This article by Nina Semczuk originally appeared on Task & Purpose, a digital news and culture publication dedicated to military and veterans issues.
The night before an important interview, I desperately researched all the latest news in the company’s industry. I tried to memorize all the skills the job description outlined and internally recited the finer details on how to operate certain software systems the position required.
On the way to my interview, I pulled up my notes on my phone and tried to cram my brain with everything I wanted to remember like I was going into a pop quiz. In the waiting room, I felt more and more nervous because my mind was just not retaining the finer details of certain programs I was barely familiar with that I desperately wanted to sound knowledgeable about.
The names of competitors and the company’s mission statement and leadership swam around in a blur with the other companies I had researched for older interviews. My expectations for my chances at the job started to tank.
But then, right at the brink of full-blown panic, I took a breath and thought to myself, Screw it, I’m just going to be honest.
That, my friends, was one of the best interviews I had.
How to Win the Interview Battle
I walked in confident that I’d only talk up the skills I was 100% solid on, that I’d describe my past jobs with truth, and that I wasn’t going to do a tap dance to make it seem like I was someone I’m not. Throwing out my mental checklist of things to say allowed me to focus on my interviewers words, body language, and tone. I was able to have an actual conversation with her, not a stilted one-sided audition.
It seems so simple, it’s almost stupid. But being honest gives you confidence. Simple advice often holds the most truth. Get enough sleep, exercise, and sunshine, and you’ll be healthier and happier; common sense that’s been scientifically proven in recent years in countless studies. Being yourself, the advice heard from grade school on up still holds true.
While I’m all for next-level career advice, negotiation tactics, and arming yourself with the latest interview hack research, you need a solid foundation. And that foundation is simply to be honest. You don’t have to highlight certain shortcomings, but you don’t have to boast over them, you can simply leave them out. And if you don’t know something? Use trick my Army intel taught me. Say “I don’t know the answer to that, but I can follow up with you after.”
Nina Semczuk served as an Army officer from 2011-2016. She earned a B.S. from Boston University prior to military service and now lives in New York and works as a writer and editor. Find her work on SmartAsset, The Muse, The War Horse, Fast Company, and at ninasemczuk.com.
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