When it comes to job interviews, there are thousands of articles (including many on this site) that can provide you advice on what to do to answer job interview questions.
If you carefully look at the advice, it is overwhelming — answer with energy, answer with powerful interview stories, use the right body language, answer short, answer long, take notes, don’t take notes, look at the hiring manager, don’t use a monotone voice, use statistics to back your claims, and stalk the manager. Well, actually, research the manager. The stalking part was to see if you were reading closely.
Seriously, if you were to put together a process flow of how to answer an interview question, it would be fifty pages long for the one minute it would take to answer the question.
In the days of social media, RSS feeds, and an Internet that gives millions the ability to give out advice, it isn’t just that there is a tremendous amount of information. Instead, much of the information conflicts with each other. Should your resume be one page? Two pages? How about five? Should you have a cover letter? Should you have an elevator speech or one that fits nicely on an escalator going up? Should you instantly be able to state your value proposition or should you just give your title and company if you are asked what you do?
It depends. All the stuff that is out there is tactics, tactics, and more tactics. Tactics are OK, of course. If you come here searching on how to answer the weakness interview question, that’s good. But it isn’t a strategy for answering questions; it is a cookbook recipe how-to way to answer a specific question. And recipes do not a chef make.
You can bury yourself in all the different ways to answer 100 interview questions or 1000 interview questions. You can get so caught up with getting the 500 different ways to answer questions down that you forget what value you bring to a hiring manager and a company. You can get so hung up on practicing that answer to the interview question that you practically forget why you are doing the interview.
You need to move up the perspective on all this by about 30,000 feet. Get to simple truths about interviews. Get away from tactics and start working strategy.
And the simplest strategy for interview questions is this: be yourself.
If you are a quiet person who always makes her goals, don’t be the loud, aggressive person answering the interview question. It comes off false and you won’t get hired.
If you have a big personality, don’t make it small answering interview questions. It makes the hiring manager question your assertiveness.
Don’t try and be someone you are not answering the questions. If you want to be someone different, work on it outside of the interview.
Once you decide to be yourself in an interview, you can go look at the tactics in a different light. Now you can incorporate the tactics into your personality and answer them your way. The authentic way, not the made up way that results in not getting hired.
Be yourself. All else comes from that.
Scot Herrick is the author of “I’ve Landed My Dream Job–Now What???” and owner of Cube Rules, LLC. Scot has a long history of management and individual contribution in multiple Fortune 100 corporations. In 2005, Scot started sharing these hard lessons at CubeRules.com, a site devoted to Career Advice for knowledge workers, whom he calls Cubicle Warriors.