The Ego and the Interview: A Balancing Act for the Accomplished Professional

April 21, 2008

You have had a long distinguished career, having worked in a number of organizations and handled many difficult situations. You are confident in your abilities and proud of your accomplishments. You find that you are longing to explore new opportunities whether it is an increase in job responsibility, a lateral move or a move that allows for an increased work/life balance. Whatever the reason, the best time to prepare is before you start the interviewing process. Your first step should be to list your transferrable skills, accomplishments, published work, awards and any career milestone. Craft a story of your work history.

There are many resources on interviewing and skills assessment but one subject that is least addressed is “The Ego”. This alone can make you or break you. The American Heritage Dictionary defines “The Ego” as:

The self, especially as distinct from the world and other selves; In psychoanalysis, the division of the psyche that is conscious, most immediately controls thought and behavior, and is most in touch with external reality; An exaggerated sense of self-importance; conceit; or Appropriate pride in oneself; self-esteem.

After you sit down and start listing your life’s accomplishments, you need to think about how you want to present yourself to others. Walking around with an air of self-importance will only turn interviewees away.

Hiring managers are looking for candidates that they feel are the “Right Fit” in their organization. Most hiring decisions are made on personality and this is where you can really stand out from other candidates. Don’t let your “Ego” stand in the way to getting what you want. Whatever way you look at it interviewing is an art form which must be carefully crafted. One of the most common mistakes jobseekers make is portraying oneself as “Overbearing” or “Un-Manageable”. Is this the impression you want to make? Don’t let you’re “Ego” steal the show!!

Let’s do a little paradigm shift — think of yourself as a product — if you were looking to purchase, what would you want in that product. Hiring managers are looking for candidates that can be a resource, help reach their strategic objectives, and will get along with their co-workers. You may have lots of wins under your belt but use them strategically in the interview. Your experiences are your arsenal, so don’t fire off as you are standing in a firing range discharging at point blank range. That approach will only blow the interviewee away and they will send you packing. Use them with care during your interview, selecting each experience that best enhances your ability and make you the most desirable candidate.

Design your answers as if you were telling a short story with a beginning, middle and end. Talk about how you handled or overcame difficult situations, outcomes, cost saving initiatives, impacted the organization, increased sales, customer satisfaction, follow-ups or anything that puts you in good standing. Discuss how you are an asset to any organization. It’s great that you have this arsenal of skills, accomplishments and experiences. Use them to your advantage, you worked hard to get where you are and interviewees will also recognize a good thing when they see it. Be yourself, tell your story and tell it with pride.

This article was written by Liane H. Gould, Manager of Career Services of the ACS Department of Career Management and Development.