I remember my first job interview. It was a long time ago. I was very young and had yet to learn how to be true to myself.
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I was trying to get a job for the summer in between undergraduate and graduate school, and remember thinking to myself: "Answer how they [my interviewers] want you to answer, no matter what."
I got that job, and at first I was thrilled. Once I began to do the work, however, I hated it. I couldn't wait for the summer to end!
What could I have done better? How could I have given a better interview to get not just a job, but the job I wanted?
Presenting your true, authentically developed self is perhaps the most important part of your interview technique. Knowing who you are and understanding how that helps you – or might not help you – in your work and life allows you to walk into any interview for any job and authentically present yourself to the employer. From there, the employer can decide if you and the job will truly be a good match.
More importantly, knowing who you are allows you to decide if the job and the workplace environment are really the right fit for you.
One way to understand who you are is to learn more about your personality type preferences. One tool many people use to do this is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). You have likely heard about the MBTI before. Some of what you've heard is true, and some isn't. I teach people how to use the MBTI competently and ethically, and I am amazed by how many people who think they know what the MBTI tool is really have no idea.
Understanding Ourselves Without Labeling or Limiting Ourselves
In short, the MBTI gives us some understanding of how we take in information and how we make decisions. That's really it. The MBTI is not meant to label or limit anyone in any way.
For example and in spite of what many think, there is no such thing as an "extravert" or an "introvert." Instead, the MBTI tool is trying to help us see whether we have a preference for extraversion or introversion, along with other preferences. There is a difference, and it is huge.
When we talk about extraverts or introverts, we limit people. When we see it as a matter of preference rather than identity, we understand that each of us uses both extraversion and introversion every day to be effective and productive in both work and in life.
I've mentioned only extraversion and introversion so far, but the MBTI has four preference pairs:
Extraversion vs. introversion – where we get our energy
Sensing vs. intuition – the kinds of information we like and trust
Thinking vs. feeling – the criteria we use for making decisions
Judging vs. perceiving – how we organize our external worlds
Let's look at how each of your personality type preferences might help you in your work and life. More specifically, we'll also explore how knowing how you take in information and make decisions might help you in your next interview.
Extraversion vs. Introversion
Knowing how you are energized and the impact that has on others can be invaluable in an interview setting.
I prefer introversion and get my energy during times of reflection. That works for me for the most part, but there are times I need to stretch beyond what's comfortable and use my extraverted side.
In fact, I wouldn't have my current job if I hadn't flexed to extraversion. I was in an airport, saw someone I knew from another company, and almost didn't reintroduce myself. I wanted to stay in my introverted space. Instead, I flexed, walked over, and that person ended up hiring me. Now, 30 years later, I feel so fortunate to have had the career I still have at that same company.
What is "flexing"? Flexing is first and foremost about honoring who you are, but also stretching to the other side – in my case from introversion to extraversion – depending on the situation.
On the other hand, imagine you're in an interview and you prefer extraversion. That extraverted energy can work for you, especially if that is what the interviewer is showing you. However, there are times when people who prefer extraversion can overwhelm a situation or say more than they need to. This is especially true during times of stress. (Let's face it: Most of us get pretty stressed during interviews.)
A quick tip for those who prefer extraversion: Think about pausing before your reply. Reflecting before answering every question shows you can be thoughtful. Of course, you still want to be yourself. Just flex a little bit to show that you can balance your extaverted energy with an ability to reflect.
If you prefer introversion, that energy can work for you, too. People often like to be listened to. Just remember that during an interview, interviewers want to know more about you. If you reflect too much, then it will be hard for an employer to know if and how you might fit in at the company.
A couple of days before the interview, think about the questions you might be asked, and then write out your replies. That way, you will have thought-out answers to use when needed during the interview. Remember, you want to honor your preference for introversion, but you don't want to underwhelm the interviewer, either.
A quick tip for those who prefer introversion: Repeating the question you have been asked gives you time to reflect and think of a meaningful answer.
By understanding how to best leverage your natural preferences and balance them by flexing to new areas, you can present your authentic self in the best possible light during job interviews. This increases your likelihood of securing a position that's an excellent fit.
Of course, introversion and extraversion are just part of the story. Next time, we'll talk about other preferences, such as sensing vs. intuition, thinking vs. feeling, and judging vs. perceiving.
Michael Segovia is the lead trainer for CPP, Inc.'s MBTI Certification Programs. He recently presented a TED talk reflecting on how type theory has informed his understanding of his own life story.