Confidence in Interviewing
We all know it, interviewing for a new job can be an extremely nerve-wracking experience, especially if you haven’t been through the experience for a while. People look for longevity in jobs nowadays, so, bottom line, your interviewing techniques will inevitably get rusty and won’t come naturally to you anymore. They just feel no longer a part of your basic DNA.
I’m going to be discussing in this blog how – in my opinion – we can hide, and conquer, those nerves so we can come out on top and get that new dream job in the bag!
Self-talk. Before the interview, don’t let your mind play tricks on you; don’t listen to those little negative gremlins in the back of your head, repeatedly saying:
“I’m probably not going to get it!”
Or repeatedly coming up with questions like:
“What if they ask me something that I don’t know the answer to?”
“Why would they want to hire me over all the other people in the world who are so much more clever, so much more experienced?”
I can’t help but relate this to a scene in the film “Cool Runnings” about the unlikely (but true) scenario of a Jamaica team entering the bobsled event at a winter Olympics. A member of the team, from a country which has, of course, never seen snow, finds himself, before the first run, doing a serious self-talk into a mirror: he is determined to take on and conquer his self-doubt. It’s an impressive piece of Positive Mental Attitude in action. My point here is that what goes on internally, in your own mind, is very, very important – so before the interview, be positive, shout at yourself in the mirror if you have to be but be kind to yourself. Imagine walking into the room at the start and shaking the interviewer’s hand, or hands if there is a table full of them, to answering each question with confidence – this will give you a huge boost of self-esteem. Imagine yourself succeeding and being offered the job. PMA. It goes a long way.
People are often afraid to sell themselves because those gremlins also feed the nagging worry that they’ll come across as arrogant. But, turn it round in your head and think about it this way: if you don’t sell yourself then, who will? It’s not arrogance to present yourself in the best way possible. The interview panel aren’t mind readers, so it really is down to you to tell them who you are and what you are offering them.
When I was a recruiter, I used to take the time to meet my candidates, or to speak to them on the phone, immediately prior to an interview, to help calm their nerves. I’d remind them of why they deserved to be in that interview room and get them to voice to me lots of examples of why they were appropriate for the job. From the feedback I received from candidates, this really helped. This self-motivating is something you can do yourself – with yourself. Remember: you wouldn’t have been invited to the interview if you didn’t deserve to be there.
You could help pump yourself up before the interview by listening to your favourite, self-motivating music to get into the right mindset to boss the interview. You may have your own pre-interview ritual, but I find that this take the edge off and allows you to approach the situation with self-assurance and composure.
Stay calm and collected. Be confident and always remember that you are interviewing with other human beings.
This leads me on to my next tip quite nicely. Aim to connect with the interviewers, not to impress them. Have you heard the saying “people like people like them”? This is something I use regularly in my training sessions with our trainees. It’s easily forgotten. If you connect with your interviewers, the likelihood is you will impress them.
To maximise your chances of success, in my opinion, it’s really important to focus on building this rapport in the interview. Remember you have two ears and one mouth for a reason. Trust me, it works! If you are an introvert, your superior listening skills will be your secret weapon. Make sure you listen carefully to questions and if you aren’t sure you understand the question, don’t be afraid to ask the interviewer to repeat. It’s much better to do that than to guess and give a wrong, ill-considered answer! If you’re an extrovert, the same applies.
Ensure you are calm and breathe. This will allow you to listen, to take in what the interviewer is asking you, or is telling you about the role and the company which you can bring this back into conversation later in the interview – it shows you are focused, a vital skill.
“Could you work with this person on a day to day basis?” is a question that I used to ask my clients regularly when I was a recruiter. It’s just as important now I’m an L&D Manager, to explore in training, and to ask about the people we interview to hire internally.
Body language and eye contact is another important area. If you are feeling super nervous, it often shows without you even saying a word. If you can maintain steady and natural eye contact, you will come across as confident. Looking down, looking away, looking around the room, are all giveaways, signs that someone is nervous and unconfident.
I will say though, on the flip side, don’t go overboard: don’t stare so much into the interviewer’s eyes that it becomes uncomfortable for the interviewer. Note the word I used a second ago – natural - so, take natural breaks, look down at your CV every now and again. Don’t be frightened to practise looking relaxed – natural - with friends and family until it feels right.
Another huge body language giveaway is fidgeting. My go-to trick for this is to put my hands on my lap, although this doesn’t last for long because I am very ‘handsy’ when I am speaking passionately about something or trying to explain something! But I find it a good starting point at least! Or you could try keeping your hands together on the table – to keep any shaking to a minimum. Whatever method works for you so you appear – and feel – at ease.
Practicing with friends and family, or once again with that mirror, is a great way to uncover those fidgety habits that you didn’t think you had! Once you know exactly what you need to avoid, it’s much easier to control. And always think seriously about whether you want to accept an interview tea or coffee!
Moving on to my next tip – mastering the handshake. Goodness do I hate it when someone has a limp handshake. I’m not the only one. Nothing is worse than a weak handshake. It really shows people up and suggests a lack of confidence and focus. If you are already in a business facing role, you will forever be shaking hands so you will have had lots of practice. But if you aren’t, the handshake is worth noting and practicing. That said, make sure it’s not too aggressive: I once went to a meeting and thought my hand was going to fall off after I received an uber-strong handshake! You need to find a good balance.
My concluding tip to project confidence in your interview is to ask questions. This will mean you come across as focused, that you are being selective and choosing your next opportunity carefully. Have at least ten questions ready, in your mind or on paper (never be afraid to take a notepad and pen into the interview). The reason I suggest as many as ten is that some questions may well be answered in the course of the interview and you don’t want to find yourself panicked towards the end, with nothing to ask and your mind a complete blank. We have all thought about good questions – after the interview. Make sure you have that list of questions clear before you walk through the interview door!
One final point is that you don’t want to come across as desperate or a push-over. Don’t just say yes to everything the interviewers tell you or ask you. If you aren’t sure about something, speak up! Don’t be afraid to voice issues that you feel unclear about.
If you can nail this focused, confident mindset - and project it - you will, in my opinion, have just as much control over the process as the interviewers have.
To summarise, make sure your self-talk is positive. Give that interviewer a good, firm handshake. Build rapport in the interview, it pays off! And have those killer questions ready for the last chunk of the interview.
Remember, you’re not looking for any job, you are looking for the right job. You can do it!