Notes from the trenches: Self-Awareness

I recently conducted a QUIC interview with a young man who left an interesting impression on me. When I came out to the lobby to collect him for his interview, my first impression of him was the he was standoffish. He had short, one-worded responses, didn’t smile, and overall I couldn’t tell if he woke up on the wrong side of the bed, didn’t eat his Wheaties, or was just a grumpy Gus.

Then the interview began, and this young man’s demeanor completely changed. It was like he secretly slugged a can of Red Bull when my back was turned. He was perky, engaging, interesting, and I was genuinely interested in hearing more about him.

Cue to the end of the interview, and once we were no longer “in character,” Grumpy Gus was back.

Because part of the QUIC interview process is to point out things you might not even realize you do (i.e. saying the word ‘like’, clicking your pen, tapping your fingers on the table), I felt obliged to tell this young man how he came across both before and after the interview, and how it altered my perception of him. He commented back that he’s been told this many times in his life, and I certainly wasn’t the first.

This is an example of self-awareness. For those of you who maybe aren’t aware (haha, the irony), self-awareness, in a nutshell, is the ability to recognize oneself as an individual separate from the environment and other individuals. What this means in terms of interviewing is that you have to be aware of your strengths, weaknesses, triggers, and nuances so that you can you can appear in the interview to be a realistic combination of humble and confident. Able but flexible. Assertive not aggressive. Sounds almost possible right? Nah, not really. Just be yourself. Be the best you.

And how do you be the best you? By being self-aware. This is why the QUIC interview process is so helpful. Sometimes we are so focused on giving the right answer that we neglect to give the answer that’s right for us. It’s been proven time and again that the most memorable and successful interview answers are the ones that are genuine. A made-up answer may work sometimes, but it’s more likely to sound fake (because it is) and won’t leave a lasting impression on the recruiter.

For Grumpy Gus,  since he was very well-aware that he could turn on the charm during the interview, I advised him to make sure that he turned on this charm from minute one. As soon as he walks through the door to a company, he has to have the same enthusiasm he showed during the interview itself, and not to turn it back off until he is safely within the confines of his vehicle and away from company property. I was only conducting a mock interview, but if this had been the real deal, I definitely would have reservations about hiring a candidate that seemed grumpy one minute and happy the next. Employers like predictability, and being two completely different personalities in an interview can backfire.

So to all you Grumpy Gus’s, pen clickers, and “Um, like”ers out there – use constructive criticism to your advantage! The candidates who are self-aware are usually the first to take accountability for their actions, can communicate effectively, and overall are considered more likeable, aka hireable.

If you have no idea where you stand on the self-awareness front, just for fun, here is an online test that rates your level of self-awareness in various settings.

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