Last week’s #SAChat conversation centered on the on-campus interview process. The questions and concerns of #SAGrads and those in #SASearch mode were complemented perfectly by the advice of #SAPros.
As a Final Thought for this conversation, I encouraged those currently in the midst of #SASearch (myself included) to do two things — 1) be yourself and 2) know yourself.
FT: Be yourself, know yourself — those two things will provide the interviewers with what they need to know! #sachat
— Ashley Crisp (@aecrisp) April 16, 2015
I don’t claim to be an expert on either of these things. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. I try new things, fail at new things, and realize new things about myself, my work, and my interests every single day. I am still figuring all of these things out as a new #SAPro, but I find I am more relatable in an interview (and more true to myself) if I am honest and open about who I am in an interview.
We all assume we are doing this anyway, right? It’s a simple idea in theory, but I really think it takes a lot of critical thinking, reflection, and concentrated effort to apply it to interview questions. A great interview question response isn’t just how you handled a situation. It’s the principle behind it — why did you handle it that way? What does that say about your personality and your working style?
For me, I bring everything back to my values as a person and as a professional — I value honesty, personal responsibility, open-mindedness, and creativity. And, after some solo interview debriefing, I came to realize that those are admirable (and flexible) explanations of who I am and how I operate.
This piece took a lot longer to click for me. I knew what I valued and how to be myself — I do it every day! But knowing myself came across as a separate task entirely. Would I like working on a team or independently? Did I really want to stay in student activities or were my goals more oriented to an advising position? Do I want to move across the country? I started off thinking I could tackle any job, any place, with any challenges. Why not approach this from the ‘open minded perspective’ — after all, I value that, right?
While I did, I also had to eventually make a list of what was a priority, what was non-negotiable, and what could go either direction. Only then did I really feel like I had a handle on Knowing Myself. Admitting what you are open to as well as what you are not is pivotal — it sounds selfish, but it also indicates you have spent time and consideration on your future. That’s not selfish, that benefits everyone when you are seeking a good fit!
As an #SAGrad, I spent an excessive amount of time figuring out how to ‘sell’ myself in an interview. I wanted to be the perfect fit and the perfect candidate for every single position that I got an interview for. After all, the bills have to be paid. I wasn’t concerned about what the job was, as long as I landed one. It took about a dozen phone interviews and a handful of on-campus interviews to get comfortable with who I was and actually expressing that. It was a struggle to give myself the opportunity to even consider the possibility that a job I applied for wasn’t for me. The one interview that I finally got the hang of “Being Myself” resulted in an offer. Hurrah! This philosophy was paying off! Ironically, it was also the interview in which I realized what “Knowing Myself” really entailed — and that I knew I wasn’t really that interested this particular student activities position. I would not be happy in the city, in the position, or in my personal life. So, I turned down the offer. I have never regretted this decision.
Embrace the opportunity to be yourself. Take the time to know yourself. If you can pull off both of those things, any interview question can be tackled with a meangingful answer from you that resonates who you are and what you stand for.