interested in learning about the position because they’re important to you. And they show you’re committed to working here, at this company, in this role.
Once you incorporate these tips into your job interview performance, you’ll see immediate results. Maybe you won’t get the Oscar on your first try; perhaps it will take a few dress rehearsals to bust through the stage fright and missed lines. Ultimately, however, you’ll find this “performance” approach will put you head and shoulders above all other applicants… and soon, you’ll be thanking the academy during your acceptance speech!