I have a fresh, alive, and powerful conversation with with at least one person every day. I have all my lunches at work scheduled out for months. I have breakfast meetings, coffee meetings, and drinks-in-the-bar scheduled. I speak with many hundreds of people per year and the one thread that runs through all of those conversation is that they are completely ad-hoc. There is no agenda. We talk about whatever needs to be talked about.
Some of those conversations are about deep technical matters, some are about family, some are about relationships, and still others are about career aspirations. There is no common topic, there is simply following what is living within us. In these conversations, I often support the explication of what is on the verge of consciousness.
A job interview is just a conversation. I could re-frame these conversations as interviews: I am interviewing them and they are interviewing me. Looked at through this lens, I have interviewed hundreds of people over the past couple of years and I have also been interviewed by hundreds of people. At some point, if I wanted to start a company, I know exactly who I would hire and I’m pretty confident that they would want to come and work with me.
If I was ever looking for a job, I have also already been pre-interviewed by hundreds of people. I can easily move anywhere I want inside the company in which I currently work or into many other companies.
Even though I have almost never formally interviewed for a job, I’m always interviewing and being interviewed; I’m now an expert at interviews. Almost every day, I have a technical conversation about an area that I have no experience in and I can effortlessly follow my curiosity and learn new things.
As an interviewer, I can tell you that I’m not trying to find out if you do or don’t know particular things. I’m looking for things like:
These are the easy-to-develop but easy-to-overlook transferrable qualities that I value most and that most people truly value.
When you bring all of yourself to a conversation, whether it’s an interview or not, the content doesn’t matter, whether you know or don’t know something doesn’t matter. What matters most is how you are. How do you engage? How do you make eye contact? How do you reveal your vulnerabilities? How do you build rapport and trust? All of this is the meta-message and the real communication.
So, all you can do in any conversation is show up and be yourself. There’s no way to get it wrong. It unfolds as it does, and it’s just another practice session at being human.
You could wait, save it up, and go for that one important conversation with no practice, hoping to make it somehow perfect. In that case, being authentic will consist of behaving nervous, unconfident, try-hard, and salesy. On the other hand, you could, like me, have conversations all the time and simply let them be what they are. One day, when you happen to have a conversation that someone might evaluate as important, you can also just be yourself. Then it’s going to be a much more effective conversation, with a much more desirable outcome, than that one “perfect” interview.
Whether or not you end up getting hired is irrelevant. An interview is just the next conversation in a long stream of conversations. You can’t help but crush it, as always.