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Be Interesting, But Not Too Interesting

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Did you know there are degrees of “interesting”? Sure, we’ve all met someone who is NOT interesting, but have you ever met anyone who is TOO interesting? If not, it is my honor to introduce myself to you: My name is Scott, and I am too interesting.

In one of our posts, our Indianapolis speaker, Robby Slaughter, tackled the brave new world of job-seeking and the unique issues facing anyone – old or young, experienced or inexperienced – who is applying for a job today:

I believe that the biggest challenge facing job seekers is not tweaking their application to match the position, but reinventing themselves to be as intriguing as possible according to the culture of their targeted employer. In broader terms: candidates must be tremendously interesting, but not too interesting.

Robby’s post opened the floodgates on a memory of when I moved back to Indianapolis years ago and networked my way into an interview for a job preparing proposals with a financial services firm. I researched the company and tailored my résumé to demonstrate accurately that I could do the job. I wrote a kick-ass cover letter, had two friends proofread everything, and showed up for the interview appropriately dressed.

Indianapolis speakers discussing interviews

© Flickr user florbelas fotographix

It was all going well until the traditional question came: “Where do you see yourself in ten years?” I thought my answer was solid: “I’ll have developed and refined skills in sales and business management, and I hope to be running my own successful business catering to the very wealthy. An art gallery, perhaps, or a fundraising event services firm.” It was in line with what the position offered, skill-development-wise, and it indicated initiative, ambition, and an understanding of their client base. But at the end of our time together, the interviewer said, without a hint of irony or shame, “An art gallery? Really? We do spreadsheets. I think you’d be great at the job, but you’re just too interesting to work here.”

He was right on both counts. I would have done an excellent job in the position. And I was too interesting to work there. I was so eager to have an interview – really, eager to have a paycheck – that I’d overlooked the fact that I would be working with (boring, to me) financial advisors with whom I’d have had very little in common. It was the best thing in the world for that guy to tell me I was “too interesting” – and probably the best thing for his company, too.

I’m not sure if my perspective as a result of that experience is contrary to Robby’s advice about being interesting-but-not-too-interesting. Maybe it’s parallel?

Yes, we must manage our own personal brands, but we must also realize that a job search is about compromise (on both sides) and finding the right fit. If we’re willing to be more interesting or less interesting in the interview (or to get the interview), then we must be prepared for the consequences of that when we get the job. Conversely, if we’re willing to be ourselves completely and utterly, then we must be prepared for the consequences of that when it takes us two or three or four times as long to get the job.

What I’m saying is: Job-seekers, take heart. The right job at the right place with the right people is out there. Be who you are, manage your personal brand, and be mindful of the choices you make and their consequences.

And, for all our sakes, keep being interesting!

Scott Semester is, in fact, pretty interesting. He takes care of offices, pets (yes pets), and kids, and his favorite artificial flavor is cherry. He tweets. A lot.

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