I had a conversation with a friend recently who told me that interviewing is like acting and he won’t take any part in it. He refuses to network or sell himself and he was unwilling to budge on creating a personal narrative that was persuasive and upbeat. To him, being able to do the job is more important than being able to interview well. He doesn’t want to be forced to sell himself. He simply wants to be hired on his merits not his ability to interview.
As an ex-recruiter and now Career Coach, I have seen this approach play out in interviews. It comes across as smug, defiant and arrogant. I don’t know about you but I don’t want anyone to think those things about me and not many people will hire someone who acts like that. Aside from being able to articulate why you’re the the best man for the job hiring managers are looking for someone they like and someone who “gets it.” Your ability to do the job won’t get you hired, your ability to interview well will.
For some this feels like “acting” because they are uncomfortable selling themselves. I say, “If you can’t sell yourself, who will?” It’s the most important part of getting the job and I agree with my friend it has nothing to do with your ability to do the job but everything to do with getting the job.
You see, in order to interview well you must use a different skill set than the one you use to do the job, you need to use emotional intelligence. In Daniel Goleman’s groundbreaking book Emotional Intelligence, Why it can matter more than IQ he writes, “People who make an excellent first impression, for example, are adept at monitoring their own expression of emotion, are keenly attuned to the ways others are reacting, and so are able to continually fine-tune their social performance, adjusting it to make sure they are having the desired effect. In that sense, they are like skilled actors.”
My friend is on to something, he probably has seen a few of his less qualified friends get jobs purely on their “acting abilities.” Some people are so adept at making an impression or getting people to like them that they become what Goleman calls “social chameleons, who don’t’ mind saying one thing and doing another if it will win them social approval” i.e. getting the job and that does happen all too often, leaving my friend annoyed and distrustful of the hiring process. Which in turn has affected his performance in interviews.
I encouraged my friend to use his emotional intelligence to stay true to himself without isolating his audience. Interviewing I told him, isn’t about telling someone what they want to hear because you have no idea what someone wants to hear. It’s about highlighting the best version of you in the most authentic way possible. Goleman goes on to say, “If interpersonal abilities are not balanced by an astute sense of one’s own needs and feelings and how to fulfill them, they can lead to a hollow social success- a popularity won at the cost of one’s true satisfaction.”
There is hope for my friend who is stubborn and would rather interview like a jerk than a “social chameleon” because he already has the capacity to be “true to himself, which allows acting in accord with one’s deepest feelings and values no matter what the social consequence.” Such emotional integrity will lead him to landing the right job because he will be unwilling to settle for something that isn’t in line with what he wants, but in order to get what he wants he must soften his edges and use his emotional intelligence in the service of good rather than evil. He must shift into balance.