Why You Must be Authentic in a Job Interview, with Danelle Robertson

Listen On:

Preparing for an interview is non-negotiable; you must go in ready to answer questions about your skills, experience, and goals. But it’s even more important that you be authentic. Your resume speaks to your ability to do the job; hiring managers want to know if you’re the right fit, says Find Your Dream Job guest Danelle Robertson. The best way to accomplish that is by having a genuine conversation. Be willing to share your strengths and weaknesses, how you find solutions to problems, and how you’re growing in your field. But above all, says Danelle, be yourself.

About Our Guest:

Danelle Robertson is the people and culture partner at the  Oregon Humane Society.  Her organization rescues, heals, and adopts thousands of pets each year. 

Resources in This Episode:


Find Your Dream Job, Episode 367:

Why You Must be Authentic in a Job Interview, with Danelle Robertson

Airdate: September, 28 2022

Mac Prichard:

This is Find Your Dream Job, the podcast that helps you get hired, have the career you want, and make a difference in life. 

I’m your host, Mac Prichard. I’m also the founder of Mac’s List. It’s a job board in the Pacific Northwest that helps you find a fulfilling career.

Every Wednesday, I talk to a different expert about the tools you need to get the work you want.

Find Your Dream Job is brought to you by TopResume. TopResume has helped more than 400,000 professionals land more interviews and get hired faster. 

Get a free review of your resume today. 

Go to macslist.org/topresume.

Do you believe that you need to behave differently in an interview in order to get the job?  

Perhaps you think you should always agree with the hiring manager. Or keep your ideas to yourself.

That’s a mistake, says today’s guest. You’ll do much better by being yourself. 

Danelle Robertson is here to talk about why you must be authentic in a job interview and how to do it. 

She’s the people and culture partner at the Oregon Humane Society. Her organization rescues, heals, and adopts thousands of pets each year. 

She joins us from Portland, Oregon. 

Well, let’s jump right into it, Danelle. Why isn’t it a good idea to tell employers what you think they want to hear when you apply for a job? 

Danelle Robertson: 

Well, it’s important to know what we mean by this. It’s not that we don’t want you to highlight the skills or share the experience that you have or what interested you in the position or drew you into the organization. 

What we mean by this is the disingenuous responses. So, remember that an interview is for both the employer and the interviewee. It’s important to be honest and authentic to your interests, your skills, and your experience so both parties have the opportunity to assess if this is a good fit. 

Mac Prichard:

Why do you think applicants think they should pretend to be something they’re not? 

Danelle Robertson: 

I think we put a lot of pressure on ourselves when we’re interviewing that we want to deliver the perfect interview. And what I think is most important is the preparation. So really looking at the position’s description, looking at the essential functions, identify the strengths that you have that drew you into the position. In addition, looking at the organization, the mission, the values and finding where you align. 

When you’re preparing for that interview, it’s much easier to talk about the things you know that you bring to this position that are going to make you a good fit for the position and then finding ways to present that. So, it’s really important that people remember being themselves is better for them and for the interviewer to assess the position and the person and decide if it’s the right fit. 

Mac Prichard:

I love those tips. They’re so practical, and they’re all simple steps that people can take. Why do you think, Danelle, that some candidates don’t follow that advice?

Danelle Robertson: 

I think we get caught up in the internet searches of Googling; what are the questions I should prepare for? And what are the right responses? And there is no right or wrong answer in an interview, and I think that’s important for people to note. 

The most important thing is for you to have, again, that preparation. Have those specific examples that you can draw from, those experiences ready to go, and that could be just thinking about them ahead of time. I do recommend people maybe say them out loud to themselves, either in the mirror or just out loud to themselves in a room, so they can kind of practice what they sound like. 

But it’s really important that you’re able to, let’s say you’re applying for a project manager, and you are looking at the position description, and you’ve identified meeting deadlines, collaborations, and teamwork, and being highly organized are key attributes for this position, and those are things that you’ve identified as being strengths of yours. So really looking at ways you’ve met deadlines, ways you’ve collaborated with your team or a cross-department, and how successful those examples can be. 

