The Most Important Thing in an Interview: Do You Sparkle?
We can all agree that there’s a lot that goes into preparing for an interview. You have to work hard to research the company beforehand, to practice answering behavioral questions, and to figure out how to best showcase your skills. Do all this and you’ll probably do just fine.
Unfortunately, “just fine” isn’t always enough. A better gauge for how likely you are to land the job might be this: Did you sparkle?
What’s All This Nonsense About Sparkling?
Don’t worry; I’m not going to start talking about glitter or vampires. When I say “sparkle,” I mean that extra something—that je ne sais quoi, if you want to get fancy—that hiring managers look for when interviewing candidates. It’s not my word for it—I’ve heard it from a few different interviewers at this point.
If you think about it for a minute (after you’re done rolling your eyes), you’ll realize it actually makes sense. There must be something that sets successful candidates apart from people who are similarly qualified and prepared. It’s how much they sparkle.
What Makes a Person Sparkle?
In a couple of words: Be interesting. If you’re not sure how to do that, Amanda Berlin has a few ideas to share here, but if you want to get to the bare essentials, it comes down to simply being passionate about something.
The first recruiter who told me he looked for people who sparkled gave me the example of an interviewee who was wildly passionate about making bread. Was making bread relevant to the position? No, not at all (it was a software engineering position), but it made the interviewee interesting. Another interviewer, this time a hiring manager, described it as being able to describe something—anything—in excruciating detail.
In the end, it all boils down to this: To be interesting, you need to have interests—and then you need to take them seriously.
But What About in an Interview, Specifically?
You might think you’re playing it safe by staying 100% focused on your ability to do the job during the interview, but know that your interviewer isn’t necessarily coming from the same place. Of course, the hiring manager wants to know if you can do the job, but he or she is also curious about what you’ll be like to work with. That’s why there are things like the airport test and questions like, “What was a recent costume you wore?” The interviewer is going to want to know if you’ll be fun to work with you and whether you’ll mesh with the team.
With this in mind, the next time you have an interview, go beyond smiling and showing enthusiasm for the company and show some of your personality and enthusiasm for your own interests. It’s a chance to let the interviewer see if you’re the right cultural fit—and a chance for you to sparkle.
Photo of sparkles courtesy of Shutterstock.
Lily Zhang serves as a Career Development Specialist at MIT where she works with a range of students from undergraduates to PhDs on how to reach their career aspirations. When she's not indulging in a new book or video game, she's thinking about, talking about, or writing about careers. Follow her musings on Twitter @lzhng.More from this Author