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Blog Interview

Ask a Recruiter: Can I Be Myself During an Interview?

Plus: Tips on finding diverse candidates and asking prospective employers the right questions

recruiterInHerSight asked Megan Lipera, recruiter for public relations and marketing agency Merritt Group, to share how the workforce is changing for women—and what we should do about it. These are her answers, in her own words. Are you a recruiter with job advice to share? Email our managing editor Beth Castle at beth@inhersight.com for consideration.

What’s your elevator pitch?

My name is Megan Lipera, and I grew up in Alexandria, Virginia. I still live there with my husband, Adam, and our cat, Ellie. After I graduated from college, I had no idea what I wanted to do. I tried marketing, sales, teaching fitness classes full time, office management. Basically, you name it, I have probably done it. In 2017, feeling burnt out and bored, I thought I would give Human Resources a shot. I got a job as a Recruitment Sourcing Specialist with Inova Health System thanks to a friend. I was quickly promoted to a Recruiter and have not looked back since. I now work as a recruiter for an awesome public relations and marketing agency called Merritt Group. I love working in HR and hope to continue to do so for the foreseeable future. 

What challenges do you see women candidates facing when they look for jobs, and how can they overcome them?

Discrimination in the workplace and during the interview process are still a problem for women, specifically for leadership and executive positions. The issue of balancing life at home and work is rarely asked of men but almost always posed as a difficulty for women. Women still face situations such as pregnancy discrimination when they look for jobs. Your personal plans should never come up in a job interview. Don’t even address it if this happens to come up. I would view it as a red flag if the interviewer does seem curious about topics such as marriage and family plans. If this is occurring during the hiring process, then you know it will continue to be a challenge when you start working for that company. Remember, you are interviewing them as well to see if it is a good fit. It benefits you to be as observant as possible. 

Diversity is top of mind for a lot of companies right now. How do you approach diversity as a recruiter? 

First of all, don’t be afraid to talk about it. If diversity is an issue at your company, then say so. Bring it up with leadership as a concern. As a recruiter, you should be openly talking about diversity in your company or the lack thereof. 

How do you approach it? Be honest. To help companies find diverse candidates you need to identify what is working and what is not. You need to come up with some new ideas. Look for opportunities that are outside the norm. 

For example, I recently met with a career services representative from San Francisco State University (my company also has an office out there). We were looking for ways to partner with them on recruiting efforts. The topic of recruiting more diverse candidates came up in the conversation, and the rep from SFSU had some really fabulous ideas. She mentioned some programs we could get involved in that were wonderful opportunities for Merritt Group. Not only would we be able to reach out to a more diverse candidate base but it also presents us with an opportunity to help out the community. 

How do you think other recruiters can do a better job of finding more diverse or women candidates?

You can’t continue to do the same thing and expect different results. Don’t sit at a desk behind a computer all day looking at resumes. Get out there! Talk to people. If you continue to recruit and search in the same places you always have, nothing will ever change. Look for opportunities to recruit from more diverse colleges. Go to networking events. Find sites like the amazing InHerSight.com and post your job openings. Don’t wait for the diversity to come to you. You as the recruiter have to be proactive. 

What are the most common questions women have for you about finding a job?

I get a lot of etiquette questions. Should I just be myself or should I cater to the atmosphere and the person I am meeting with? I minored in women’s studies, so sometimes I get asked about that and how it has helped me in my career. It really has helped me! In my women’s studies classes, I felt empowered and confident. That brings me to another question I get asked: Should I present myself as empowered and confident? YES. Please don’t ever feel like this is not okay. You are just as smart and capable as anyone else so don’t hide that. Presenting yourself in this way will also serve you well throughout your career, not just when looking for a job. 

Read more: 16 Interview Questions & Your Guide to Crushing Them

What questions should women be asking recruiters? What should they be asking prospective employers?

Any concerns or hesitations you have about the job search or hiring process, please bring up to a recruiter you are in contact with. If you don’t know someone, then send your questions to me. Any concerns or hesitations that you have about the job you are interviewing for, please bring up with your prospective employer. There are no dumb questions when you are looking for a job. If you are concerned about growth opportunities, then ask about them. If you want resume advice, ask. You are going to be spending a lot of time at this place if you start working there, so make sure it is a place where you are going to feel comfortable. 

What the best job advice you’ve ever received?

My dad gave me some great advice by telling me to show up on time, look sharp, and try to approach even the toughest situations with a positive attitude. 

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