Article by Laura Autumn Cox, Toastmasters International
Nerves play a huge part in many people’s experiences of job interviews.
Fear of rejection is understandable, however, in a highly competitive employment market, reaching the interview stage is an achievement; according to recent research, just 2% of candidates applying for jobs are selected for interview, and for each vacancy, employers will interview an average of 6 candidates. So, you could focus on the potential for failure, or you can appreciate that the employer sees you as being amongst an elite.
While a job interview is about verifying your capabilities, it’s also about giving the interviewer a chance to get to know you. And how do people get to know each other? They have conversations. That’s what a job interview is at its core – a conversation. And having conversations is something you do, every day. You regularly build rapport with people, and in a job interview, that is your goal.
To help you nail this potentially life changing moment of rapport building, here are four key strategies:
Always be authentic
By their very nature, interviews are a little unnatural – mostly affable but with a gladiatorial subtext (you need to slay the other interviewees). You’re there to win. But remember that the you that is sold at the job interview is the you the employer will expect to turn up for work.
Inevitably there is an element of performance but be wary of straying too far from the version of you that inhabits 99.9(repeating)% of your life. People are sensitive to façades. They will recognise if you’re putting on an act, and it won’t endear you to them. Being honest and authentic does not require a script (or for you to adopt a character).
Confidence is great (essential even), but don’t over promise or exaggerate; declaring that you are brilliant at X almost certainly means you will need to back up your claim with an example (perhaps more). Give genuine evidence of where you’ve modelled the behaviours they want to see, and if you don’t have an example, think about how you would apply the given behaviour in an imagined scenario.
Be a listener
It’s easy to think job interviews are all about what is said, but listening is just as important. Open body language, eye contact and responsiveness are behaviours that you exhibit when you’re talking to a friend or a loved one because you’re genuinely engaged with what they have to say. Apply these behaviours in interview situations, whether you’re listening or replying to a question.
Let your interviewer see that you’re engaging with them by maintaining eye contact, allowing them time to speak, and giving visual clues like nods. Actions speak louder than words, and any brilliance you display when speaking is undermined if you’re staring at your feet when someone else is talking.
Be as interested as you are interesting
Asking questions of the interviewer is a classic piece of interview technique. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to walk in with a prepared list, although that can be helpful. A better strategy is to cultivate curiosity – be genuinely inquisitive.
At the end of the interview, your interviewer may ask if you have any questions, but this isn’t a given. So, where appropriate, weave in questions throughout the interview to encourage conversation – showing interest is endearing. Perhaps there is a project that you’re really excited about that you know the company is working on. If you’re attending in person (rather on video), take note of anything you see that interests you as you walk into the building, and form questions that would be appropriate for the interview setting.
But things such as hours, wage, and other contractual details can be clarified once you’ve got the job. Focus on making the best impression possible.
Remember that your interviewer is human
Remember that your interviewer is also someone with worries, concerns and joys, and who probably wants to be liked as much as you do. They may even be nervous themselves – remember that they will be aware that the interview is also your opportunity to assess if they are a good fit for you. No one likes rejection, even employers.
And everyone likes to feel validated, respected and appreciated. So do your pre-interview homework. Check out the company/organisation website and Social Media platforms. Know where any satellite offices are located and take note of any awards they have been given or any charities they support. Google them. Read their press coverage. Perhaps there won’t be an opportunity to use all of this information (resist crowbarring), but this knowledge in your back pocket will, at the very least, boost your confidence and potentially allow you to impress and leave the interviewer with warm, fuzzy feelings. Remember, they asked to meet you; they want you to do well.
About the author
Laura Autumn Cox is a member of Toastmasters International, a not-for-profit organisation that has provided communication and leadership skills since 1924 through a worldwide network of clubs. There are more than 400 clubs and 10,000 members in the UK and Ireland. Members follow a structured educational programme to gain skills and confidence in public and impromptu speaking, chairing meetings and time management. To find your nearest club, visit www.toastmasters.org