So you’ve finally gotten an appointment for an important interview. How do you prepare?
It goes without saying that you research the company, anticipate the questions you might be asked and consider the questions you want to ask your interviewer. Questions you want to ask? Yes, what you need to know about this company/job. The questions you ask become part of the profile you present — which leads me to my first key point:
Tip # 1. Listen to the interviewer
Don’t become so enraptured by the sound of your own voice that you don’t listen carefully. You may have a script in your mind about your story, your education, experience, aspirations, but don’t throw it all at the interviewer. Let your story unfold in response to the questions you’re asked.
Tip # 2. Maintain eye contact
Even if you feel yourself thinking hard to respond to a question, try not to let your eyes shift around the room too much. You don’t have to stare at the interviewer, but you should maintain a comfortable level of eye contact.
Tip # 3. You’re speaking to someone, not at someone
This point follows directly from Tips 1 & 2: when you’re interviewed, respond as if you’re telling a story about yourself to the interviewer by answering the questions you’re asked, offering additional information where there’s a natural segue, looking directly at the person, and maintaining a natural tone.
Tip # 4. How you say it is almost equally important as what you say
For the moment, we’ll assume you know how to answer the questions you’re given. Can you ruin an interview by saying things the wrong way? Absolutely. Giving an impression of being nervous, over anxious — or even worse — being less than truthful can be conveyed by how you speak.
Tip # 5. Don’t forget to breathe
Many of the mistakes people make in an interview can be avoided by remembering to breathe. Sounds too simple? In my work I see many intelligent, capable individuals who don’t represent themselves effectively at an interview. Talking too fast, using poor intonation, hesitating, too many ums & ahs are just a few of the features you want to avoid. While there are specific strategies for eliminating these common errors, controlling your breath remains the basis for effective speaking.
Tip # 6. Your body language speaks about you
In addition to how you speak, your body language carries a message. Your hands, posture, gestures all convey meaning in an interview. Maintaining an erect but not stiff posture, using your hands appropriately, matching your facial gestures with your words are a few of the keys to presenting yourself in the best possible way.
Is there more?
Simple as it may seem, these are the key points for giving a great interview. Certainly there are strategies to improve components of the features I’ve mentioned, but these are the basics. Like many things in life, we benefit from practice. As you interview, you’ll hopefully learn more about your strengths and weaknesses and work toward becoming the speaker you want to be.
Check back next week for more thoughts on communications, speech and language, and executive function skills.