The surprising way to nail a job interview

We all know the adages of interviewing for a new job, like smiling throughout questions or preparing ahead of time. Many know the pain of fixing a bad interview. And the process is getting precise these days, down to sending thank yous or setting up virtual space. But surprising new research shows a simple way to interview well.

Be yourself.

A new study shows being yourself makes you a better standout! Going in (or online) as your authentic self, with wants and desires, instead of trying to be a perfect candidate you think the hiring manager is looking for is best. And the old way, schmoozing, can actually backfire. People in the study that did so compared to an authentic or control group felt drained and actually performed worse.

“Instead of trying to be all things to all people, you should cater your interview to make one person shine, yourself,” said Eileen Sharaga, a career consultant in New York City. She’s worked with Fortune 500 executives and career changers.

Why is this true?

Catering to what you think a recruiter wants by faking your talent or personality increases anxiety. And hiring managers pick up on your moods. And anxiety around work is not something you want to add during these already-stressful times working from home.

You also create a sense of being used, which makes you and your potential boss feel strange. You aren’t an instrument to be played, but a person looking to partner in work. When you try anything that feels false, it’s “detrimental to performance,” said researchers. This study stated, “Another study found that during organizational entry, experiencing authenticity by reflecting on one’s strengths predicted lower levels of turnover as compared to conditions that did not offer such opportunity for reflection.”

So how to be yourself? Sharaga, who has worked with Fortune 500 executives and career changers, said the key is knowing oneself. “If you want to find out what you should be doing you need to figure out who you are. It is about being yourself. But to be yourself you have to know yourself.”

This is the checklist she has people go through before they hit open on Zoom or walk-in.

Know yourself.

Know your goals.

Know your strengths.


Then here is her advice to really nail an interview, as a real person.

Do your research on the role you’re applying for and really evaluate it

“Finding the right career fit is part of many values, the context in which we want to work, the culture as well as any internal barriers. It’s very complicated,” Sharaga said. That means you have to be willing to see if the job you’re interviewing for is one that hits your goals, be it to pay the mortgage or to keep you from dozing at your desk. Read annual reports, overviews of descriptions on The Ladders and more.

“We’re in a very niche world today. Companies know exactly what they’re looking for. Try to ascertain what they’re looking for and figure out if you fit,” Sharaga added.

Fit your unique way of dealing with work into the job title

“Job titles are very misleading. Are you a data analytics person or a teaching style?” Sharaga added. Go into the interview well-researched, but be sure to press out what you’ve specifically done, like gone through a Python system and scraped out data to use in email capture, or managed a project redoing foundations by calling each person on previous work for blueprints.

Be very clear on what your skills are and what you’re willing to do

Sometimes interviewers ask trick questions about your worst mistake and so on to tease out your honesty. Be honest. And then follow up with what you’re actually good at.

Go over three types of skills. First review with each question over technical skills, like Excel or flipping burgers, whatever you’re good at. Then detail your adaptive skills, these are part of your personality. Add if you’re loyal or you’re willing to break rules. Then add your transferable skills, these are things like communications, which can apply to any job, or research.

Most of all, relax and be confident in yourself. You’ve got this!