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How to Shine in a Job Interview

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How to Shine in a Job Interview

Interview nerves? Here's how to shine.

    Does the idea of interviewing for a new job put you on edge or scare the living daylights out of you?  Does it make you want to stay under the duvet and hide?

    You’re not alone.  There’s a lot riding on landing that job whether you’re currently unemployed or not, particularly in the current climate.  Here are 9 ways to give a naturally confident interview that really allows you to shine.

    1. Don’t Over-Prepare

    You certainly need to know your stuff before heading into that interview room, but whatever you do, don’t over-prepare.  You need to know your onions (so to speak) as well as having some knowledge about the company’s products, services, market position, opportunities, etc, but preparing answers for every possible question and memorising every fact will drive you crazy and make you ultra-nervous.

    Knowing your subject isn’t a case of simply repeating information verbatim, and if you go to an interview planning on spouting facts and figures there’s a risk that you’ll sound too rehearsed or stilted.

    Interviewers want to see how well you think on your feet as well as how knowledgeable you are, so leave room to move.  You don’t have to be word perfect, you don’t need to know everything or have a slick answer for every question.  Trust yourself to shoot from the hip.

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    2. Don’t sweat it

    Focusing on the things that make you nervous will only ever give you more drama, and that’s exactly what you don’t need.

    Yes, interviews can be nerve-wracking, but it’s okay to be nervous. If you weren’t nervous it would mean you didn’t care, so how about finding a better way for you to care about this?  How about directing that energy in a more useful way to up your game?  How about using that nervous energy to demonstrate your enthusiasm and energy?

    Remember, the simple fact that you’ve been invited to interview means that they’re interested in talking to you and think you might be right for the job. That’s a good thing, right?

    What difference would it make if you knew that whatever decision they make is just fine, that no matter what happens it’s no reflection on you or your ability? Shifting how you perceive the risks of the interview can feel pretty liberating, allowing you to shine.

    3. Blow Your Own Trumpet

    You have to blow your own trumpet to show how much you can add to an organization.  Fail to do that effectively and it’s game over.

    So get clear on what your strengths are – the skills, talents and experience you’ve applied in the past to get great results.  Get clear on what you’ve achieved and your role in those achievements.  Get clear on how capable you are, and how you want to continue to develop your capability.

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    That’s the information and evidence they’re looking for.

    4. Don’t jump into the first chair you see.

    Don’t rush into the room and grab the first chair you see – it’s not a competition.  Let the interviewer find their place first.  If you’re in a meeting room don’t sit next to them on the same side of the table, and don’t automatically sit directly opposite them.  If you can, try to sit diagonally from them – it provides a good space between you but doesn’t act like a wall.

    5. Don’t go in just 1 direction

    Go down a single track during your interview and talk about one area of skill or experience and it could easily leave a big enough gap in the interviewers’ mind to wonder if you’re the best candidate.  Show a range of skills and experience, and show that you can get on with people as well as tasks.

    But going in 1 direction isn’t only about what skills and experience you choose to show and tell, it’s about what you need from the interviewer.

    An interview has to be a 2-way street to avoid miscalculations of culture and fit.  It’s a process to see how well you fit in the role and the organization, and if the role and organisation is a good fit for you.  It’s not simply about the interviewer pulling out the information they need to make their decisions, you need to get the information you need to make your decision.

    6. Smile

    I’ve interviewed a good number of people in my past, and there was always one thing that made a candidate stand out head and shoulders above the rest – the fact that they were enjoying themselves, not just in the interview but generally in their life.

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    An interviewer doesn’t want a one-dimensional person, and often the personality of the candidate can override any weakness in skill or experience.

    So don’t think that you can’t enjoy an interview.  If you look like the interview is torture or if you’re just generally down-beat, you won’t get hired. Simple as. If you’re enjoying and engaging with what you’re doing and where you are, it speaks volumes.

    Smile.  (Just not too much that you look like a grinning maniac).

    7. Leave your stuff outside

    Carrying any uncertainty, doubt or problems into the interview with you will limit your ability to interview well, so put that all to one side before you start.  Picture the interview room as a safe place with people who want you to get the job, and remember that the interviewer wants to see the best of you, not the worst.  They’re on your side.

