DON’T Be Yourself In A Job Interview

by Ron Haynes

What, DON’T be yourself? But that runs counter to all the interview advice I’ve ever heard! Am I supposed to pretend to be someone else???

No, that’s not what I meant. The inspiration for this blog post came to me while talking to a friend today about a potential promotion. My advice to him was, “Don’t be yourself, be your professional self.” The puzzled look on his face told me I needed to explain what I meant.

We all have different selves. There’s your job self, your driving in traffic self, your party self, your church self, your school self, your family self, your weekend self, and the self you are when you’re home alone and no one is looking. We all like to think we’re the same person no matter who we’re around. It just isn’t true. Everyone responds and acts differently depending on who is around.

Have you ever known someone who was much more aware of their language when around children? Have you ever seen a child act differently when around certain friends? Have you ever acted more at ease with a co-worker than with your boss?

That’s what I’m talking about. When you go to a job interview, insure you change into your professional self. If you don’t have one, you’ll need to develop one.

For men, shave, trim your hair, clean your fingernails, and don’t wear a ball cap. For women, style your hair for a professional look, go easy on the makeup, no bare midriffs, no short skirts, and nothing skin tight. For everyone, dress professionally, watch your language, and come prepared to explain how the position you’re interested in fits into the organization’s goals and objectives.

No matter what your qualifications may be, if you come to the interview looking like a hobo, chances are you will not get the job. If you come to the interview looking professional and appropriate for the position, have a knowledge of the position and the organization, you’ll have a much better chance of landing the position.

I told my friend to think about how people in the organization behave, dress, speak to one another, and carry themselves. “Do you have that picture in your mind?” I asked. He responded that he did. “Can you adapt yourself to that framework?” Again he responded positively. “Okay, because if you can’t, you might as well cancel the interview appointment because you’ll never fit in and you’ll be miserable.” I think he understood, at least I hope he did. Life is too short to try to be a “self” that isn’t in your repertoire.
[tags]life, interview, job, jobs, professional, position[/tags]

About the author

Ron Haynes has written 1000 articles on The Wisdom Journal.

The founder and editor of The Wisdom Journal in 2007, Ron has worked in banking, distribution, retail, and upper management for companies ranging in size from small startups to multi-billion dollar corporations. He graduated Suma Cum Laude from a top MBA program and currently is a Human Resources and Management consultant, helping companies know how employees will behave in varying situations and what motivates them to action, assisting firms in identifying top talent, and coaching managers and employees on how to better communicate and make the workplace MUCH more enjoyable. If you'd like help in these areas, contact Ron using the contact form at the top of this page or at 870-761-7881.

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The title of this post got me interested.
When someone goes to an interview, they need to look good and be on their best behavior. I dont think they need to act different than normal thoough.

If the job doesn’t fit there normal way of living should they just fake it?


Hey Skipper
Thanks for commenting. No. I’m not saying anyone should fake anything. What I am saying is to bring out the best “self” you can when you go to an interview. Some people, in an attempt to “be themselves,” show up with 2 days growth of a beard, in a very casual style of dress, and let their language get just a little crude. They think, “Hey, I am what I am. I just gotta be me.” If that’s the case, that person needs to expect to look for a long time to find a job in a professional office setting. Otherwise, they might have to be resigned to working manual labor, minimum wage type jobs.


I sort of disagree. Sure, everyone should dress professionally for interviews. But if they started chanting the mantra, “Don’t be myself, be my professional self,” then they’ll probably start acting differently, maybe stiffer as they overthink acting professionally.

Having participated as interviewer and interviewee in multiple rounds of interviews, I have to say that you may get a second-round interview by being professional and smart, but you won’t get the job unless you seem like a real person, not a white-collar robot.

I realize that you’re not advocating a change in personality, but I think the change in personality is just a natural result of thinking in terms of a “professional self” that’s distinct from the real self.


Hello Lily,

I agree with your premise, and I think you basically agree with mine! What I’m saying is two fold:
–Be on your game when you go to an interview.
–If you don’t want to be on your game, cancel it.

I interview scores of people every year and it always amazes me how someone will come in, totally unprepared, dressed like they were lounging around the house, and using crude “bathroom” language. Then they’re dumbfounded why they didn’t get the position even though their credentials were outstanding.

Credentials only get you in the door. Acting like a professional when you get there will help you land the position. If you don’t want to act like a professional and work in a professional environment, cancel the interview and start looking for a position that will accommodate your personality.

Maybe “acting” is the wrong word. How ’bout BE a professional?

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