“Be yourself, everyone else is already taken” ~ Oscar Wilde
Whilst we’re not all sales professionals, all of us at some point have found ourselves in a position where we are required to sell ourselves. It’s true we can all study sales tips and tricks, follow interview guides, speak with conviction, prepare notes and I’d never advise anyone against doing any of those things… but for me the key to selling yourself is about making sure the story that you tell others about who you are is the same as the story you tell yourself. That’s where you’ll harness the power of authenticity, and give an entirely different experience to the person, or people sat opposite you.
“It’s easy to fall into the trap of manufacturing answers to questions you expect to be asked…”
One of the hardest parts of being authentic is that a job interview is often one of the most unnatural places you’ll find yourself in. Interview questions and scenarios are usually architected to unearth certain answers or pieces of information and uncover gaps in your knowledge as well as peaks and areas of strength.
It’s easy when preparing for an interview to fall into the trap of manufacturing answers to questions you expect to be asked, forging sentences and trying to remember them word for word, predicting what someone wants you to say and how they want you to say it and then regurgitating it in a voice that isn’t your own. But that’s not interviewing, that’s acting!
So how do we prepare, and how do we remain authentic?
“Focus on what you can control, own your strengths and put them to work”
For me it starts and ends with self-awareness. In order to achieve absolute harmony and alignment in terms of your inner self, and the person you project outwardly in an interview, you’ll need to understand perfectly your own knowledge, skill, and everything else you can bring to the table just by being you. By doing this you’re embracing uncertainty and laying a platform to prepare for a range of scenarios.
I’m a big listener of podcasts – they often provide the most authentic and transparent way of delving into a subject or issue – vague agenda, no prompts, just the unadorned flow of conversation underpinned and cultivated by knowledge and expertise. If there’s one thing we can all be an expert on, it’s ourselves and this is what we can leverage to set us apart.
Make it your goal to channel the same energy and rhythm you might find from an expert speaking freely on a chosen subject in your interview, and use your self-awareness to prepare for any eventuality and range of technical, or competency based questions the same way you might if you were being asked by a friend.
“Identifying weaknesses are key to long-term professional development, improvement and building trust”
It’s also important to understand your weaknesses. While you don’t want to be self-deprecating, honesty is currency, so invest wisely. Being willing to critically examine your own mistakes and strategise changes for next time is possibly the biggest key to long-term professional development, improvement and building trust. Not to mention being crucial for illustrating your integrity and authenticity in an interview.
I should probably throw in the disclaimer that nothing you’ll read here is anything you don’t already know and aren’t able to work out for yourself. Authenticity isn’t necessarily something you can directly apply any value too, and although it might not be something you can always see, it’s always something you can feel.
Think about the truly authentic people in the world, leaders and pioneers, people who opened your eyes to something new and made you think or feel a different way… Conor McGregor changed the landscape of an entire sport, Lady Gaga opened millions of eyes to fashion almost accidentally despite making her name in a different industry altogether, and Elon Musk was named the most influential and inspirational leader in technology, all by being totally, explicitly and unapologetically themselves, however daunting that may seem.
Now whilst I’m by no means suggesting you jump into the octagon or rock up to an interview wearing a dress made from raw flank steak… work out exactly who you are and let that be your greatest strength.