The Ultimate Guide To Interview Confidence (includes video to watch just before your interview)
Want to give your best performance at your next interview? Want to come across as confident, charismatic and assertive? This Guide will help you do just that.
It’s divided into two Steps.
Step One will help you to prepare mentally, believe in yourself, be positive and feel motivated.
Step Two is designed to show you how to be remembered for the right reasons.
The Ultimate Guide to Interview Confidence is full of useful techniques and tips to give you the best possible chance of succeeding at interviews. I’ve already helped hundreds of people to find the confidence they needed to succeed. Now I want to share my knowledge to help you.
About the author
The author of ‘The Ultimate Guide To Interview Confidence’ is Mike McClement. Mike is a successful Confidence Coach and author of the best-selling book ‘Brilliant Self-Confidence’. Read more about Mike and sign-up for his popular weekly self-confidence tips.
Engaging Success Mode Before The Interview
Imagine two people sitting outside an interview room. They are both on the final selection list for the same job. On paper, they are identical; qualifications, experience, education, age. So, why does one person succeed and the other fail?
It’s not a trick question or a difficult one. The answer is simply that one person came across and performed better in the interview than the other.
That’s the aim of this Guide. To help you be the person who performs better. To make sure you’re the person who gets offered the job.
So, let’s get started.
Switching your mind-set
The first thing to understand and believe is that no one was lucky enough to be born with a natural gift to succeed at interviews.
It doesn’t matter if you’re an extrovert or an introvert, performing well at an interview requires mental preparation and the use of certain body language and communication techniques.
Think back to other skills you’ve learnt; writing, riding a bike or driving a car and treat being confident at interviews the same way. So by the end of this Guide, you will have learnt the skill of excelling at interviews with confidence.
To successfully use these techniques, you must actually believe that it is possible for you to learn to come across confidently at an interview.
Overcoming the “I’m going to fail” feeling
You’ll struggle to get the job if you’ve already decided you can’t.
How blindingly obvious you might be thinking. Well, reflect for a moment. Be honest. Are you thinking “I’m going to succeed at this interview” or are you expecting to fail. One thing’s for sure, it’s a challenge to sell yourself if you don’t believe in yourself.
So how do you find this positive mentality?
If you’ve had some interview failures recently, you can’t dwell and let them affect your self-esteem. Remember, if you haven’t ever experienced failing at an interview, you’d be very unusual.
The vast majority of people fail before they succeed. So remind yourself that failing is normal.
So how do you stop failure affecting your self-confidence?
Simply by learning all you can from what happened. If you treat interview failures as an opportunity to learn, they become worthwhile beneficial events, not nightmare memories that hold you back. When you approach failure positively like this, you’ll find it easier to stop criticising yourself. You’re human, just like the rest of us; we all fail at things every now and then.
So the drill from now on is to force yourself to look forward not back. You do this by setting aside bad memories once you’ve reconciled in your mind that you’ve squeezed every last drop of useful learning from them.
Expect to succeed not fail
Believe me when I say that the simple act of just thinking positively will contribute massively to your success at an interview. Not everyone accepts or believes in positive thinking though. So if you’re a doubter, please bear with me here.
Firstly, how would you describe yourself? Are you a positive or negative thinker?
It’s pointless going into an interview in a negative frame of mind. Good interviewers are observant; they detect negativity very quickly. So if you see yourself as a negative pessimistic person, then I’m going to help you to change your mindset straightaway.
Try seeing positive thinking as a state of mind. See it as a mental attitude that steers you towards expecting to succeed at the interview, not fail. If you struggle to approach interviews positively, try to see negativity as an actual habit you need to break. Breaking a habit requires real determination, particularly if it means challenging your thought processes. In fact experts say it takes 21 days to break a habit completely.
If you’re not sure if negativity is affecting you, try looking back over the last year – ask yourself what you remember. You’ll probably have a mixture of good and bad memories, but which ones are taking precedence? Where does your focus tend to be?
If you’re thinking mainly of negatives, some of which might relate to interview failures, you need to shift your mindset. You need to switch to SUCCESS MODE.
Confident people do a number of things that help them to stay positive in their attitude. I’m going to share some of these things with you now. You’ll see that they aren’t complicated. In fact they’re very simple and sometimes quite subtle. You can try them out straightaway. But manage your expectations and be realistic; attitude and thoughts take time to change. It’s not going to happen overnight.
“A man is but the product of his thoughts; what he thinks, he becomes.” Mahatma Gandhi
Visualise how you want to come across during the interview, then separate ‘yourself’ from your performance.
Develop an image of who you think would be the perfect candidate for the job and try to behave like that person.