    8.  Don’t let your body talk for you

    If your shoulders are hunched, you’re slouched in your seat, you’re wringing your hands, continually scratching your head or if your eyes are darting around the room then your body language will be screaming “Danger!” loud and clear.

    Having a relaxed but confident body language communicates a relaxed and confident individual. You’re free to move in your seat and use your hands to demonstrate key points, just watch you’re not waving your arms around like you’re swiping away fruit flies.

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    Remember eye contact too – it’s about building rapport and connecting with people. Without eye contact there’s no connection, so be sure to look your interviewers in the eye as the interview progresses.  Like everything, there’s a balance to be struck, so don’t stare fixedly at your interviewer like a wired Will Ferrell, this isn’t a Saturday Night Live skit.

    9. Embellish and polish

    There’s a saying that suggests that an interview is 2 people in a room lying to each other. Some interviews might be like that, but not the ones that end up with a great deal for everyone.  Don’t lie.  It’s like dressing a cow in a duck costume and asking it to quack – it’s not going to fool anyone.

    But while you shouldn’t lie there’s nothing wrong with a little polish or embellishment.  Tell them how proud you were of a team achievement.  Don’t cover up a weakness or failing but spin it into an important lesson learned.  Show them how darn excited you were to get involved in a particular project.

    This doesn’t mean that you’re misrepresenting yourself, it simply means that you’re selling yourself and giving a great interview.

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    Steve Errey

    Steve is a confidence coach who helps leaders build confidence.

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    8 Simple Ways to Be a Better Listener

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    8 Simple Ways to Be a Better Listener

    How would you feel if you were sharing a personal story and noticed that the person to whom you were speaking wasn’t really listening? You probably wouldn’t be too thrilled.

    Unfortunately, that is the case for many people. Most individuals are not good listeners. They are good pretenders. The thing is, true listening requires work—more work than people are willing to invest. Quality conversation is about “give and take.” Most people, however, want to just give—their words, that is. Being on the receiving end as the listener may seem boring, but it’s essential.

    When you are attending to someone and paying attention to what they’re saying, it’s a sign of caring and respect. The hitch is that attending requires an act of will, which sometimes goes against what our minds naturally do—roaming around aimlessly and thinking about whatnot, instead of listening—the greatest act of thoughtfulness.

    Without active listening, people often feel unheard and unacknowledged. That’s why it’s important for everyone to learn how to be a better listener.

    What Makes People Poor Listeners?

    Good listening skills can be learned, but first, let’s take a look at some of the things that you might be doing that makes you a poor listener.

    1. You Want to Talk to Yourself

    Well, who doesn’t? We all have something to say, right? But when you are looking at someone pretending to be listening while, all along, they’re mentally planning all the amazing things they’re going to say, it is a disservice to the speaker.

    Yes, maybe what the other person is saying is not the most exciting thing in the world. Still, they deserve to be heard. You always have the ability to steer the conversation in another direction by asking questions.

    It’s okay to want to talk. It’s normal, even. Keep in mind, however, that when your turn does come around, you’ll want someone to listen to you.

    2. You Disagree With What Is Being Said

    This is another thing that makes you an inadequate listener—hearing something with which you disagree with and immediately tuning out. Then, you lie in wait so you can tell the speaker how wrong they are. You’re eager to make your point and prove the speaker wrong. You think that once you speak your “truth,” others will know how mistaken the speaker is, thank you for setting them straight, and encourage you to elaborate on what you have to say. Dream on.

    Disagreeing with your speaker, however frustrating that might be, is no reason to tune them out and ready yourself to spew your staggering rebuttal. By listening, you might actually glean an interesting nugget of information that you were previously unaware of.

    3. You Are Doing Five Other Things While You’re “Listening”

    It is impossible to listen to someone while you’re texting, reading, playing Sudoku, etc. But people do it all the time—I know I have.

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    I’ve actually tried to balance my checkbook while pretending to listen to the person on the other line. It didn’t work. I had to keep asking, “what did you say?” I can only admit this now because I rarely do it anymore. With work, I’ve succeeded in becoming a better listener. It takes a great deal of concentration, but it’s certainly worth it.

