How Not To Be a “Stranger” During a Job Interview

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unemployment14To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

On September 29 1977, Legendary American Songwriter and Recording Artist, Billy Joel, released an album titled, “The Stranger”. The title track of the album, whose intro sounds like the theme to a moody foreign film, includes the following lyrics…

Well we all have a face
That we hide away forever
And we take them out and
Show ourselves
When everyone has gone
Some are satin some are steel
Some are silk and some are leather
They’re the faces of the stranger
But we love to try them on

We all have self-doubt when preparing for a job interview.

I have at least one interview scheduled for this week, myself, and have been thinking about how I need to present myself to the interviewer(s), in order to put myself in line for a second interview.

I’ve been asking myself such questions as,

Okay. How can I ace this interview? Should I come off looking and sounding like Larry the Cable Guy or Gordon Gecko? Should I “wear the face of ‘The Stranger'”?

According to the experts over at careerbuilder.com,

Only if you are an actor trying out for a character role.

It is best to be honest about who you are and what you want from a job. Honesty will also create a better match between you and your new employer. What’s the sense of faking it through a series of job interviews, just to take a job you don’t like or that doesn’t suit you? You’ll just end up repeating the entire process as you look for yet another job!

In a business environment, it is best to be yourself. But remember, sometimes there is a fine line between “being yourself” and being “business appropriate.”

If your idea of being yourself is to show up to the corporate office like you just rolled out of bed, or if the “true you” has poor posture, MTV grammar (Yo!) and otherwise bad manners, then yes, perhaps you should fake it a bit!

Research shows that people make a judgment about you during the first 30 seconds of meeting you. During this time, you are assessed on your appearance, grooming, accessories, mannerisms and body language.

Michelle T. Sterling of Global Image Group notes, “Once the first impression is made, it is virtually irreversible. When you make a poor first impression, you lose your audience’s attention, no matter how hard you scramble to recover it.”

John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of global outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc., agrees that the first few minutes can make or break a job interview. For example, if the job candidate is late, it immediately creates an impression that you’re unprepared and perhaps a little careless.

“If the job seeker today does not come across as ready to work in every respect, the interviewer usually has nine more candidates to see before making a final decision,” he notes.

The trick is to learn to put your best foot forward. And be yourself… only better.

DO…

  • Dress up for your interview in professional business attire.
  • Exhibit good manners.
  • Pay attention to body language — maintain eye contact, smile.
  • Conceal tattoos and piercings that are obscene or distracting.
  • Leave the cell phone turned “off”.

DON’T…

  • Wear your favorite band T-shirt or flip flops.
  • Act arrogant or pompous.
  • Lie on your résumé — never bluff about degrees or work history.
  • Fake knowledge about an industry or topic.
  • Agree to job requirements you have no intent of fulfilling.

As I have always told employees, whom I have managed in the past,

You only have once chance to make a good first impression.

Part of that “good first impression”, is how you carry yourself…your personality.

While you do not want to appear too affable, you also do not want to appear to be as stiff as a mannequin in Macy’s Department Store.

Additionally, while you do not want to come off looking like Mick Jagger sashaying through a Hollywood Party, you don’t want to look like the late, great Don Knotts in “The Ghost and Mr. Chicken”, either.

The best way to answer interview questions about yourself is to be honest. As Popeye used to say.

I yam what I yam.

Trying to present yourself as someone you’re not, i.e., “the stranger”, may get you a job offer, but it may not be to your advantage in the long run.

You need to consider whether the job would work out in the long term if the position that you’re being offered does not match your personality and work style. Additionally, if this job is not what you actually have envisioned, regarding your next position and your next employer, then you are going to be miserable, and your  performance will suffer…along with your pocket book.

The late Martial Arts Master and Action Movie Star, Bruce Lee, once said,

Always be yourself, express yourself, have faith in yourself, do not go out and look for a successful personality and duplicate it.

Sounds like good advice to follow, huh?

Never give up. Never surrender.

-Allen

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