One of the best ways to prepare for a job interview is to predict as many questions as possible and prepare your answers in advance. Employers like to put prospective candidates under pressure with difficult questions like – ‘What are your 5 weaknesses?’ (If you’ve struggled in the past with answering that question we have prepared a few answers for you here – 5 proven ways to answer ‘what are your weaknesses?’ in a job interview.)
Planning ahead is essential if you want to ace a job interview, but have you ever thought about how to bring your personality into the mix? The whole interview process is a very formal affair, and when the hiring manager spends the whole week or even month conducting interviews, it’s a good idea to stray from convention.
The manager may be fortunate enough to find numerous candidates who tick all the right boxes and answer the interview questions perfectly. So what will ultimately help them to make a decision on whom to hire?
The answer is simple: your personality. If you can connect with the interviewer on a more personal level rather than keeping everything perfectly professional, you stand a much better chance of getting hired. Remember, the manager will also be considering how you will fit into the team and get along with them and other employees
Someone who has a bright, funny, engaging, confident personality is always more likely to get hired than someone who is quiet, shy, reserved, and answers all the questions like a robot.
“An interview is as much about selling your personality as it is extolling your professional work experience and talent.”
~ Lisa McQuerrey, Chron
“If [employers] find a candidate who has less experience than their competition, but has stronger growth potential and seems to be a better cultural fit, the employer may feel encouraged to hire that person.”
~ Edward Fleischman, chief executive officer of full-service recruitment and staffing agency Execu Search.
To give you that extra push over the finishing line, here are 3 ways to bring out your personality in a job interview:
Tell a story
Think about a time during work where something funny or strange happened. Telling a work related story during the interview is a great way to cut the tension. Plan this story out in advance and attempt to seamlessly insert it into the interview when questioned about your work history.
A word of caution however: the story needs to be appropriate and not controversial in any way. Don’t bring up something political or religious as you will risk offending the interviewer. Make sure you also keep it quite short and to the point, as you don’t want to ramble on and bore the interviewer. Try out your story with a friend or partner to see how they react beforehand.
The strategy of telling a story during a job interview carries some risk, but if you get it right, it can pay off big. If you’re happy that the story will help break the formal mood and get a few chuckles, then go for it. You will often find that one of the interviewers will get drawn into your story and give you one of their own. Before you know it you’ll be chatting away like you’re two friends in the pub.
Find out more about telling a good story in your job interview here: ‘The Interview Technique You Should Be Using‘ (by Lily Zhang for the Muse)
Talk about your hobbies
Be sure to mention any hobbies that might benefit the employer!
If you have an interesting hobby like playing in a band or racing remote controlled aeroplanes on the weekend, then you have another great conversation starter. Not every employer will be interested in asking questions about your hobbies, but there is a better chance it will happen if you write a good hobbies section.
Most job seekers don’t realise how important hobbies can be to a CV (find out more in our article ‘How important are hobbies to a CV?’). They can add bonus value by subtly linking back to the relevant soft skills an employer is looking for in a candidate. For example, if the role requires great communication skills and you are the captain of your local sports team, then this is the perfect opportunity to prove you have what it takes. You wouldn’t have been elected as the captain if you didn’t have great communication skills!
Another potential benefit can be gained from hobbies that would benefit the employer. For example, photography or copywriting skills could be used by the employer to help them further their website and marketing efforts.
There are three ways that you can get into a conversation about your hobbies. The first is the easy one: when they ask you about them.
The second opportunity could be created when you are asked about your skills. If the interviewer is clearly digging to find out more about a certain soft skill, you could consider diverting them to your hobby as evidence of that skill, in addition to providing further information on your work history.
The third way applies to hobbies that might benefit the employer. For example, a paralegal might mention that they enjoy blogging and provide a sample or two of their work, mentioning that they’d be pleased to write for the firm.
Take advantage of demonstrating your personality by talking passionately about your hobbies. It may be that the interviewer shares the same or similar interests and you earn even more brownie points. Even if they don’t, the fact that you’re so passionate and dedicated to something shows you’re capable of showing the same devotion to your job.
Finally, if your hobbies don’t align with the role in any way, don’t neglect them entirely – a small mention could lead to a deep conversation which may be a welcome break for the interviewer after a long day of asking the same questions over and over.
Ask the interviewer a question
“This seems like a great area to work in – do you use the sandwich bar at the end of the street?”
A job interview isn’t just a one way street, and asking your own questions is an important part of the process. If you’re unsure of what questions to ask, visit our article – Questions to ask at an interview. In addition to asking about the role and the company, you should also consider asking an informal question to break the ice.
Job interviews are very stressful and tense experiences and it will help you to settle in quicker if you start with a little conversation. The interviewer might ask you how you got here, if you live far away, if you’ve managed to park easily, and so on.
Those early ice-breaker questions are designed to help you with nerves right at the start, so take advantage of this and don’t be afraid to break into conversation. You can get off to a great start by engaging in these questions and in addition, asking your own. A job interview isn’t always just about yourself, and the hiring manager will be presently surprised if you ask them something too. Where do they usually park? Do they have to travel far to work? Which football team do they support? Do they ever hold meetings at the cosy pub you noticed that’s just around the corner? A little chit chat like this can really help bring out your personality and distinguish you from other candidates with similar qualifications.