Companies in the modern age don’t necessarily want an employee that ticks all their “ideal” boxes. They want a genuine, authentic human being. In a competitive corporate world, authenticity can be challenging to come by, and job seekers who can simply be themselves have a much better chance of getting hired.
Unfortunately, a lot of prospective employees don’t realize that being authentic is their largest asset. They can sometimes erect mental blocks that make themselves seem less genuine and more what they think an employer wants. We asked 12 contributors to Young Entrepreneur Council to discuss some of the common barriers job seekers have to overcome in order to demonstrate their authentic selves.
Q: What’s one common barrier to authenticity you see with job hunters/prospective employees, and how do you recommend they work to overcome this?
Their best answers are below:
1. Being Vague About Work History
I’ve encountered people who have tried to mislead us on the application by providing minimal information under their experience. After some digging, we determined that they were not being truthful about their work history. I think that this is a case of employees trying to impress their potential boss more than take advantage of them, but lying is still a deal-breaker. – John Turner, SeedProd LLC
2. Using Too Many Cliches
Watch out for cliches. It’s a red flag when I ask if they have any weaknesses, and they either reply that they don’t have a weakness, or worse, that “being a perfectionist is their weakness.” This response is not only inauthentic, it is also boring! I would tell them that the best leaders are the ones who embrace weaknesses and then turn those weaknesses into strengths. Every weakness has a corresponding strength. – Shu Saito, SpiroPure
3. Trying to Seem Perfect
Because we are trained to believe that employers are seeking perfect candidates, prospective employees can contort themselves to try to seem perfect. In doing so, they strip themselves of their authenticity and the appeal they would otherwise have. Job seekers should understand that most employers are actually not looking for the perfect candidate, as perfection doesn’t exist. Be yourself. – Adam Mendler, The Veloz Group
4. Not Being Specific About Results
A possible barrier to authenticity is not being specific about results. Many people speak in general terms of their accomplishments, but the real authentic talent has actual metrics they can speak to and they’ll definitely put those down in their resume. Don’t share vague results, like you “grew online revenue,” state that you grew online revenue by 150% YoY. Now that’s impressive. – Andy Karuza, LitPic
5. Overstating Technical Expertise
Overstating technical expertise is a huge red flag for us. We depend on our engineers’ knowledge, experience, and problem-solving capabilities. Occasionally, it becomes apparent in interviews that a candidate’s abilities don’t match their resume claims. We’re happy to help the right candidate learn if they’re honest about gaps in their experience, but a misleading resume is a real turn-off. – Justin Blanchard, ServerMania Inc.
6. Overselling Themselves
Employers usually sugarcoat the job opportunity to lure applicants. In return, applicants oversell themselves without being truthful. They tend to say “yes” in everything, then eventually waste the employer’s time once the job post is filled. – Daisy Jing, Banish
7. Not Being Truly Interested in the Industry
As an employer, we see plenty of people apply for jobs at our company that don’t seem to be interested in the industry. You can always tell if you’re dealing with someone who has this mentality by listening to them. If it seems like a potential hire is just there for a check, they come off as unauthentic. Job seekers can avoid this issue by applying for jobs in industries that genuinely interest them. – John Brackett, Smash Balloon LLC
8. Trying to Imitate Others in the Industry
Some people try to imitate others in the industry to get jobs. It’s one thing to emulate behaviour, and it’s another thing to imitate. People shouldn’t be scared to let themselves shine through. Potential employers will appreciate seeing the authentic candidate instead of an imitation of someone else. Imitation is often not sustainable over the long term, so your true self will shine through anyways. – Josh Kohlbach, Wholesale Suite
9. Using Buzzwords Without Understanding Them
People try to game the hiring system by including buzzwords in their resumes and interviews without understanding what they mean. They think it demonstrates that they “know” the industry, but it doesn’t. Instead, candidates should understand the top trends in the industry and be able to explain them in their own words. – Thomas Griffin, OptinMonster
10. Always Being Professional
One barrier is the need to always be professional. During a job interview, many candidates show up as the person they think they need to be to get hired. But this leads many people to remove their personality from the equation entirely. Finding the balance between being professional and showcasing what makes you an exciting and engaging personality is just as important. – Matthew Podolsky, Florida Law Advisers, P.A.
11. Being Afraid to Share Small Details
Many job hunters are afraid of sharing small details about themselves that they think are trivial. These small details help the hiring manager see a more complete picture of who you are beyond your resume. Talk about your interests, your favorite books, or your family a little. This shows a somewhat personal side to you that is inherently authentic and winning. – Syed Balkhi, WPBeginner
12. Applying for Thousands of Jobs
One common barrier to authenticity is the fact that jobseekers feel pressured to apply for thousands of jobs to get themselves some leads. I would recommend taking the time to cater your resume to jobs that you really want, and also to spend your spare time on things that will develop skills in areas where you want to grow. It’s not quantity, but rather quality that finds you the career you want. – Amine Rahal, IronMonk Solutions