Students: In Interviews, These Four Areas Of Focus Beat “Perfection” Every Time – Part 1
Don’t be perfect. Be You.
Recently, I sat on a panel of professionals at an event held for students from the University of Hartford’s Barney School of Business. The panel was part of a series of career-oriented events welcoming the students back to campus after winter break.
The overall goal of the event was to get the students thinking about how to stand out from the crowd while interviewing for either internships or jobs.
In addition to my leadership coaching background, the balance of the panel was comprised of talent acquisition specialists and human resource professionals from various companies, backgrounds, and industries.
“If you’re open to the idea and habit of getting better, that’s almost half the battle journey.”
Taking advantage of our collective experience in professional development and hiring, the students posed various questions regarding their own approach to job hunting and interview preparation, including:
- What do companies look for?
- Are extra-curricular activities important?
- What advice do you have for someone who is graduating soon?
- What will differentiate me from others?
These were all great questions. And, in addition to the questions, each of the panelists would also introduce new lines of thinking the rest of us would build upon. So, the dialogue between the panel and the students kept evolving and building.
But, honestly, there was no way to address any of the students’ questions without touching upon one other major issue. It’s the one thing that always comes up in the course of coaching students in interviewing and professional development. And it tends to come up regardless of whether they state it explicitly or not.
It’s the self-made pressure they feel to be perfect.
Luckily, the consensus on the panel was to steer the conversation toward the need to understand that no one is going to have it all together as the perfect package.
Each panelist addressed that undue self-pressure by the candidate, which can actually derail that person’s efforts and goals. In fact, the need to reassess that pressure took over the bulk of the conversation during the panel discussion.
First of all, such an unreasonable expectation – perfection — cannot be met, whether the expectation is your own or that of the interviewer or company.
No one is perfect.
“You can’t cover everything. Don’t try to connect so many perceived possible points of perfection that it hinders your vision.”
Another panelist then spoke on the topic from the interviewing company’s point of view — the panelist’s own — by stating professionals in her position doing the interviewing should also not expect the candidate to be perfect. That’s because the hypothetical “perfect” candidate would have all the knowledge needed for the job, leaving no room or flexibility for development and learning. They would lack an open mind, the main resource pertinent to professional evolution and growth.
Again, no one is perfect.
The best you can do is put your best foot, demeanor, and knowledge forward.
In the brief amount of time available in an interview, there is no way to completely know and understand the person or persons you’re sitting across the table from. Because of that limitation, as a candidate, you have to have the right mix of information and demeanor.
With regard to information, your resume is the summary of what you’ve done to date. It gets you in the door, but once you’re called in for an interview, you have to be able to speak to all those experiences naturally, supplementing that on-paper breakdown with your interpretation and understanding of your experience and lessons learned.
But, just as important as the past, which got you in the door today, is the priority of the company to select someone who is not finished developing for the future.
So, aside from the paperwork, you – your demeanor, how you function, how you think on the spot, and what you want – are what’s going to set you apart from the rest of the pack.
But, keep in mind, standing apart does not mean perfection.
“There’s absolutely nothing wrong with being a work-in-progress, admitting that you believe there’s always a way to improve, and that you’re open to learning.”
Perfection is a destination. There’s nothing left beyond perfection. As an alternative, the mindset to always work toward improvement provides more flexibility. It leaves you open to taking in the mission, goals, lessons, and values of the company interviewing you.
So, don’t wait to pull the trigger on how good you are because you’re waiting to reach your own perfection. It doesn’t exist.
Does it mean you shouldn’t strive toward perfection, meaning always improving? Not at all.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with being a work-in-progress, admitting that you believe there’s always a way to improve, and that you’re open to learning.
There is nothing wrong with realizing there’s always somewhere better to stand, learn, and be.
You can’t cover everything. Don’t try to connect so many perceived possible points of perfection that it hinders your vision.
If you’re open to the idea and habit of getting better, that’s almost half the battle journey.