To Get Hired, You're Going to Need to be Relatable

Jun 03, 2023
Photo by Shumilov Ludmila on Unsplash

A key element of getting hired is being relatable, but it’s something that is frequently overlooked by candidates during the interview process. One reason for this is because it is natural to take the job description or interviewers questions at face-value and simply provide answers to their questions. However, to get hired, you need to do more than have experience and check the necessary boxes. You and your experience need to be seen as relatable as possible to the job that you’re applying for. The trouble is, the information that allows you to be relatable isn’t always openly disclosed.

In the most common scenario, a candidate views a job posting, sees that there are several basic and preferred qualifications that the hiring manager is looking for, and determines if they meet most of those requirements. The candidate goes on to apply for the job and if they’re lucky enough to get contacted by the recruiter, the candidate will have a 30-minute call with the recruiter to discuss the position at a very high-level. During the conversation, the candidate will be pitching themselves to the recruiter, trying to get the recruiter to move the candidate along in the interview process. The recruiter will also be giving a pitch, and at the same time the recruiter will be vetting the candidate. Normally the candidate has about 5 minutes at the end of the interview to ask questions. Unfortunately, many candidates don’t have any questions, or they ask questions that won’t help them during the interview process.


Lack of Relatability

Frequently, candidates will ask questions about compensation, culture, remote work, or possibly why the position is open. But rarely does a candidate ask questions about the details of the work environment. This is a crucial oversight because without additional details, the candidate is leaving their relatability to chance during the rest of the interview process.  This is crucial is because relatability is a gauge of how unfamiliar something is to someone.

If you had a house painter, you certainly wouldn’t assume that they would be qualified to be an auto mechanic. If the painter was interviewing for a job of a mechanic and the interviewer asked, “tell me about a time when you had to deal with a difficult problem”, the painter is likely going to talk about challenges that they faced while painting. This makes the painter completely un-relatable to the interviewer because the interviewer isn’t looking for someone to solve painting problems. The interviewer is looking for someone that can solve auto mechanic problems. While this example is obvious, real-world interviews become more nuanced. This is because the candidate is typically applying for a job where they have related experience, but this related experience doesn’t necessarily translate into relatability.

For example, let’s assume that there’s a job posting for a data analyst position and this position requires someone to have 3 years of experience in the field, along with 3 years of experience building Tableau dashboards. Now let’s assume that you have 5 years’ experience in the field and 5 years’ experience building Tableau dashboards. During the interview, you’re asked about your experience, and you tell the interviewer that you have 2 additional years of experience, and you provide great examples of you’ve been updating existing dashboards as well as building a few new ones. You feel like you aced the interview. But to the interviewer, you don’t have the necessary experience to succeed in this role.

This is because the interviewer was looking for something specific that was never shared with the you. The interviewer is the hiring manager for team that was just created in the company and the team doesn’t have any dashboards today. While the interviewer needs someone capable of building dashboards, the interviewer wants to have confidence and feel like you have encountered this exact scenario before. To you, the experienced candidate, it doesn’t seem like this should even be a point of discussion as the work of building a dashboard in a new team is the same as building within an existing team. To the interviewer, you don’t appear to be perfectly relatable, and you might not get hired because of this.


Recommended Approach

What you needed to do was to provide answers that were directly relatable to the interviewer, thus leaving the interviewer feeling like you were the perfect match for the role. This is why you need to gather as much information up-front about the job, the team, the environment, the technology, the challenges, and why those challenges are important to the business. This requires you to proactively come to the recruiting call with these questions and if necessary, schedule a follow-up with the recruiter to ask additional questions. 

During your recruiter call, your goal is to become as familiar as possible with the job, almost to the point where you can visualize what it’s like to be there today. When you obtain this information and a clear picture of the challenges and environment, you will be able to customize your answers and use more relatable answers during the interview process. By treating the recruiting call as a fact-finding mission, you will be equipped to provide the most relatable answers. This will increase your chance of success during the interview process. Without this information, you’ll be leaving relatability to chance, hoping that the interviewer can infer relatability, which is never a good strategy.



Brandon Southern, MBA, is the founder of Analytics Mentor, specializing in providing analytics advising, consulting, training, and mentorship for organizations and individuals. Brandon has been in tech for 20 years in roles including analytics, software development, release management, quality assurance, six-sigma process improvement, project & product management, and more. He has been an individual contributor as well as a senior leader at start-up companies, GameStop, VMWare, eBay, Amazon, and more. Brandon specializes in building world-class analytics organizations and elevating individuals.

You can learn more about Brandon and Analytics Mentor at

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