So you can highlight those in the interview. When you’re talking about highly organized, think about what makes you organized, and really take those things apart. The more ways you can split those things up, the more prepared you are for pivoting to whatever question the interviewer is going to ask, and you can be less focused on what those generic, you know, what are your strengths and weakness questions are. Because it’s going to flow more naturally. 

Mac Prichard:

I love your point about flow, and I also want to go back to a point you made a moment ago about candidates may think that they have to have the perfect answer, and I think it would surprise listeners to hear a hiring manager not expect perfection. We put so much pressure on ourselves in the interview room. Why isn’t someone who’s sitting in your spot not looking for perfection but authenticity, Danelle? 

Danelle Robertson: 

Because when I’m meeting with someone in an interview, I want to get to know them. So I’ve already assessed their skills and their experience from their resume, and the interview is more about the conversation. 

So taking a pause when you’re thrown off by a question is a very natural reaction we all have when we have to think about what someone’s asking and what our answer would be. And so, putting those thought processes together is perfectly normal and fine, and that’s what’s going to bring that authenticity into the interview. 

That interviewer is going to feel like they’re getting a good sense of who you are. You’re going to have answers that reflect you more genuinely, and, again, back to those kinds of right or wrong, there’s really no right or wrong because it’s all about you. So, the interviewer is relying on you to showcase that. 

Mac Prichard:

When you’ve got two candidates that you’re considering as a recruiter, and one perhaps stumbles on some words or loses perhaps their train of thought in answering a question, but you can tell they’re authentic and real versus somebody who comes in and is very polished but who you have a suspicion that they’re not being authentic. Which candidate are you attracted to as a hiring manager? Which one is gonna be more compelling to you? 

Danelle Robertson: 

I think being polished is great because it shows that you’re prepared. Potentially, you’ve had maybe some more practice. So, I don’t want to dismiss that as being a positive trait in an interview. But it is more about the script. So, if I feel like you’re leading me on to believe something you want me to believe, and interviewers will pick up on that. 

And so, they’ll probe with additional questions, or they might throw another question out at you to cause you to kind of pause for a moment. I like to throw questions out that sort of force people into those responses. Like, what overwhelms you? Or what makes you frustrated? Things they’re not necessarily thinking they’re going to talk about because maybe they think it doesn’t shed a good light on their work style or their experience. 

But recovery, humility, accountability, all those things are really great things to be prepared to talk about. When did you not meet a deadline? Tell me about what the steps were that you took to problem solve. How did you reflect on that? Those are important things because those are real life. And, I think it’s important to be able to show those types of accountability, those problem solvings, walking the interviewer through the steps that you take, how your mind works when you’re in the situation. 

Mac Prichard:

Why does that make a difference to you as a recruiter when you hear someone take you through a situation where they perhaps made a mistake? Many candidates might shy away from talking about failure. Why is that a good thing to bring up in an interview? And how does it help show your authenticity? 

Danelle Robertson: 

Well, we all know we all make mistakes. No matter who you are. And I have had an interview before where someone said that that has never happened to them. So I think that it, again, goes back to, am I getting the real version of this person? Or are they just showing me what they think I want to know? 

So I’m more interested in if you made that mistake, again, back to that reaction. Are you accountable? So in the future, when you’re in your position, would you be accountable to any mistakes that happen? And would you be focused on the solution and the problem solving and thinking on your feet? I think those are far more notable and valuable qualifications for a position when you’re thinking about the real world. 

And so, yeah, I mean stumbling over your words, to your earlier point, Mac, I don’t think I’ve really talked too much about that. But stumbling over your words is also very normal, and we understand that people are nervous during an interview. 

And so, as an interviewer, when I see someone is struggling or stumbling, I will often try to make it more comfortable for them, and then as soon as you get into the ease and the groove of your conversation, and really, again, back to that authentic self, the more authentic you are, the less you have to think about what you’re supposed to say and more about what is actually true to how you would respond to the situation the interviewer is posing to you. 

Mac Prichard:

Well, terrific. We’re gonna take a break, Danelle. So stay with us. When we come back, Danelle Robertson will continue to share her advice about why you must be authentic in a job interview and how to do it. Stay with us. 

