Of course, people do that all the time. On Halloween, a costume is used to convey a certain impression. On any other day, what is used to achieve just that is a brand message.
Interviewer question: “Tell me about yourself”—or a particular facet thereof
The following was inspired by what a job seeker told me recently. So imagine you are at a job interview, and you get the common question “Tell me about yourself.” You start to proceed along one of the usual paths, such as how your childhood interests foreshadowed your later vocational choices.
But then the interviewer interrupts you: “No, no, no. Tell me what you do in your free time.”
If you feel taken aback by that “qualifying” question, to the point of being blindsided—keep a level head and try to understand…
What are they really asking?
They may be looking for clues of how you handle your work–life balance: Do you “relax” from your desk job by being a couch potato, watching reruns of early Law & Order seasons? The “historical” interest of it notwithstanding, that wouldn’t seem very “balanced.” What might go over better is if you say you do something “active” to refuel, to reenergize, such as running, cycling, or climbing.
Or they may try to probe how your “free-time self” is alignable with your “on-the-job self.” They might like to hear you say you play team sports (preferably with some kind of competitive incentive). Moreover, you might score brownie points by injecting that you alternate these times with times you focus on intriguing books. (“What are you reading right now?” is an interview question in its own right.)
There is no reason to take it too personal, because there is no reason to be too “personal.”
Prying as the question may sound, it really is an offer made to you to take control of the direction the conversation takes from there. You might as well take them up on that offer and present those “transferable” personality traits about you that go to show how the job in question is compatible with the personality you bring to it.
If you need to put on a figurative kind of “costume” to look like a good fit, then you may risk setting yourself up for a poor outlook on job satisfaction and job longevity. You might want to let your best judgment be your guide: If you don’t have to resort to any kind of “disguise,” that may be its own answer.