You thought that no one would care and that only your academic and professional achievements would matter. You convinced yourself that spending any amount of time elaborating on your foray into the arts world after college would be a distraction during the interview. You were afraid that you might be judged for having pursued a creative path full-time. Little did you know that this was the secret sauce that would set you apart and help you stand out in a sea of sameness.
I’ve had the chance to review hundreds of résumés and interview all manner of candidate over my career, and have been struck by how many people fail to integrate their
artsy non-conventional pasts into the telling of their background stories. While the job may not call out a creative past as a prerequisite, it’s important (and potentially game-changing) to talk about how your diverse experiences have helped shaped the person you are today and why that makes you especially equipped to be able to bring a fresh perspective to conversations that can shape the trajectory of the business.
I understand how much like competitive sports the task of applying for jobs has become. The experience is insanely stressful, made even more so in an age of technology. The supply of available jobs has been made more visible thanks to platforms like LinkedIn, the anguish of slow progress is exacerbated as each job posting can receive an abundance of applications that takes a long period for the poster to go through, and for the lucky few who make it through to the end, social media offers a platform for celebration that makes the others still on the hunt feel further behind the pack than they really are.
But if you have been lucky enough to make it past the initial phone screen to an in-person on telephone / video conference interview, you can breathe a sigh of relief because you have met the basic qualifications for the role. The expectation in the next round is that you show the interviewing team why you, above anyone else, should be their final selection.
While your ability to interview well does influence the interviewers’ perception of what you bring to the table, a good interviewer should be able to parse this out of the equation and focus on you, your unique capabilities and strengths, so that he/she can assess whether you will thrive in the role and be an asset to the team.
So when asked to tell the interviewer about yourself, resist the urge to rehash every detail of your résumé and schooling.
You have only 30 or 45 minutes to convince this person that you’re worth progressing to the next round so try to paint a picture of who you really are, what you care about, and why your collection of life experiences make you best suited for the job. And if you have a passion or a hobby that is creative in nature, talk about how that has helped you think, feel or act in a way that has brought tangible value to the teams on which, and people with whom you have worked. Trust me, it will leave a memorable impression that may just be the thing that pushes you closer towards clinching the top spot.
How have you, or someone you have interviewed, brought to life your creative side to interviewers in a compelling way?