“How do we differentiate ourselves?” A question asked regularly at most professional services firms. This doesn’t just apply to the firm itself but to ourselves as professionals. What is our personal brand, what do we want to be “famous for” in the market, or internally in the business, and how do we communicate our individuality. After all we are all unique.
This way in which we present ourselves is a key part of any interview process. You have to have the skills and experience to get through the door but getting a second meeting is all about “cultural fit”, style, rapport and making a connection. This is where it can get tricky – you want to differentiate yourself, but it’s important not to cross the line between making a positive impression and standing out for the wrong reasons.
So when you have the option, why be polarising in an interview? You can certainly pose the opposite opinion to your interviewer but you should do so in the spirit of discussion and respect the merit of their position. You can choose not to swear (it does happen) or be colloquial and keep a more corporate communication style and demeanor. You can elect to pick a more conservative suit / shade of lipstick / tie than your more relaxed day to day style. Not sure whether the interviewer will want to see a portfolio or just find it distracting? Ask in advance or just don’t take it – offering to send on after (graphic designers excepted).
Now some of you may be thinking that this is in some way pretending to be someone you’re not. But not so – you can (and certainly should) still reveal your personality while respecting the formality of an interview. Yes some people will enjoy being challenged, wont be offended by swearing, will enjoy a colloquial tone and think the bright red dress or novelty tie is fun. But many won’t. So why be polarizing in an interview?
No matter how much you get on with the person at the other side of the table, they will be thinking about you in meetings with clients and with partners. They will be asking themselves the question, does this person have the EQ and ability to read the situation and present themselves in an appropriate way? Give them any reason to doubt that and you may have scuppered your chances for getting the dream role.