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Professionalism or Personality? A How-To for Your Interview

When you’re preparing for a job interview, one of the most frustrating pieces of advice that people might give you is “be yourself.” Here are some tips on how to make sure your personality matches the place you want to work.

When you’re preparing for a job interview, one of the most frustrating pieces of advice that people might give you is “be yourself.”

Better advice would be to act like the type of person the interviewer would want to be around for several hours (or more) per day. Many of us spend more time with our colleagues – virtually or in-person – than we do with some of our immediate family members in a given week. That’s why a personality fit is so important.

Here are some tips on how to make sure your personality matches the place you want to work:

Conduct research

Information is power, especially before job interviews. Talk to people who work at the company about what the culture is like – is it supportive, demanding, competitive and other similar questions. Will the interviewer(s) be looking for someone who is very positive and nurturing, or are they most concerned about technical know-how?

If you don’t know anyone who works there, try to reach out via LinkedIn. Maybe one of your connections knows someone and can make an introduction. Or, if you’re using a recruiter, see if they can share more information.

You can also learn a lot from the company’s website and social media. For example, if you’re applying for a nursing position, does the healthcare organization have online profiles of some of its nurses to give you an idea of the type of people who work there? Are there social media posts that show how nurses are supported and celebrated and reflect their personalities?

If there is something that stands out about the business and its culture, be sure to mention it during the interview. That will show the interviewer that you did your homework. 

Watch your non-verbal cues

A big part of interview preparation is preparing for the questions you’re likely to face. But it’s often how you answer questions that can determine whether interviewers get a positive connection with you.

For example, if you’re calm, confident and personable during the interview, it’s more enjoyable to talk with you. The interviewer will likely relax and be ready to engage with you in a conversation. You can show confidence and attention by sitting up, making eye contact, using appropriate hand gestures and being responsive throughout.

If you’re defensive, in a slouched position and not looking at the interviewer, it could create an atmosphere of discomfort. It might make the interviewer wonder whether you want to be there.

You want to show your passion, which can be communicated by being engaged and speaking in a clear, strong voice. Your tone needs to be professional, though – try not to shout as if you’re announcing a sporting event.

Since many interviews are being conducted via video conference, be sure to practice your questions and answers in front of a camera. Look at how you react, and that will give you a real picture of what’s working and what you need to improve.

Listen

Understanding and following instructions is a vital part of any job. The first test to see if you can do that effectively is during your interview.

You might be anxious to talk a lot about yourself, why you want to do the job, etc., but your first priority is to make sure this is a conversation between you and the interviewer. When you’re asked a question, you don’t need to ponder it as intensely as if you were on the stand in a courtroom but do make sure you give yourself a chance to organize your thoughts.

When you answer in a detailed, yet concise way, the interviewer will likely appreciate that you’ve given the question the seriousness it deserves.

Tell stories

You don’t have to be a master storyteller to do well in an interview. Instead, be able to connect your key points in a clear and organized fashion. The better you communicate your skills and accomplishments, the more likely the interviewer will understand and appreciate the experience and perspective you bring to the job.

The goal is to bring to life the lines on your resume. You’ve likely heard that resumes are boring. But when done well, they give the interviewer the highlights of your experience. The interview is the time to show your passion for the job opening and career.

For example, if you’re interviewing for a medical billing position and can discuss how you resolved a difficult consumer complaint or insurance compensation issue, it makes your experience more real. Now the interviewer can picture you succeeding in that role and that can help you stand out among a field of candidates.

Ask questions

Even if you’re reluctant to ask questions, you still need to bring some up during the interview. This is another way to show you care enough about this job and the prospective employer to find out more information.

Asking good questions about the position and employer is an ideal way to show you are interested. But don’t act like they are on trial – ask the questions in the flow of conversation or when you have a chance at the end.

Take notes

You’ll want to bring a notepad to the interview for two reasons – to have a record of the points you want to make and questions you want to ask and to write notes about important parts of the discussion.

You might wonder why this is important. After all, you don’t need to write a report on your discussion after it’s over.

But just the act of taking good notes shows you’re interested in the job and the company. Be judicious – only write down important points. For example, the interviewer might mention a new product or service that’s relevant or an aspect of the job that you hadn’t anticipated.

If you’re fortunate, the notes will come in handy to help you decide between one job offer or another!

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Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook. Multiple factors, including prior experience, age, geography and degree field, affect career outcomes. Herzing does not guarantee a job, promotion, salary increase or other career growth. BLS estimates do not represent entry-level wages and/or salary.

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