    If you’re truly going to listen, then you must: listen! M. Scott Peck, M.D., in his book The Road Less Travel, says, “you cannot truly listen to anyone and do anything else at the same time.” If you are too busy to actually listen, let the speaker know, and arrange for another time to talk. It’s simple as that!

    4. You Appoint Yourself as Judge

    While you’re “listening,” you decide that the speaker doesn’t know what they’re talking about. As the “expert,” you know more. So, what’s the point of even listening?

    To you, the only sound you hear once you decide they’re wrong is, “Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah!” But before you bang that gavel, just know you may not have all the necessary information. To do that, you’d have to really listen, wouldn’t you? Also, make sure you don’t judge someone by their accent, the way they sound, or the structure of their sentences.

    My dad is nearly 91. His English is sometimes a little broken and hard to understand. People wrongly assume that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about—they’re quite mistaken. My dad is a highly intelligent man who has English as his second language. He knows what he’s saying and understands the language perfectly.

    Keep that in mind when listening to a foreigner, or someone who perhaps has a difficult time putting their thoughts into words.

    Now, you know some of the things that make for an inferior listener. If none of the items above resonate with you, great! You’re a better listener than most.

    How To Be a Better Listener

    For conversation’s sake, though, let’s just say that maybe you need some work in the listening department, and after reading this article, you make the decision to improve. What, then, are some of the things you need to do to make that happen? How can you be a better listener?

    1. Pay Attention

    A good listener is attentive. They’re not looking at their watch, phone, or thinking about their dinner plans. They’re focused and paying attention to what the other person is saying. This is called active listening.

    According to Skills You Need, “active listening involves listening with all senses. As well as giving full attention to the speaker, it is important that the ‘active listener’ is also ‘seen’ to be listening—otherwise, the speaker may conclude that what they are talking about is uninteresting to the listener.”[1]

    As I mentioned, it’s normal for the mind to wander. We’re human, after all. But a good listener will rein those thoughts back in as soon as they notice their attention waning.

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    I want to note here that you can also “listen” to bodily cues. You can assume that if someone keeps looking at their watch or over their shoulder, their focus isn’t on the conversation. The key is to just pay attention.

    2. Use Positive Body Language

    You can infer a lot from a person’s body language. Are they interested, bored, or anxious?

    A good listener’s body language is open. They lean forward and express curiosity in what is being said. Their facial expression is either smiling, showing concern, conveying empathy, etc. They’re letting the speaker know that they’re being heard.

    People say things for a reason—they want some type of feedback. For example, you tell your spouse, “I had a really rough day!” and your husband continues to check his newsfeed while nodding his head. Not a good response.

    But what if your husband were to look up with questioning eyes, put his phone down, and say, “Oh, no. What happened?” How would feel, then? The answer is obvious.

    According to Alan Gurney,[2]

    “An active listener pays full attention to the speaker and ensures they understand the information being delivered. You can’t be distracted by an incoming call or a Facebook status update. You have to be present and in the moment.

    Body language is an important tool to ensure you do this. The correct body language makes you a better active listener and therefore more ‘open’ and receptive to what the speaker is saying. At the same time, it indicates that you are listening to them.”

    3. Avoid Interrupting the Speaker

    I am certain you wouldn’t want to be in the middle of a sentence only to see the other person holding up a finger or their mouth open, ready to step into your unfinished verbiage. It’s rude and causes anxiety. You would, more than likely, feel a need to rush what you’re saying just to finish your sentence.

    Interrupting is a sign of disrespect. It is essentially saying, “what I have to say is much more important than what you’re saying.” When you interrupt the speaker, they feel frustrated, hurried, and unimportant.

    Interrupting a speaker to agree, disagree, argue, etc., causes the speaker to lose track of what they are saying. It’s extremely frustrating. Whatever you have to say can wait until the other person is done.

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    Be polite and wait your turn!

