I was recently interviewed by Catherine Conlan for Monster, a global online employment solution for people seeking jobs and the employers who need great people. The topic was 5 things HR still wishes all job candidates knew. My musings are at No. 5.

With over 20 years of experience working with executives, leaders and managers, I have completed hundreds of assessments with people being considered for new roles and promotions. I have profiled and coached a diverse range of individuals in world renowned organizations from CEOs of Fortune 500 companies to Bomb Disposal Experts and from General Counsels to Police Chief Superintendents.

I continue to be amazed by the poor insight many candidates have about themselves. Time and time again, I wish they had better self-awareness; I wish they knew themselves better. Candidates can often pull a few headline insights out the bag but once I probe deeper, I’m startled by most individuals’ inability to talk more profoundly about themselves, what really drives and motivates them and who they are at their core. I hear the same trite, overused values trotted out time and time again but, so often, candidates struggle to articulate what’s really unique or different about them. I think this is due primarily to a lack of rich, deep self-reflection. Furthermore, I think it’s hard for people to step outside themselves and look back in.

My advice for anyone going for an important interview is to take some time in advance to really get to know yourself. Take some time to think through your personal story, go back to your early days and reflect on family dynamics, the roles you played growing up, the interests you had, the lessons you learned and the values you were taught. Ask the honest brokers in your life to tell you what they see in you, what they love about you and what frustrates them about you. Think about you at your best and at your worst; what have you learned from experiences at these two ends of the spectrum?  Then try to get specific. Think about what’s really distinctive about you; what differentiates you from other people?

Research tells us that individuals with deep emotional intelligence have a rich and nuanced self-awareness. Since we look at life through our own experiences, attitudes, perceptions and biases, it’s hard to fully understand others and the dynamics of relationships without knowing ourselves first and realizing what we are bringing to the table.

If you’ve yet to practice the art of self-discovery, I’ll leave you with this quote attributed to Greek philosopher Socrates:

“The unexamined life is not worth living.”

You can read the full article on Monster.

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