How well does your resume show who you are and what you want? 

Get an expert opinion today. 

Go to macslist.org/topresume.

A TopResume writer will review your resume for free. 

Go to macslist.org/topresume.

Learn how you can improve your resume right away. 

Or hire TopResume to do it for you. 

Go to macslist.org/topresume. 

Now, let’s get back to the show.

We’re back in the Mac’s List studio. I’m talking with Danelle Robertson.

She’s the people and culture partner at the Oregon Humane Society. Her organization rescues, heals, and adopts thousands of pets each year. 

She joins us from Portland, Oregon.  

Now, Danelle, before the break, we were talking about why you must be authentic in a job interview and how to do it. I want to talk in this second segment more about your ideas about how to be authentic. But before we move on, you’ve interviewed so many people over the years. What are the signs that a candidate is being inauthentic in a job interview? What are the tells? 

Danelle Robertson: 

That’s a great question. Some of the more obvious ways to identify if someone is being inauthentic are a lot of times they show up in that, what are your weaknesses, or areas of opportunity. Where people are sort of forced to look at the things that maybe they aren’t their strengths, and they tend to respond with things like, I’m a perfectionist. We hear that, or I’m too dedicated. I don’t know how to say no. And those responses just aren’t very helpful, and they don’t feel genuine, and so then you tend to try to probe a little bit on those. 


Other ways are when people come across as if they’re reading a script. Again, back to those Googling those questions and looking at the canned responses, and it comes across very robotic and unnatural. And again, back to that, you know, we really want people to show that accountability and that humility. If you’re overselling yourself in every response and are unable to provide those areas where, you know, you fell short, or you’re looking to grow, or those development opportunities that you have. 

If you never talk about those and you avoid those when they’re being asked, it doesn’t give the interviewer a good sense that you have an idea of your own self-awareness and what your strengths are, and where you are looking to develop. It’s important to identify those development opportunities in advance so that you’re prepared to talk about them but be honest with yourself and in the answers that you give. Try not to be so generic with your responses. 

Mac Prichard:

Well, let’s talk about how to be authentic in a job interview. One of the steps I know you encourage candidates to take is to use the interview as an opportunity to showcase your skills, your experience, and your personality. Why do these three areas, skills, experience, and personality, matter so much to hiring managers, particularly in terms of authenticity? 

Danelle Robertson: 

Well, again, they’ve reviewed your resume, so your skills and your experience that you’ve mapped out on the resume have gotten you into the interview. So you’ve already mastered that hoop if you will. So the interviewer is looking to have a conversation with you.  

Ways that you can be more authentic in an interview, you know, describing those specific experiences. Again, using the position description as your guide to highlight the things that you think are most valuable to bring to the table. They may ask you what are the most valuable assets that you bring and being prepared to talk about that.

And then, also, looking at how you have demonstrated that. So it’s not just about, you know, giving three qualifications. Really talk about, you know, let me give you an example of when, let me tell you about a time, or some ways to really self-reflect before the interview are asking your coworkers, you know. How would you describe me? Asking former managers that you’ve had that maybe you still have relationships. What would you say my work style is? 

Sometimes those are helpful in doing that self-reflection. So you can really see, what can I talk about? What can I highlight? And how does that relate to this position? And, again, I mentioned this in the last comment, but, you know, really talking about your own development. What are you currently working on? 

You know, that’s important for a manager to be able to feel that this person understands what they bring to the table. They have areas for growth that they’ve identified. They’re comfortable talking about the things that they’ve done that illustrate the strengths that they’ve identified. So, all of the ways you can bring those into the interview in a story, with very specific examples, is going to help you paint the picture. 

Mac Prichard:

So when you’re in an interview, and you mentioned this in the first segment, Danelle, it can be a nervous situation. How do you suggest the candidates put themselves at ease so that hiring manager does see your most authentic self? 

Danelle Robertson: 

I think it’s first important to acknowledge that being nervous for an interview is completely normal and to have a little compassion for yourself for that. I don’t know many people that don’t get nervous for interviews. So, I think, going into that knowing that the interviewer is maybe expecting a little bit of that. 

