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The Only Interview Secret that Counts

It seems that a day doesn’t go by that I don’t come across some article talking about the top five mistakes made in an interview, the ten things about interviews that no one mentions, or how to ace the five most important interview questions. It’s not surprising, of course. Choice positions that can lead to a promising career are few and far between. Furthermore, we’re competing with dozens of other equally qualified candidates for this scarcity. It should be no wonder then that we look for secret techniques that will set us apart from the rest of the rabble. But to me, many of these pieces of well-meaning advice have the flavor of get-rich-quick schemes. To be sure, there are some basic tenets of interviewing that everyone should follow, but chances are you already know all of these. So with this in mind, let me offer what I think is the only secret to landing the perfect position:

In the interview, be yourself.

It sounds obvious, but stay with me a moment.

When we set our sights on a position, we research the company, interview those in our network with an inside track, seek to better understand the requirements, and even learn as much as we can about the hiring manager. And so well we should. However, the problem arises when we adjust or modify our behavior and attitudes to more closely align with those of the hiring committee but in a way that deviate from our true selves. Why is this dangerous? Let’s explore this.

Scenario #1: The modified-you gets the job

What if, after creating this identity, you end up getting the job? Now you have to maintain this façade day-in and day-out. You have to be the person they hired, only they didn’t hire you, they hired the person you created. In this circumstance you will have a very difficult time thriving in the culture.

Scenario #2: The true-you doesn’t get the job

On the other hand, let’s say that you were yourself and didn’t get the job. Thank them! It doesn’t mean you’re not a good person, it just means that you weren’t the right fit for their culture. And if this is indeed the case then trust me, you don’t want the job. Money and benefits may be seductive, but research shows that a good cultural fit is what really allows one to thrive at work.

Scenario #3: The true-you gets the job

So what if the planets align, you are yourself, and they offer you the position? Perfect! You’ve found an organization that’s willing to pay you to be yourself. What could be better? They’ll value your competence and contributions, give you the autonomy to do things the way you see fit, and give you the chance to have a meaningful impact on things that are important to you.

You’re going to spend the majority of your waking hours at work, striving to perform in its organizational culture every minute of every day. A happy and fulfilling life means a happy and fulfilling work life, so don’t make the mistake of landing that dream job that turns out to be a nightmare. Be yourself and somewhere a great company will value this and provide you with extraordinary opportunities.

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