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How to Balance Professionalism and Personality in Your Job Search

Your friends and family will often give the great advice of, “Just be yourself!” right before your interview, which is mostly meant to calm your nerves before the big interview.  But just how much of your personality should you show while still being professional?  Here is advice from career coaches and recruiters in how to leave a great impression and find the balance between letting your personality shine, and maintaining a professional approach.

  1. Learn as much as you can in advance.

Knowing what to expect before going into the interview will help tremendously.  There are different standards for professionalism versus being more casual, or candid, depending on the industry, company, and who you are speaking with, among many other factors.  If after doing your research it is still hard to gauge it is best to lean more professional until you get a feel for how personal you can be.

  1. Imagine you are on a first date.

“Treat a first interview like a first date. You are trying to impress the other party with your skills and personality as much as they are trying to impress you with their company and opportunity. Yes, it is important to ‘be yourself,’ but it’s equally important to be respectful, professional, and personable during an interview”

  1. Avoid taboo topics.

Be careful not to overshare in the interview process or let the conversation drift to taboo topics.  Religion and politics might be the most obvious to avoid, but also don’t divulge information that might leave the interviewer questioning how you will perform on the job.  For example, if you enjoy gaming until the wee hours of the morning.  The hiring manager will question whether you can show up to work on time, and if you will stay focused running on a few short hours of sleep.

  1. Have fun…but not too much.

It is common for companies to have multiple candidate that are qualified to do the work, but they want to see who they would consider to be a good cultural fit.  In this case it is important to show who you are, while still being professional.  One way to do this could be by carefully selecting your clothes.  “They are great conversation starters. The girl in the bright yellow shoes or the guy in the pink floral shirt will get my attention, and I’ll use a compliment as a conversation starter.”

  1. When in doubt, keep it professional.

While it may help you to show your personality for the cultural fit, oversharing can lead you to be the victim of unintended bias.  Your personal information is not necessary, how well you can do the job is.

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