In 1956, CBS debuted a game show entitled, To Tell The Truth, where contestants asked questions of a three person panel in an effort to discover their real identity. The panelists all claimed to be the same person and after the cross-examination period, contestants offered a conjecture as to who was telling the truth. The climax of each show was when the host would ask, “Would the real (insert name), please stand up?”
The same question could be said in many interviewing situations as employers are trying to drill down to find the ‘real’ person they are interviewing. Yesterday, I was fortunate to be able to sit in on a panel of hiring managers discussing some of the challenges they face when trying to hire employees. One issue the panel agreed upon was the difficulty in peeling back the layers of canned answers and facades they often encounter in candidates. Being unprepared for an interview will lose you a job opportunity, but so will being so over-prepared that one comes across as programmed or canned.
It should be noted that I am not endorsing “winging it” through an interview or taking the Alfred E. Neuman approach of “What, me worry?” It is important to be professional and prepared during your interview as you are trying to put your best foot forward throughout the meeting. However, if your attempt results in you not being your true self, then the results are often just as bad as not preparing at all. If you are not your true self during an interview and (somehow) are hired, you need to be that person (who was in the interview) Monday-Friday because that is who the employer is expecting to show up to work on Day One.
Think of how you would act around a new group of potential friends, neighbors, co-workers, etc. as this could be a good model to aim for. Being yourself in an interview may cost you as many job offers as being overly programmed, but when the job offer does come along, it will be a much stronger fit for both you and the employer. So the next time you are in an interview, remember to have the real you “…please stand up.”