“Just be yourself.” How many times have you heard that phrase uttered before a job interview, media appearance, or even a blind date? As it turns out this is not just a friendly platitude, designed to make us feel better–but a scientific certainty.
According to a new study recently published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, high-quality candidates who strive to present themselves accurately during the interview process significantly increase their likelihood of receiving a job offer.
Dr. SunYoung Lee, from the UCL School of Management, explained in ScienceDaily:
“People are often encouraged to only present the best aspects of themselves at interviews so they appear more attractive to employers, but what we’ve found is that high-quality candidates–the top 10 percent–fare much better when they present who they really are. Unfortunately, the same isn’t true for poorer quality candidates who can actually damage their chances of being offered the job by being more authentic.”
The study by UCL, Bocconi University, Hong Kong Polytechnic University, and London Business School focused on how self-verifying behaviors (which is the desire to be known and understood by others according to one’s firmly held beliefs and feelings about oneself) can have a positive impact on the interpersonal impressions we make on others in the hiring process.
The key? Presenting all of ourselves–not just the good parts.
“In a job interview, we often try to present ourselves as perfect,” says lead author, Dr. Celia Moore of Bocconi University (also in ScienceDaily) Our study proves this instinct wrong. Interviewers perceive an overly polished self-representation as inauthentic and potentially misrepresentative. But ultimately, if you are a high-quality candidate, you can be yourself on the job market. You can be honest and authentic. And if you are, you will be more likely to get a job.”
The study revealed, among other things, that candidates with a strong self-verification drive tended to talk about themselves in a more fluid way and were viewed as being more authentic and less misrepresentative. How can you improve your degree of authenticity in an interview?
Try these three simple strategies:
1. Don’t over-rehearse.
Should you prepare for possible questions you may be asked in an interview? Of course.
But I’ve coached people who thought their best bet was to memorize word for word the exact response they would give for each likely question. Knowing the general points you want to make is fine, but the robotic repeating of responses will diminish your authenticity.
It’s near impossible to come across as relaxed and authentic when you’re in hyper-vigilant mode waiting for the next question to come up.
2. Use the pause liberally.
Don’t let the pressure to produce a good answer lead you down the garden path of gabbing on about, well, nothing. Give yourself the space to pause and reflect on the question you are asked before you answer.
And no matter what, don’t try to cover up for a question you don’t know the answer to. Stop, think about it, and don’t be afraid to say “I don’t know” or “I’m not sure.” In the end, thoughtful responses, not clever quips, are what show you at your best.
3. Know what your purpose is and where your passion lies.
It’s easy to fall into the habit of answering the most common interview questions with pat, uninspired answers that technically do the job–but are unlikely to land you one. Think about these common five interview questions, and come up with an authentic answer for each that speaks to your purpose and/or passion.
The questions to consider include:
- Why do you want to work here?
- What makes you a good person for this job?
- What are the biggest strengths you bring to the company?
- What are your professional challenges and/or weaknesses?
- Tell me about a challenging situation you have faced in the past and how you handled it?
Feeling confident in your ability to respond with authenticity to the above questions will go a long way towards setting you up for success when interviewing. But if all else fails, just remember these words of wisdom from writer Oscar Wilde:
“Be yourself, everyone else is already taken.”
This article originally appeared on Inc.com.