5 simple things that will improve your next job interview performance
You know the basics of prepping for an interview -- role play with a friend, dress appropriately, sit up straight, make eye contact, etc. I went a step further to create a list of things you wouldn’t necessarily consider before your next interview yet are equally as valuable. These are the things no one really tells you but you learn from hard won experience (or watching lots and lots of Ted Talks).
1. How you say it matters as much as what you say. It’s true. Research supports this. In her Fake It Till You Make It Ted Talk, Amy Cuddy illuminates the powerful influence of nonverbal communication, pointing out that we are drawn to people who make eye contact, listen and project empathy. We judge each other on interpersonal interactions so much so that patients who have more favorable impressions of their doctors are less likely to sue them. Maya Angelou said famously that “people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Make people feel like they want to spend more time with you (and that you’re competent), and you will be a hard candidate to beat.
2. Don’t memorize what you’re going to say. I’m not saying “Don’t practice.” Definitely rehearse. And then practice again with someone else. And again. But, more importantly, decide how you’re going to answer the questions without necessarily memorizing what you’ll say. Your words will flow more naturally, and you will project more confidence and ease.
3. When your mind goes blank, stop talking. There’s a reason lawyers advise their witnesses to err on the side of brevity. You are essentially the witness of your prior work experience, so you don’t want to say too much, particularly if you find your thoughts floundering. When you feel this happening, you’re better off pausing and saying something like, “Let me think about that for a minute,” than emitting a nonsensical stream of words. You will just sound like you’re babbling and your own confidence may wane.
4. Pay attention to your body language. And that doesn’t necessarily mean sitting up straight. I know Mom told you not to slump your shoulders, but your best tack is to mirror the body language of the person sitting across from you. We are most comfortable with people who match our nonverbal style. That said, before the interview follow Cuddy’s advice and assume a “power pose” for a minute in the restroom -- either raise your arms and hold them straight in a V pattern like you’ve just knocked out Ali in the third round or stand with your hands on your hips like you've just saved Metropolis from Lex Luthor's strain of robotic killer bees. It sounds crazy but power poses change your body chemistry to promote self-confidence and composure.
5. Right before the interview think of the most confident person you can imagine. Then pretend you’re that person. Again, this also may sound nuts, but countless people I’ve recommended this tack to have told me that it works. More than once, I’ve emulated Jane Fonda, Angelina Jolie and Angela Bassett when I feel my confidence fading. This trick dovetails well with Cuddy’s advice in the Fake It Till You Make It talk, possibly because it raises your testosterone levels like the power poses. Above all, take Cuddy’s advice to “configure your brain to cope the best in that situation…leave that situation feeling like (you) really got to show them who (you are).”
Kristin Schuchman, MSW is a career counselor based in Portland, Oregon who works with creative and mission-driven professionals. She writes resumes and coaches individuals seeking support for career indecision, next steps, work re-entry, advancement, and work-life-balance. She offers a free 30-minute Zoom or phone session and presently works with clients remotely. Find out more at www.sparkacareer.com.