Paul Menzel, MS, CPLP
Words at Work
I make my living teaching business communications – specifically I help people become more effective presenters. Experts tell us that less than 20% of our impact as speakers is based on the content of our presentations. The biggest part of the impression we make is based on visual and auditory cues we give about our confidence and competence. In other words, it’s not what you say but how you say it.
In so many ways, interviewing for a job is like giving a presentation. In that same vein, how you conduct yourself during an interview can have a much greater impact than the content of what you say. When I work with presenters, I consistently recommend they practice, and be authentic. You can use those same recommendations to increase the odds of a favorable impression during your interview.
No matter what you are attempting, and especially if it’s something you rarely do, you will be more effective if you practice. Get your recruiter’s help to practice for your interview. Take advantage of someone with a vested interest in your success, and specialized knowledge about your prospective employer. This practice might take the form of a simulated interview with your recruiter playing the part of the potential employer. Your goal is not to develop a “script” of rehearsed answers to likely questions. Scripted responses to questions can shift your focus from being in the moment to remembering your lines. The goal of practice is to develop confidence in your ability to handle any potential questions during an interview. This confidence goes a long way to calming the nervousness you’re likely to feel in a job interview.
The second suggestion is to be authentic. Don’t try to be something you aren’t. Be candid about your experience and what you are looking for. There is a great temptation to not admit any shortcomings during an interview. By embellishing your talents or experience, you end up pretending to be something that you aren’t. So here are some authenticity suggestions:
Use your normal vocabulary. Don’t try to impress by using big words that you might misuse or mispronounce.
Wear business appropriate clothing that you are comfortable in. An interview is no time to break in a new pair of Italian loafers.
Be honest about your experience and training. If you are caught in a lie, it’s an automatic deal breaker.
Be in the moment, carefully listening to what is being said. Ask clarifying questions if something is unclear.
Be honest about what you are looking for in a new job. What is missing in your current job and what is essential in a new situation?
Know and be willing to express what qualities you bring to the job that aren’t apparent on a resume. An interview is no time to be modest.
Do some research about your prospective employer. Come prepared with intelligent questions about the job. It is also your responsibility to make sure there is a good match of applicant to job.
If you feel well suited to a job opportunity, express your enthusiasm.
Just as with a presentation, thorough preparation for your interview will help you be at your confident best. Being confident lets you be more authentic so that the potential employer sees you in all your strengths and shortcomings – and not a role you are playing.
The goal is to find the best match of candidate to job. If you’re not being who you are, then by definition you really can’t be a match to anything.