Title_ How to Study Efficiently for Hours On End (With the Help of a Tomato) (20)There’s something comical about reading articles that coach you on how to be yourself. If you Google “authentic interview tips,” you’ll find articles titled “How to Sound Authentic” and “How to Be Yourself,” which evoke truisms like Oscar Wilde’s “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken” and Shakespeare’s “To thine own self be true.” But what does “being yourself” even mean? And how can you “be yourself” under the duress of an interview?

“Being yourself” doesn’t mean being spontaneous or unrehearsed. Rather, authenticity in an interview requires preparation. Let’s break down “authenticity” so you can be prepared, confident, and grounded in any interview setting, without sacrificing your integrity. Here are my top 5 tips for authentic interviewing:

1. Make a game plan for tricky questions.

Think through what “traps” you might encounter in an interview, and make a game plan to navigate them. Consider common, yet tricky, questions like: “tell me about your greatest weakness.” Without adequately reflecting on this question in advance, you might be compelled to deflect this question with humor (“I’m not a morning person”) or to pass off a potential strength as a weakness (“I’m a perfectionist”). Interview prep is a great opportunity for self-reflection, and it gives you a solid foundation to build on during the actual interview.

2. Ground yourself in stories.

If you fear getting lost in your own sales pitch, remember that you’re a real person who has already done real things of meaningful impact! Don’t be afraid to reference specific stories and anecdotes in the interview – these stories will ground you and help paint a more specific picture of you for your interviewer. If you’re looking for where to begin, ask yourself questions like: what have been your most meaningful experiences working or studying in the field for which you’re interviewing? What are the times that you’ve learned something new, risen to a challenge, achieved, led, or failed? What are some personal qualities you want to highlight in the interview, and which stories illustrate those qualities?

3. Be specific.

In my experience, nothing feels less authentic than platitudes and jargon. Conversely, nothing feels more authentic than specificity. In the context of the interview, ask yourself why you are applying in the first place. What specifically appeals to you about the school or position? What exactly do you think you will bring to the institution or company? Show your interviewer how much you see yourself at this school or company by doing your research in advance – this will help you confidently answer any question without falling back on clichés.

4. Understand the power of a pause.

If you feel rushed and panicky, you might be more inclined to churn out an answer in the hopes of moving onto the next question. Ironically, we’re often at the greatest risk of rambling when we have the least to say. Don’t be afraid to pause and take a breath before you answer a question. If moments of silence are uncomfortable for you, try narrating a pause instead. For example, you could say: “That’s a really [interesting/challenging/thought-provoking/complex] question; I’d like to take a moment to think about my answer before I respond.”

5. Remember why you’re there.

Surround yourself with the words, images, and ideas that ignite your sense of purpose. For me, this looks like revisiting passages in my favorite books or reading over the writing I’m most proud of before my interview. I usually even bring my favorite books with me in my backpack for good luck!

These tips have been lifesavers for me in interview settings, from jobs to graduate scholarships. I’ve learned how to navigate interviews so that they bring out the best in me, rather than the worst. Give these strategies a try, perhaps in a mock interview with a tutor or a friend. Good luck!


academics study skills MCAT medical school admissions SAT college admissions expository writing English strategy MD/PhD admissions writing LSAT GMAT physics GRE chemistry biology math graduate admissions academic advice law school admissions ACT interview prep language learning test anxiety career advice premed MBA admissions personal statements homework help AP exams creative writing MD test prep study schedules computer science Common Application mathematics summer activities history philosophy secondary applications organic chemistry economics supplements research grammar 1L PSAT admissions coaching law psychology statistics & probability dental admissions legal studies ESL CARS PhD admissions SSAT covid-19 logic games reading comprehension calculus engineering USMLE mentorship Spanish parents Latin biochemistry case coaching verbal reasoning AMCAS DAT English literature STEM admissions advice excel medical school political science skills French Linguistics MBA coursework Tutoring Approaches academic integrity astrophysics chinese gap year genetics letters of recommendation mechanical engineering Anki DO Social Advocacy algebra art history artificial intelligence business careers cell biology classics data science dental school diversity statement geometry kinematics linear algebra mental health presentations quantitative reasoning study abroad tech industry technical interviews time management work and activities 2L DMD IB exams ISEE MD/PhD programs Sentence Correction adjusting to college algorithms amino acids analysis essay athletics business skills cold emails finance first generation student functions graphing information sessions international students internships logic networking poetry proofs resume revising science social sciences software engineering trigonometry units writer's block 3L AAMC Academic Interest EMT FlexMed Fourier Series Greek Health Professional Shortage Area Italian JD/MBA admissions Lagrange multipliers London MD vs PhD MMI Montessori National Health Service Corps Pythagorean Theorem Python Shakespeare Step 2 TMDSAS Taylor Series Truss Analysis Zoom acids and bases active learning architecture argumentative writing art art and design schools art portfolios bacteriology bibliographies biomedicine brain teaser campus visits cantonese capacitors capital markets central limit theorem centrifugal force chemical engineering chess chromatography class participation climate change clinical experience community service constitutional law consulting cover letters curriculum dementia demonstrated interest dimensional analysis distance learning econometrics electric engineering electricity and magnetism escape velocity evolution executive function fellowships freewriting genomics harmonics health policy history of medicine history of science hybrid vehicles hydrophobic effect ideal gas law immunology induction infinite institutional actions integrated reasoning intermolecular forces intern investing investment banking lab reports letter of continued interest linear maps mandarin chinese matrices mba medical physics meiosis microeconomics mitosis mnemonics music music theory nervous system