Many top athletes use visualisation techniques to reduce anxiety, improve their concentration and enhance their performance.
You can apply the same principles as they do to help you enhance your performance at interviews. The key is to use your imagination to create a successful interview. Then, when the actual interview takes place, you experience a sense of déjà vu, as though you’ve had that exact experience before.
So in the days before the interview, find a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed. Lie down with your legs uncrossed and your arms at your sides. Close your eyes and breathe in slowly. Then breathe out and relax. Keep doing this, breathing more slowly and evenly each time. Empty your mind of unrelated thoughts and focus entirely on visualising yourself at the interview.
You’re seeing a confident person who’s calm and in control. You’re happy. You’re smiling and answering questions in a conversational way. Your posture is alert, yet relaxed. You’re expressive and using your hands and facial expressions to support what you say. You’re not rushing. You’re talking concisely and clearly.
Try going through this visualisation process at least three times before each interview.
Ultimately, what you think affects how you feel, which in turn determines how you behave. If you think you’re going to fail at the interview, you’ll feel like a failure; if you feel like a failure, you probably will fail.
So, in the run up to the interview, be extra conscious of how you’re thinking. When a negative thought comes into your mind, be aware of it, then try to replace it with a positive, constructive one. That negative thought probably won’t go away easily, so persevere each time it enters your mind; make sure you replace it with a positive one every time it happens.
Eventually your mind will learn how to think positively and counteract negative thoughts.
Some people find it helpful to write it down every time a negative thought comes into their mind. Sometimes you don’t realise how much you’re doing it until you actually see it in black and white.
You’d be superhuman if you don’t doubt yourself a little before an interview. That’s normal. The key is to work out how to control this. You can’t let self-doubt hamper or distract you if you want to be impressive.
Mostly we doubt ourselves because we’ve failed at something. Well this is normal too. We’ve already discovered that most people have failed an interview at some point. So try to get this feeling in proportion. Try not to take failure personally.
Even very successful people fail on occasions. After his first audition, Sidney Poitier was told by the casting director, “Why don’t you stop wasting people’s time and go out and become a dishwasher or something?” It was at that very moment that he decided to devote his life to acting.
Positivity and negativity are contagious. A negative attitude may well show itself in your body language. You don’t want the interviewer catching it.
Think about who you spend most of your time with at work and socially. Make some changes if you find yourself spending a lot of time with whingers or pessimists. If you spend more time with positive, forward thinking people, you’ll find it easier to become one yourself. You’ll be in a much more positive frame of mind when interviews come up.
You’re very unusual if you don’t feel nervous in the run up to an interview. The key is to try not to see nerves as a negative thing. If you let your nerves get the better of you, you’ll get distracted, embarrassed and ultimately your self-confidence takes a nose dive.
Believe it or not, it’s good to be nervous before an interview. Nerves produce adrenalin. If you can channel it effectively, adrenalin can provide a fantastic boost to your motivation, enthusiasm and even confidence levels at the interview.
Adrenalin gives you the natural fuel you need to get into the right gear to perform at the level you need to. You don’t even have to pay for it! Actors and public speakers all feel anxious before they get on the stage (anyone who tells you otherwise is more than likely not being honest with you). They know how to make this anxiety work in their favour; they channel it to help them enhance their performance.
So if you start to feel nervous before the interview, be pleased you have this feeling. Don’t fight it or start to panic. See it as your body’s way of helping you to get the job. Thinking like this helps you to channel your natural anxiety into positive energy that helps, not hinders you.
Dealing with false perceptions
Have you thought about how the interviewer will perceive you? How would they sum you up when you walk out of the room?
The truth is that most people imagine they come across worse at interviews than they actually do. They worry unnecessarily. If you carry negative perceptions like this into the interview, you’re going to struggle to come across confidently. So you need to work out how the interviewer will perceive you before you go into the interview. There are two good reasons for this;
- You won’t need to worry or be distracted anymore by false perceptions you may have. You can put 100% energy and concentration into being the best you can possibly be.
- You can change anything you discover about yourself that isn’t helping you. That means you can start to think about adapting your behaviour so that the interviewer’s perception of you is what you want it to be.
So to feel completely confident during the interview, you have to know beforehand how you look and sound. Bear in mind that interviewers are going to be processing different messages while they’re forming a perception of you. They’ll take some things from what they see and others from what they hear – for example, if you stutter when you speak and or have a weak voice, the person may well form the perception that you’re nervous or uncomfortable.
Obvious physical messages like nervousness in your voice (tips on dealing with this coming later) are relatively easy to address, mainly because you’re already aware of them.