    4. Ask Questions

    Asking questions is one of the best ways to show you’re interested. If someone is telling you about their ski trip to Mammoth, don’t respond with, “that’s nice.” That would show a lack of interest and disrespect. Instead, you can ask, “how long have you been skiing?” “Did you find it difficult to learn?” “What was your favorite part of the trip?” etc. The person will think highly of you and consider you a great conversationalist just by you asking a few questions.

    5. Just Listen

    This may seem counterintuitive. When you’re conversing with someone, it’s usually back and forth. On occasion, all that is required of you is to listen, smile, or nod your head, and your speaker will feel like they’re really being heard and understood.

    I once sat with a client for 45 minutes without saying a word. She came into my office in distress. I had her sit down, and then she started crying softly. I sat with her—that’s all I did. At the end of the session, she stood, told me she felt much better, and then left.

    I have to admit that 45 minutes without saying a word was tough. But she didn’t need me to say anything. She needed a safe space in which she could emote without interruption, judgment, or me trying to “fix” something.

    6. Remember and Follow Up

    Part of being a great listener is remembering what the speaker has said to you, then following up with them.

    For example, in a recent conversation you had with your co-worker Jacob, he told you that his wife had gotten a promotion and that they were contemplating moving to New York. The next time you run into Jacob, you may want to say, “Hey, Jacob! Whatever happened with your wife’s promotion?” At this point, Jacob will know you really heard what he said and that you’re interested to see how things turned out. What a gift!

    According to new research, “people who ask questions, particularly follow-up questions, may become better managers, land better jobs, and even win second dates.”[3]

    It’s so simple to show you care. Just remember a few facts and follow up on them. If you do this regularly, you will make more friends.

    7. Keep Confidential Information Confidential

    If you really want to be a better listener, listen with care. If what you’re hearing is confidential, keep it that way, no matter how tempting it might be to tell someone else, especially if you have friends in common. Being a good listener means being trustworthy and sensitive with shared information.

    Whatever is told to you in confidence is not to be revealed. Assure your speaker that their information is safe with you. They will feel relieved that they have someone with whom they can share their burden without fear of it getting out.

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    Keeping someone’s confidence helps to deepen your relationship. Also, “one of the most important elements of confidentiality is that it helps to build and develop trust. It potentially allows for the free flow of information between the client and worker and acknowledges that a client’s personal life and all the issues and problems that they have belong to them.”[4]

    Be like a therapist: listen and withhold judgment.

    NOTE: I must add here that while therapists keep everything in a session confidential, there are exceptions:

    1. If the client may be an immediate danger to himself or others.
    2. If the client is endangering a population that cannot protect itself, such as in the case of a child or elder abuse.

    8. Maintain Eye Contact

    When someone is talking, they are usually saying something they consider meaningful. They don’t want their listener reading a text, looking at their fingernails, or bending down to pet a pooch on the street. A speaker wants all eyes on them. It lets them know that what they’re saying has value.

    Eye contact is very powerful. It can relay many things without anything being said. Currently, it’s more important than ever with the Covid-19 Pandemic. People can’t see your whole face, but they can definitely read your eyes.

    By eye contact, I don’t mean a hard, creepy stare—just a gaze in the speaker’s direction will do. Make it a point the next time you’re in a conversation to maintain eye contact with your speaker. Avoid the temptation to look anywhere but at their face. I know it’s not easy, especially if you’re not interested in what they’re talking about. But as I said, you can redirect the conversation in a different direction or just let the person know you’ve got to get going.

    Final Thoughts

    Listening attentively will add to your connection with anyone in your life. Now, more than ever, when people are so disconnected due to smartphones and social media, listening skills are critical.

    You can build better, more honest, and deeper relationships by simply being there, paying attention, and asking questions that make the speaker feel like what they have to say matters.

    And isn’t that a great goal? To make people feel as if they matter? So, go out and start honing those listening skills. You’ve got two great ears. Now use them!

    More Tips on How to Be a Better Listener

    Featured photo credit: Joshua Rodriguez via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] Skills You Need: Active Listening
    [2] Filtered: Body language for active listening
    [3] Forbes: People Will Like You More If You Start Asking Follow-up Questions
    [4] TAFE NSW Sydney eLearning Moodle: Confidentiality

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