ImageToday was the day of the dreaded job interview. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I love talking about myself as much as the next person. Probably more. Unless, of course, the next person is Katie Price. I do have some limits.

But there’s something about the enforced formality of the situation that gets my blood pressure on the rise. Perhaps it’s the fact that the pressure is on to apply the brain filter for a whole hour, pretend to be a proper grown up and not blurt out ridiculous stories about my school days and spending time at the local swimming pool, which had a wave machine. Not that I actually managed to avoid those particular topics today, but you get the idea.

Obviously the primary nerve-inducing element of most interviews is the pressure to successfully secure the job. This can lead to the interviewee concentrating on the professional aspects of their lives – skills, experience, responsibility, etc. All obviously very important to clearly express during an interview, and undoubtedly key factors in the interviewers’ decision-making process on your suitability for the role.

But I feel that failing to allow a little of your personality out might be selling yourself short. Most employers don’t expect their staff to be automatons, an error free package of work-related skills and abilities applied robotically to any situation flawlessly and emotionlessly. It is increasingly becoming just as important to demonstrate that you are a good “cultural fit” to a particular team or organisation as to demonstrate that your skills are relevant to the role.

That can mean letting your professional guard down a bit and letting the interviewers in on a little of your personality. Show them you have hobbies or other outside interests, for example, indicating you’re a well-rounded individual, or perhaps casually mention your wife/husband/family, demonstrating your work-life balance. Share a little evidence of your good sense of humour. Though go carefully here – simply quoting knock knock jokes may not confirm that your sense of humour falls into the “good” category. Worse still, a full on Bernard Manning routine may not be the thing that seals the deal on the job offer!

I once received feedback from a former line manager that I hadn’t actually cracked a single smile during the whole interview, and it was only when she lead me down the corridor to the room in which I was to sit a test that I allowed one to pass my lips. I’m naturally a very smiley person, especially when I’m a bit nervous, so I was really surprised to hear that. I suppose I was focussing so much on not showing my nerves that I blocked out all my little tell-tales signs, but inadvertently went a bit too far with the smiles! The feedback was that they weren’t sure whether I was right for the team until I relaxed and let slip a smile in the corridor, because they just hadn’t got a sense of my personality from the interview.

These days, therefore, I try consciously to leave interviewers not just with an understanding of my suitability for the technical aspects of a role, but also with a sense of my personality. I work hard, but I like to have fun too and I believe that people and teams are far more effective when they are able to be themselves and have a sense of camaraderie in the workplace.

So I feel comfortable – and, indeed, justified – letting my guard down a little more during interviews nowadays. Which is my excuse for telling daft swimming pool based anecdotes, and I’m sticking to it!

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