When I was 19 my brother and I lived in a third story apartment in a low-income housing complex. Sometimes, when my adolescent male reasoning skills got the better of me, I would put on a pair of old cowboy boots I inherited from an uncle and go down to Smith’s, the grocery store nearest to our apartment. Upon arriving, I would walk to the liquor section and put a four-pack of Bartles & James in those cowboy boots, one on each side of my ankle, and hobble out.
And sometimes, when I got home to that same apartment, a young family on the first floor would be grilling food. More than once I snatched a pork chop off the grill and ran up to the third floor, where my brother and I would share the stolen meat.
How does this story tie into professional topics like a job interview?
One day I realized that this was no way to live. I was not on a path to one day afford my own pork chops and Bartles & James. So I eventually went to college, and built a career.
Is this is a story that someone should share, where it is searchable by current and future employers?
I think it is.
The Real Me vs. the Job Interview Me
For almost a year I’ve shared stories about my family and I, and how we all got where we are. I’m proud of who I am, and the people who helped me get the opportunities I’ve gotten. That path has not always been smooth, and includes several mistakes and bad decisions.
It includes stolen wine coolers and ill-gotten pork chops.
But the amazing thing is, since I started sharing these stories, my professional opportunities and network have exploded. The paths available to the real me seem to far outnumber the paths available to what I like to call the “job interview me”. The job interview me might write about some buzzworthy business topic in the same way that thousands of other people write about it.
And no one would listen.
The real me wrote about my dad, who I love a lot, and the challenges he had finding a job after he was laid off. I hoped others could learn from it. And a lot of people listened. I gained some genuine friends, my network grew, and I obtained additional consulting opportunities.
My writing experience taught me that people want to hear from the real you far more than the Job Interview You.
Look-Alikes and Sound-Alikes
The Job Interview You has your job interview voice, and your job interview clothes. The Job Interview You has read articles on what to say in a job interview. The Job Interview You has researched the company and visited their website. The Job Interview You is ready and prepared to tell the interviewer what you think they want to hear.
The Job Interview Someone Else has done all of those things too.
So you can look like everyone else, and sound like everyone else, and use the same buzzwords and terminology as everyone else. If everyone does that, the choice for who gets the job can come down to the seemingly arbitrary reasons many hiring decisions get made.
Or, you can be the real you, and stand out. You may or may not get the job, but if you don’t you can take comfort in the fact that it probably wasn’t going to last anyway. If they didn’t want the real you after the interview, they weren’t going to want the real you when that version of you finally shone through.
The truth is that there is no such thing as “being authentic”. You’re either inauthentic, or you’re just the real you. Warts and all.
The next time an interviewer asks about a weakness, a regret, or something you’ve learned, share something real. Share a piece of you. I have, and in a year the opportunities available to me have changed dramatically.
So here goes:
I use to have a weakness for stolen Peach Sunrise wine coolers and pork chops. I learned that a surprising amount of stuff can fit into a cowboy boot, and that your ankles and fingertips can withstand more punishment than you think.
And I regret that my brother and I grew apart, and can’t share the wine coolers and pork chops I now come by honestly.
(Though, honestly, they don’t taste as good.)
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