If you’re going to invest time and effort putting yourself “out in the market”, it’s necessary to show who you are, both written and verbally. Obviously, there is a degree of artfulness in how to present yourself once know your audience.
In all that preparation of getting pushed onto the stage, what can get buried is your true timbre, that unique song.
Interviewers want to hear [and read] it, so it behooves a candidate to think about finding and using their genuine voice before the curtain rises.
But what does that really mean? Whether inside or outside the organisation, how do we sound like ourselves?
I think it comes from making a comfortable environment, by talking about what you truly know and not being flummoxed by what we don’t know (which is increasingly plenty..)
Authenticity of voice is nothing more than nosce te ipsum, and being politely proud of it:
- Acknowledge what you’re capable of, and be smart enough to know from what to steer clear.
- Have enough savvy to dial it down, and not say what “must be said.” That’s not only an inauthentic voice, it’s idiotic.
Through experience (exposure of many things); confidence (where you best fit); and relaxation (having options), a more authentic voice will usually surface when interviewing.
I have a friend who works for a well branded and rather hard charging MNC. She had an interesting story when she first interviewed there.
Sitting in one of the conference rooms, a stream of people came in and out to interview her. The third one was a man who walked in the room, plopped himself down in the chair, and simply said, “You can’t believe what a day I’ve been having so far. I’m Joe, by the way.”
Taken aback a bit, she looked over her schedule and didn’t see Joe’s name. Since he was sitting across from her, slouched, she thought it best to go with the flow rather than ask what the hell he was doing there. She had no idea who he was, but assumed he must be there for a reason, and said it was nice to meet.
Joe nodded, and went back to telling her about his day, talked almost non-stop about the projects he was working on. He asked few questions. What they did do was banter, and she had a hell of a good time; he would toss a remark at her, she’d lob it back. While she thought it a bit odd, she quite enjoyed the thrust and parry, more than the other earlier interviews. No formal protocol, just the back and forth of a lively exchange.
After nearly an hour, Joe thanked her and excused himself. Her next interview a few minutes later was with Jim, whose name was on the schedule..
“Was Joe just in here?” he asked her.
“Yes,” she replied, “We had a nice chat. I liked him a lot, but who is he? His name wasn’t on my list.”
“You didn’t know? Seriously? Joe’s the Chairman for Asia.”
Her heart completely sank. She had to immediately regroup to talk with Jim, and couldn’t stop thinking about she’d failed her interview with Joe, mentally kicking herself for never even asking what he did.
She finished all the interviews that day, went home and sulked. She replayed it all again; how she should have addressed the Chairman better and not been so easy-going in her comments, rethought it ad nauseam.
The coda: she was soon offered the job, accepted, and is still with the company. Joe [and the others] liked that voice of hers.
As she recounted the story to me, she was emphatic that had she known he was the Asia Chairman, she wouldn’t have had her authentic voice, nor the same sense of bravado or ease. It would have been her, but not the real voice coming through. And in hindsight, she is convinced that’s is why she got the offer. Joe had the wisdom to interview without making it even appear to be an interview, and knew exactly what he wanted.
So the next time you spruce yourself up to interview, know:
- what you do well, and be proud of it
- where you would [likely] fit best, and why
- as much as you can about the organisation, and don’t be overly focused on one opportunity only
- your short term objective is not to get a job, but to engage and gain another forward step
Channel your inner voice by being proud of what you’ve accomplished, which you can ONLY do if you know who you are.
A good interview is a lively and informative conversation. If it’s a Q&A, you’re in the wrong place. It’s you or them. One can be modified, the other not. Think it over before you head in, and enjoy it.
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