How Do I Bring My Best Self to an Interview?

October 25, 2021

By Lisa McNeill

I’m not a Career Coach in the traditional sense, however I often have clients who are in the process of searching for a new job, thinking about a career change, and/or looking for new opportunities for growth and leadership. 

Currently, I’m working with two clients who are actively interviewing, another who has just stepped into an acting CEO role, and an entrepreneur who is building relationships with advisors and partners.

It’s easy, in these kinds of circumstances, to question oneself. Do I have the right skills? Do I have the experience they are looking for? Can I do this job? Will I fit into the team and organization? Will they like me?

On top of all this, some of my clients suffer from what is termed “Imposter Syndrome;” my colleague Diane Shannon wrote an excellent piece on this topic several months ago. I’ve had clients say, “I know that my experience and resume say that I should be able to do this job, but I feel like a fake.”

Or, “I’ve never held this position/title before, so why would they hire me?” And yet, as we look at the job description against their resume, I encourage my clients to see that the experience and skills are there (and if employers hired only those who had held the same position in the past, no one would be able to retire or change careers!).   

My main messaging and work with clients around preparing for an interview and/or meetings where you are the focus, is to bring awareness of how you want to be seen:

What are the skills, experiences, values, and gifts you want to make sure you lead with so that, when the meeting is over, that’s what they remember about you?

Here are some things to consider when prepping for an interview or a meeting where “you” are the subject:

  • Review the job description responsibilities and qualifications (or the subject of the meeting) in relation to your resume/cv. Where does your experience shine?  How does your experience relate to the position or opportunity?
  • Research the company or organization to determine if this is the kind of place you want to work or be associated with.  Do you share the organization’s mission and values, and how can you demonstrate that in the meeting?
  • Identify stories that illustrate your experience in order to have examples ready to respond to questions.  Also, by re-living the experience, you can put it into the present and see how it is relevant to the current opportunity. How would that experience relate to what is needed for the current opportunity?
  • Think about your leadership style, values, and what you want to demonstrate during the meeting. How do you want to be seen, and how do you want to start the relationship with people you may work with (at all levels)?
  • Find someone, a coach or a trusted advisor, to talk through these things. Practice talking about your experience, skills, and style so that it feels authentic to you. Don’t be afraid to question something while you are prepping so you can feel comfortable if and when it comes up during the interview or meeting. Sometimes it takes another person to see your strengths and/or to give a different perspective on what is needed for a particular position.   
  • Recognize that talking about your experience, skills, and strengths is not boasting.  If you don’t talk about these things, who will?  And how will the interviewer(s) know who you are?  Practice talking about your strengths so that it feels comfortable to you—not as bragging or “proving yourself,” but owning your experience.
  • For those with Imposter Syndrome, once you have reviewed the job description and feel like you have the experience, skills, and potential to do the job, continue to tell yourself (out loud), “I have the experience to do this job, and I can bring a lot to this position.”  I know it sounds trite, but it is a good way to combat that imposter feeling and its voice in your head.

Maya Angelou said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” If you lead with an understanding and appreciation for your own skills vis a vis the opportunity before you, and with a sense of your leadership style and values, you will allow the interviewer to feel your sense of confidence. That is what people will remember. More importantly, if you feel it, that is what you will remember. 

The last thing I offer my clients? Once the interview or meeting is done, it’s done. We can be our own worst enemy by second guessing answers, trying to find meaning in an interviewer’s response or body language, or realizing we left something out. We can think of a hundred perfect responses to questions given enough time and then beat ourselves up for not thinking of them in the spur of the moment.

These feelings can increase as time goes by while waiting for news. Let it go. If you think something is really important that you forgot to say, or you want to correct something you said, put it in a thank you letter, and then let it go.

I can’t count the number of times someone has said, “I don’t think I did well” or “I’m not sure they liked me” only to find out they got a second interview, received a job offer, a person agreed to be an advisor, or the impossible became possible.  It may not always work out, but if you bring your best self, and if it was meant for you, most likely it will be yours.  As my Aunt Lillian used to say, “What’s for you won’t go by you.”

There is so much joy when an interview goes well and a client reaches out to say, “I felt like I was able to focus on what matters,” or “I know I brought my best self, and I feel good about that. I think I have a good shot at it, but whatever happens happens.” 

Because that’s what it’s all about, bringing our best selves to the opportunities that are for us.

Lisa McNeill is an ICF-certified coach and consultant who works with leaders in a wide array of industries as well as those in transition. Throughout her career, she has worked to build and develop strong teams in international to grassroots settings.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

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