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Why it’s okay to get personal in a job interview

March 26, 2015, 2:00 PM UTC
Photograph by Danny Turner

The Leadership Insider network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in business contribute answers to timely questions about careers and leadership. Today’s answer to the question “What are three tips for nailing a job interview?” is written by Eva Gordon, vice president of training and development at The Container Store.

The recruiting process often mirrors being a guest at a dinner party. Think about the last time you were seated next to someone you didn’t know – it could be pretty uncomfortable trying to make conversation! But if you’re lucky, you will end up next to a guest who is curious about you, offers up interesting and thought-provoking questions, and ultimately, makes your evening more enjoyable.

Similarly, employers want to spend time with candidates who are interesting and have the ability to market themselves. Companies love when candidates express an unwavering interest, have the ability to inspire, and can effectively articulate the value they could bring to the organization. And here’s how to do just that:

Show interest. Read employee reviews online, find recent news articles about the company, and engage with your potential employer via social media. Make it a two-way conversation by tweeting about the company and connecting with recruiters on LinkedIn. Be sure to share this information during the interview because it allows the interviewer to understand your level of preparation and excitement for the position. Explain how your personal values align with those of the company. And continue to show interest in the job even after the interview is over. Some companies keep all correspondence (emails, notes, etc.) so remember to use proper grammar and thank recruiters by name. Often, when there are multiple top candidates, the ultimate decision can come down to a candidate’s follow-up.

Share your whole self. When I look for potential employees, I look for compassionate people. During an interview, I think about people holistically. There is a blending and a meshing of work and life: you are more than what you do at work, so share your interests during the interview. Do you love writing poetry? Are you a great gardener? These interests may offer an extra connection point with your interviewer. Try to share your life outside of work during the interview to provide connectivity and interesting information with your future employer.

Describe how you can add value. Think about what you can bring to the company (experience, new thought processes, creativity, etc.) during the interview, instead of focusing on what the company can do for you. Think about what their needs may be (why are they interviewing for this position in the first place?) and what value can you bring to the organization. Did you volunteer in a similar environment? Have you collaborated with a team before to accomplish a goal? Maybe the company is expanding, and needs more great employees to open new stores or support a major initiative. Think about what you have done in your life — whether it was inside or outside of your career — and how that might fit into their area of need. Everyone desires to be around people who are inspiring, motivating, and thrive in a team atmosphere.

Read all answers to the Leadership Insider question: What are three tips for nailing a job interview?

How social media can actually help you get hired by Andres Traslavina, senior global recruiter at Whole Foods Market.

3 key questions to ask yourself before a job interview by Charles Galda, CIO of technology centers and services at GE Capital.

Hiring 101: How to ace a job interview by Mike Del Ponte, co-founder of Soma.

College graduates: How to land your first job by David DeWolf, president and CEO of 3Pillar Global.

Why you should treat a job interview like a first date by Ryan Harwood, CEO of PureWow.

Why an impressive resume won’t get you hired by Sunil Rajaraman, co-founder of

Birchbox co-CEO: How to nail a job interview by Katia Beauchamp, co-founder and co-CEO of Birchbox.

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