How Your Best Self + Your Curiosity Will Earn You First Place in Your Next Interview

by Isabel Dorfman on November 3, 2022 in Career Advice


being yourself in an interview

You did it – you landed the interview. That’s worthy of celebration, but you haven’t crossed the finish line, not yet anyhow. The real race has begun – showing your potential employer why you are the right candidate for this job. How do you do that?

Of course, you can pick out a stellar outfit and even practice common interview questions. Those are indeed helpful warm-ups. But in my experience, the best way to outpace the competition is a combination of being yourself with a strong dose of curiosity.

Be Your Authentic Self

Let’s start with what we don’t mean by “be yourself.” This is not your wear- your-favorite-graphic-tee- and-comfy-sweatpants-to-the-interview self – that is a vibe, but not the first impression you want to make. Being yourself in an interview in this instance means being yourself in a professional setting. Elaborate on your interests and the experiences that qualify you for the specific challenges and responsibilities of the role.

For example, if you are interviewing for a nonprofit communications position that entails content creation and campaign planning, convey how your past experience qualifies you for the position. You could talk about how:

  • Through your years of working at a local youth shelter on the weekends, you’ve seen firsthand how consistent communication of programs makes a positive impact. Whether you’re sending out monthly newsletters, putting up flyers around the community, or investing in local fundraisers, every channel of your distribution efforts supports the cause and encourages participation.
  • In your last role, your business partnered with an after-school program. Through consistent volunteering, you built relationships with teachers and encouraged fellow colleagues to join in on this initiative. In one year’s time, your efforts helped double the number of volunteers for the program.

But here’s one key detail to remember: your experience doesn’t merely come from past jobs. Showcasing genuine passion in your hobbies or creative work can speak volumes. In your conversation, help your interviewer connect the dots so they can collect the right information about your viability as a candidate during your brief time together.

For instance, maybe you enjoy design, so you’re always tinkering with Illustrator, Photoshop, or even Canva on creative projects. Or perhaps you have background as an assistant director for a local theater or even have a side job as a professional singer. Each of these experiences can translate into professional language.

  • You have a knack for graphic design, so in your free time, you’ve built social media campaigns and flyers that have been a tremendous help to the community outreach program your child’s class has been supporting this school year (a great fit for the communications role mentioned above).
  • If you are interviewing for a Membership Manager type role, being a director of a local drama organization has distinct advantages. A director must find and cast people in the right roles, just like you must find the right members/clients for your organization. Additionally, a director must model performance nuances or oversee the stage production team, just like a manager needs to offer real-life perspective to members on why their participation and engagement plays a pivotal role in the organization’s future.
  • As a professional singer, you learn to market yourself through connections and a social media presence to lock in performances. Starting from ground zero, this is no easy task. This requires planning, thought, and consistency to make your dream of singing in front of a crowd a reality. Those same elements of your commitment transpose beautifully into any communications or managerial position.

Demonstrating your genuine self and marketable skills in and out of the office provides an excellent first impression. But there’s one more element that could lead to a gold medal (at least metaphorically) from your interviewers.

Stay Curious

Think of your interview like a first-date scenario –you know a little about each other, but this is the first time you are talking one-on-one to see if there’s a next step. You don’t want the conversation to be static, so you ask questions– this level of curiosity shows interest and keeps both parties engaged.

Leaders are looking for a curious spirit. A SAS study shows 62% of leaders believe curiosity is connected with greater efficiency and productivity. The findings highlight three main reasons why curiosity makes such an impact.

  • Highlights teamwork abilities – 58% of managers believe that it leads to effective collaboration.
  • Demonstrates reliance – 56% of leaders see a connection with curiosity and adaptability.
  • Indicates your commitment – 58% of leaders believe it’s connected to greater engagement and satisfaction.

This brings up an important point – what does curiosity look like in an interview? Great question. Make sure you know enough about the job to ask some intentional questions, details like:

  • What does a normal day look like in this role?
  • What may be initial challenges getting started?
  • What skills and habits will make someone successful in this position?
  • What are expectations regarding hours and response time to communications (for the workday and after hours)?

Best rule of thumb is to make a list before the interview. Write down any and every question that comes to mind. Most likely you will not need to ask every question, but the more time you spend on these beforehand, the more prepared you will be to ask the relevant questions in the interview.

Curiosity grows individuals’ professional abilities and skills, increases their capacity to mature as leaders, and founds relationships that build business for years to come. It is key to becoming the ideal candidate. If you can show a potential employer a high level of curiosity in your initial conversation, you may just earn that first-place position.

Go Knock ‘Em Dead

You have valuable talent to bring to the table. Your first interview is the callback for landing your ideal role. And while every interview may not end in an offer, every conversation can be a meaningful steppingstone. The more you can be yourself, showcase your character and personality, and demonstrate an inquisitive spirit, the more you and your potential employer will recognize a good fit when the right combo comes along. Keep interviewing. Stay curious. And cross that finish line.

Looking for the right role for your skills? Take a look at our openings in the DC area today, or reach out to one of our team members to learn more about our services.


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