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Is It Better to Be Yourself or Fake It in an Interview?

If you’ve made it to the interview stage of a job application, it means that your potential employer has already earmarked your cover letter and résumé as special from their overall pool of candidates. The next step is creating a positive first impression when you meet face-to-face. This is a crucial step that can be won or lost in the first few minutes. But what’s the best way to sell yourself, especially if the “real you” is a little bit laid-back for corporate America? Question: Should you “fake it” in an interview? Answer: Only if you are an actor trying out for a character role. It is best to be honest about who you are and what you want from a job. Honesty will also create a better match between you and your new employer. What’s the sense of faking it through a series of job interviews, just to take a job you don’t like or that doesn’t suit you? You’ll just end up repeating the entire process as you look for yet another job! In a business environment, it is best to be yourself. But remember, sometimes there is a fine line between “being yourself” and being “business appropriate.” If your idea of being yourself is to show up to the corporate office like you just rolled out of bed, or if the “true you” has poor posture, MTV grammar (Yo!) and otherwise bad manners, then yes, perhaps you should fake it a bit! Research shows that people make a judgment about you during the first 30 seconds of meeting you. During this time, you are assessed on your appearance, grooming, accessories, mannerisms and body language. Michelle T. Sterling of Global Image Group notes, “Once the first impression is made, it is virtually irreversible. When you make a poor first impression, you lose your audience’s attention, no matter how hard you scramble to recover it.” John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of global outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc., agrees that the first few minutes can make or break a job interview. For example, if the job candidate is late, it immediately creates an impression that you’re unprepared and perhaps a little careless. “If the job seeker today does not come across as ready to work in every respect, the interviewer usually has nine more candidates to see before making a final decision,” he notes. The trick is to learn to put your best foot forward. And be yourself… only better. DO…

  • Dress up for your interview in professional business attire.
  • Exhibit good manners.
  • Pay attention to body language — maintain eye contact, smile.
  • Conceal tattoos and piercings that are obscene or distracting.
  • Leave the cell phone turned “off”.
  • DON’T…

  • Wear your favorite band T-shirt or flip flops.
  • Act arrogant or pompous.
  • Lie on your résumé — never bluff about degrees or work history.
  • Fake knowledge about an industry or topic.
  • Agree to job requirements you have no intent of fulfilling.
  • Kate Lorenz is the article and advice editor for She researches and writes about job search strategy, career management, hiring trends and workplace issues.

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