The process of interviewing for a new job is often rigorous and stressful, but it’s important to show assertiveness and confidence. Body language, facial expression, and your speech all influence the type of impression you’ll make on your prospective employer.
Below are six tips to take with you at your next job interview:
When sitting in a chair across from your interviewer, although it's tempting to make yourself comfortable by leaning back in the seat, it looks too relaxed. You want to appear ready to take on any question, rather than look ready to have a morning coffee.
Sit upright, lean forward towards your interviewer, and be engaged. And rest your hands on the table in front of you, rather than on your lap, where you may be tempted to fidget. Use your hands to your advantage by having them in plain sight, so that you can allow yourself to make gestures to emphasize various points. Small gestures look highly effective and make you appear engaged; however, using too many gestures could make you appear anxious. When gestures are not used, clasping your hands lightly in front of you looks more comfortable and natural. Also, make sure your nails look freshly groomed, and not freshly bitten!
No one wants to look too serious in an interview. Your face is your best asset to use to express yourself. Your eyebrows and mouth are important facial features which show feelings. Raising your eyebrows too much signals surprise or worry. If your interviewer does this, don’t let it throw you off, but also try not to mimic it either. Neutral eyebrows, while looking straight into your interviewer’s eyes makes you look at ease and confident. Brows that furl downward could appear angry or aggressive.
The only time where an eyebrow raise is effective, is when you are smiling. Responding to a question with a smile not only makes you look happier and enthusiastic, but it changes the pitch of your voice to make you sound the way you appear. If you're smiling, your pitch naturally rises, and sounds enlightening and positive. But note that smiling too much could make you appear nervous or anxious, and smirking could come off as arrogant. A neutral, rested mouth is best.
Save the smiles for the small talk before and after the interview, or when discussing your positive attributes. The one time where it is positive to mimic your interviewer’s facial expression is when they’re smiling directly at you. If that happens, smile back.
Think of the emotion you are trying to convey, and it will naturally come across in your speech. The mood or emotions in your mind are relayed to your interviewer, whether you intend to or not, so if you think calm, relaxed, and positive thoughts, they will reflect in your voice. Your jaw will also be relaxed, allowing for clear speech. A neutral pitch, steady pace, and an even tone are most effective. This can only occur when you think positive and calm thoughts.
Feeling anxious right before an interview may result in a fast, high-pitch, jerky tone, which conveys that you are nervous. On the other hand, a soft tone, very slow pace, and low pitch make one seem too relaxed or uninterested. Practice before your interview by closing your eyes and feeling various emotions, while answering questions out loud and recording your voice. You will notice a difference in your voice based on your chosen emotion. Relaxation and breathing techniques prior to the interview can also calm any feelings of anxiety.
Never answer a difficult question with "that’s an interesting question." It’s an old trick used to stall when you don’t have an immediate answer. An experienced interviewer will see right through it.
Instead be honest and say something like, "that’s not something I have ever been asked to consider before" or "that is something I should give more thought to." These all communicate that the question is unique and challenging; however, it shows they haven’t completely thrown you off guard. If necessary, you can always tell them you will need more time to consider the answer, or "fake it" well by answering as best as you can to show you’re at least putting in an effort.
Save your grocery list for the store; your interviewer doesn’t want to hear a list as a response to any question. A question which might have several different answers could be briefly listed, as long as you immediately elaborate on each point. Often questions have multiple answers. Don’t be afraid to list two to three of them, and then accompany each with detailed examples and explanations. For example, a question that asks “what was your biggest challenge at your previous job” may have a few different answers. State a couple of them, explain why they were challenging, and how you were able to overcome them. Give as much detail as possible.
Try not to answer the same question in too many different ways, or by using too many words. Be concise and succinct, not repetitive and long-winded. Don't throw in too many unnecessary adjectives. If you have to answer a question in several ways, you either didn’t explain your answer properly the first time, or you don’t really know how to answer at all.
Consider practicing some of these techniques. It could help eliminate some pre-interview jitters and provide you with the confidence you need to land the job!
Bonnie Laurie is a communications expert, public speaker, acting coach, and the owner of Improv for Business—providing specialized training on the use of improvisation to enhance oral communication and interaction within companies. She achieved her ATCL and LTCL teacher’s diplomas in speech, drama, and communication skills from Trinity-Guildhall College (based in England), and also has a Bachelor of Science in Occupational Therapy from the University of Toronto. Since 2000, Bonnie has taught acting and communications skills, and has coached people of all ages and backgrounds. Her clients have gone on to represent and speak on behalf of many different organizations and foundations. To learn more, visit: ImprovForBusiness.ca