So, ways that you can prevent yourself from letting the nerves get the best of you would be that preparation, again, really looking at the position description, researching the organization. The more prepared you feel to talk about yourself as it relates to the position, looking at your values and how they align with the organization, talking about what drives you, what your ambitions are. Those are all things that the interviewer really wants to know about. So the more you can prepare for those types of responses, the better you’re going to feel. 

And, I think as the interview goes on, so initially, it kinda starts out a little bit, a little rougher, and then as the conversation goes on, hopefully, you’re feeling so prepared that the flow takes over, and you just start to have that ease, and you see that sort of, you know, a moment where you just kind of take a deep breath, and you’re in it. And I think those are when people are showing their best selves. 

Mac Prichard:

Speaking of preparation, I know you’re a fan, Danelle, of using bullets, not scripted answers. Why do you recommend, when you’re preparing, focusing on bulleting your ideas rather than writing out your answers in advance? 

Danelle Robertson: 

Well, bullets are a great place to reference, and that’s really what you want in an interview or any sort of presentation. You want to avoid reading something from your notes or reading something from the internet while you’re in an interview. So bulleting helps you stay on target and point. 

Sometimes, I will put like little reminders of maybe a story that I have next to that bullet point so that I can flow into the story more naturally. 

And so, again, back to the preparation, you just want to come ready to talk about you, but having thought through things in advance and the bullet points are supposed to be more like triggers for you to remind you, oh yeah, that’s that one experience I was gonna highlight that shows how well I work with a team or how I went across departments to accomplish this task. 

Mac Prichard:

Finally, Danelle, I know one of your suggestions for showing your authentic self in an interview is to treat it like a conversation. How have you seen candidates treat an interview like a conversation? What do they do differently? 

Danelle Robertson: 

I think they really start out the conversation with introductions. So, introducing yourself, again, making yourself feel very prepared for the interview will help ease some of those nerves.

As an interviewer, I do try to do a few different tips by also introducing myself, by engaging with the person, responding positively to honest answers, in hopes that those techniques are going to encourage the person to want to talk with me because the conversation is really I think preferred for both parties. 

Mac Prichard:

Terrific. Well, I’ve really enjoyed our conversation, Danelle. Now, tell us, what’s next for you? 

Danelle Robertson: 

I am the people and culture partner at the Oregon Humane Society, and we have a lot of exciting things happening right now. We are expanding our services. We have merged with the Willamette Humane Society in Salem and have become one. 

We’re opening up a community veterinary hospital this fall, as well as a behavior resource center. So we have so much happening that’s expanding our reach within the community, and we’re really excited about it. 

Mac Prichard:

Well, terrific. I know listeners can learn more about the work of your organization by visiting your website, www.oregonhumane.org. 

Now, Danelle, given all the great advice you’ve shared today, what’s the one thing you want a listener to remember about why you must be authentic in a job interview and how to do it?

Danelle Robertson: 

Be prepared and be yourself. 

Mac Prichard:

Make sure you never miss an episode of Find Your Dream Job. 

Subscribe to our free podcast newsletter. 

You’ll get information about our guests and transcripts of every show. 

Go to macslist.org/newsletters.

Again, that’s macslist.org/newsletters.

Next week, our guest will be Beth Gibbs. 

She’s the people and culture director at Impact NorthWest. 

Her organization prevents homelessness by partnering with people as they navigate their journey to stability and opportunity. 

Labor is in short supply today in the United States. Unemployment rates remain at record lows. 

And that means, for the first time since the 1970s, job applicants can call the shots.

Join us next Wednesday when Beth Gibbs and I  talk about how you can make the most of this job seeker’s market. 

Until next time, thanks for letting us help you find your dream job.

This show is produced by Mac’s List. 

Susan Thornton-Hough schedules our guests and writes our newsletter. Lisa Kislingbury Anderson manages our social media.

Our sound engineer is Matt Fiorillo.  Ryan Morrison at Podfly Productions edits the show. Dawn Mole creates our transcripts. And our music is by Freddy Trujillo.

This is Mac Prichard. See you next week.