It might sound radical, but new research in the Journal of Applied Psychology indicates being yourself in a job interview is a good idea. This counter-intuitive piece of advice may come as a surprise, because interviews are the last place most applicants would think being yourself is an advantage. Yet, it turns out it can make a difference—authentic job applicants are more likely to get hired.
Being authentic, refers to when a job applicant acts in accordance with their true-self. They express themselves in ways consistent with their inner thoughts and feelings. The purpose is to self-verify, which means presenting yourself accurately. The goal is to get others to understand you, in the same way you understand yourself, and it feels really good. People want others to understand them. It leads to greater wellbeing, less anxiety and better relationships, and in a job interview, it can give you an edge.
Job interviews can put applicants between a rock and a hard place. Many feel compelled to put their best foot forward by inventing or exaggerating their experience, skills or accomplishments, or leaving things out. They might conceal previous problems they’ve had with employers, or hide negative traits. So, it’s safe to say that being inauthentic is fairly common in job interviews. But this simply means that being authentic makes you stand out, and more likely to get offered the job. Also, being authentic can help you avoid getting jobs you would have disliked.
Don’t forget, employers exaggerate how great jobs are as well. They may omit information about their company, especially things they don’t want applicants to know. So, if an employer is misrepresenting a job or the organization, being authentic might help ferret that out. If there’s a high turnover problem at the company, and you reveal you work well on intact teams, you’ve told a high turnover company you won’t do well in an unstable environment.
It’s all about connection
Authentic job applicants develop a genuine emotional connection with the interviewer. There’s warmth and a sense of competence in the interaction. They reveal things about themselves in an honest way by being direct and answering questions completely. They don’t omit things, conceal relevant experiences or falsify their history. They show they are self-reflective and they describe what they think when answering questions. They’re straight forward about how they feel and explain why they think things occur in their answers.
Authentic job applicants share personal thoughts and feelings appropriately. The researchers in this study gave a great example. They talked about two applicants who were applying for a Manager job at a restaurant. The more authentic applicant answered a question about whether she would be a good fit. She told the interviewer: “I think working with people is one of the biggest parts that I’m attracted to, being a manager and being able to not only work with customers of a restaurant, but also working with the teams and being able to create a really great dynamic in a restaurant (is important).”
The less authentic applicant answered: “Yes, I do (think I’d be a good fit). I’ve got high interest in the restaurant industry. I think my organizational ability will bring a lot to this restaurant.” The first applicant gave more details and sounded engaged. The second sounded terse and less sophisticated.
Plus, authentic applicants recognize they’re more likely to be happy and successful if they let the interviewer know who they are. So, if it’s not the right fit they can find something more suitable. They use their authenticity to weed out companies they wouldn’t want to work at.
Authenticity may not land you the job, though…
The best time to be authentic in a job interview is if you’re a top contender. If it’s down to you and a few others, being authentic could get you the job. Remember, everyone else is trying to mimic what they think is the ideal candidate. Being authentic makes you stand out. Everyone is pretty much equal when it comes to the objective requirements of the job. They all have the necessary technical skills, education or experience to be contenders. So, the ability to be authentic can net a job offer, especially in a close race.