Confessions of a researchaholic

February 9, 2012

Job interview

Filed under: Real — liyiwei @ 6:15 pm

I guess it is a sign of getting senior that I am spending more and more time writing letters of recommendation for guys seeking jobs.

A common question is about how to perform well in job interviews. In this era of search engines and social networks you can find plenty advices on your own already.

Beyond those, I have one high level suggestion: just be yourself. That is it. The reasons are as follows.


First, if you be your natural self instead of somebody else, you are more likely to be more relaxed and thus perform better during your interviews. I believe anxiety is one major reason for suboptimal performance.

Pretending to be somebody else can actually hide your strengths.
You never know what the recruiters are looking for, so do not try to second guess them.

I remember during my very first job interview, I wore suits and tried hard to be like a normal person. I walked and talked straight and stayed on the central line. I did not get the job. Years later the hiring manager saw one of my talks in a conference. He came up to me at the end of the session and said: *why didn’t you do this during your interview years ago? You would definitely have got the job*.

Nowadays, when I went to job interviews, I dressed and behaved in my own personal style. Not everyone likes me and not everyone gave me job offers. But very few people could anyway, and at least now people reject me because they think I am not suitable instead of being not good enough.


This brings us to the second reason. The purpose of job interview is like match making: you are finding a suitable employer, and the employer is finding a suitable employee. So, if you try to be somebody else during your interview, even if you get the job, you can still end up being not happy or not productive. This benefits neither you nor the employer.

During one of my recent interviews with an institution, I quickly discovered that they are looking for people with a very specific range of skills doing a very specific kind of job (despite that their overall theme looks extremely interesting initially). That is the opposite of what I want to do, as I am interested in a variety of stuff and tend to jump around in research topics. So near the end of the interview I just told one of the more senior guys that I really think I am not a good fit and I hope I would not waste his time further. The guy was totally cool and kind of glad that I be so straight. So I got extra time sightseeing that interesting city while the guys can go back to work without wasting more time on me.


Few people can score every job offers. So failure is not a big deal. Just relax, and enjoy the process. I learned more from my failures than my successes. The important thing is to fail and succeed in your own style, not following somebody else.

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