Everyone experiences job interview nerves in one form or another. A little pre-interview anxiety is understandable. After all, when your heart is set on a new job you want to do your very best to secure it. Here are my top tips on how to communicate well at interview. Be certain to give your prospective employers the very best impression of you.
Who are you?
When you walk into the interview room and meet your potential employers for the first time, who do you want them to see? We communicate who we are through more than words. How we stand, sit and gesticulate contribute greatly to our professional appearance. Communicate with charisma and presence and interviewers will warm to you. Build rapport and you will help potential employers to envisage you fitting in well in their organisation.
Think of a person whose qualities you admire. Spend some time considering how they carry themselves in professional situations. How do they sit and stand? What are their hands doing? What about their facial expressions and their use of eye contact? Become a ‘people watcher’ and borrow the best of what you see for your own interview performance.
Have them at ‘hello’
It’s a cliché, but that first impression really counts. Overcome the awkwardness you feel about meeting people more powerful than you and you’ll make a great first impression.
When you walk into the room take care to stand your full height. Slouching, crouching, bending, folding – all will diminish the interviewers’ confidence in you before you’ve said a word. When you stand (or sit) tall you will feel more confident. That’s because your brain knows to create more testosterone when you make yourself ‘bigger’ (testosterone is the hormone that increases our feeling of wellbeing while reducing our anxiety). Smiling also promotes a feeling of wellbeing, regardless of what we may be worrying about!
Smile, walk tall, offer a strong handshake and position yourself so that the front of your body always faces the interview panel. Don’t fold your arms, cross your legs or talk to the floor. Think ‘open and relaxed’ and start as you mean to go on.
Take a moment
When you feel sure of yourself it is tempting to blurt out the first answer that comes into your head. However, interviewers are often more interested in discovering how you think rather than what you know.
By pausing before your answer you give your brain time to scan itself for the best answer (not the one closest to the front of your mind!) Take your time so your brain can use its power of recall to greatest effect. A considered answer is always more impressive than a quick and shallow one!
Your voice needs water
Are you drinking enough water? When you are properly hydrated you will think more clearly. Your voice will sound clearer too. If offered water by the interviewer, accept it, even if you don’t think you need it.
If the room you are interviewed in has air conditioning the risk that your voice will become ‘dried out’ becomes even greater. Sip water at regular intervals, though avoid iced water as this will contract your vocal muscles. It’s easy to imagine that a person with a weak voice is weak in other areas of life so keep the best piece of equipment in your communication toolbox (your voice) in good condition.
Talking, air conditioning and interview nerves all dehydrate you and this is bad news for your voice. To be clear and coherent during your interview, drink water. Avoid tea, coffee and alcohol as they will strip your voice of its moisture.
Get a coach
It’s tempting to practise interview questions with friends and family members. However, there is a danger that those who care for you the most may give you feedback that, while well-intended, may prove to be too positive or too negative.
Work with an experienced interview skills coach, who will give you frank and invaluable feedback to help you to understand how you come across from an interviewer’s perspective. You may not have considered spending money to improve your interview skills but think of this as an investment in you, the return on that investment being the job of your dreams. Why be great when you could be fantastic?!
Julie Howell is a confidence coach and author of ‘Get Your Public Speaking Mojo Back Forever! 50 imaginative ideas to help you communicate with confidence’. Earlier in her career, Julie was a campaigns officer with RNIB and she has judged the Charity Times Awards since their inception, fifteen years ago.