It’s the other more subtle messages that can be difficult to identify; the way you stand, your eye contact, the tone of your voice, your natural expression. It’s these subtle behaviours that communicate underlying messages that you’ll have no idea you’re sending.
Some of these work in your favour during the interview, for example if you have an upright and open posture, you portray confidence. But other things you’re doing might not be helping you at all. It’s these negative behaviours that you need to be aware of. People who come across confidently at interviews are good at this. They know their vulnerabilities and they keep on top of them, particularly when they’re under pressure.
So how do you put a stop to any negative assumptions you’re making about yourself and clarify how the interviewer is likely to perceive you?
First you need to compare your own perception of yourself with the perception others have of you. This can be quite a revelatory exercise if you’ve got interviews coming up. People are often surprised to find that the two don’t always match up. The way you see yourself isn’t necessarily the way an interviewer sees you.
Take a few minutes now to note down how you think you come across. Then ask a good friend or colleague to give you some honest feedback about how they perceive you. Do these two description tally? Do you come across in the way you thought you did?
Our Reality Check Questionnaire is also designed to give you anonymous feedback about yourself.
Step One of this Guide was all about the ‘build up’ to the interview. It’s essential you start in a positive, confident frame of mind. You need to walk in expecting to be offered the job. This isn’t being cocky or over-confident. Thinking like this is sensible. If you have an expectation of success, you’re more likely to succeed. If you expect to fail, you probably will.
So, from now on, at the start of every interview you go to, you’re going to be looking forward to answering the question “When can you start?”
Looking and Sounding Confident
The aim of Step 2 of this Interview Guide is to make sure you can support your positive mental attitude with an impressive physical presence. The interviewer must see you as confident, impressive, professional and knowledgeable. So Step 2 is all about how you communicate at the interview; how you come across with your body language, your voice and your demeanour.
Acting the part
Everyone has to tweak their behaviour to come across well at interviews. There are no exceptions. I’ve never met anyone who doesn’t have to adapt in some way or other to look confident and impressive. So just like everyone else, you’ll need to act the part too. This is completely normal. It’s the right thing to do. You’re not acting to pull the wool over the interviewer’s eyes and pretend you’re someone you’re not. You’re acting to give you the best possible chance of promoting your real self and the skills you have. Your message remains the same, you’ll still sell yourself. There’s no subterfuge. Acting simply means you’re just selling yourself in the most charismatic and impressive way.
So just like an actor on a stage, you’re going to play a part. A professional actor knows their lines (prepares well before the interview) and engages the audience by acting the part confidently and skillfully (ensures the interviewer is impressed and gets the right message).
The interview will be your stage; your opportunity to impress the audience.
Making an impressive physical impact at the start
Think of someone you’d describe as really confident; a charismatic person who engages people when they talk and is unfazed by pressure. This could be a famous person you admire or someone you know personally at work or socially. Think carefully about why this person comes to mind. What do they do that makes you have this impression of them? Try to identify the actual characteristics that make them look confident.
This is important because what they do, you need to try to emulate. Some people find it helpful to actually pretend to be that person at the interview. Of course, you still need to be YOU and you still need to sell yourself, your skills and your expertise, but you do this just like that charismatic and confident person would. In other words, you play a part. You act. So just what will this act entail?
First off you MUST get the introduction right. You’re aiming to make an instantly impressive physical impact.
It only takes a quick glance for the interviewer to evaluate you and form a judgement. In literally just one second they’re basing this on your body language, your appearance and your demeanour.
This first impression you give could literally be the difference between success and failure. That might not seem fair but it’s the reality. That’s why it’s so important to get it right. The last thing you want to be doing when you meet the interviewer is to give away any sign that you lack confidence. Any negative impression you give could well set the tone for the discussion that follows.
In short, your sole focus during that window of time before you shake the person’s hand should be on looking confident, professional and credible. These tips should really help you to give an excellent first impression.
Look clean and dress appropriately. That’s a given. Match your clothing to the culture of the organisation. Some organisations dress more casually than others. Over-dressing is better than under-dressing if you’re ever in any doubt.
Be very conscious of how you hold yourself when you walk into the room. Have you ever thought about the way you walk? This might seem like an odd question. It’s worth thinking about though; it could well have an impact on how the interviewer perceives your confidence levels. Don’t walk too fast or too slowly; try to find the balance. Too fast could make you look in a panic or as though you’re rushing, perhaps out of control. Too slow could make you look de-motivated, disinterested or hesitant. People with an air of confidence about them walk at a measured pace.
So walk into the room in a calm and measured way and wait to be offered a seat. It’s true too that if you walk confidently, you’ll feel more confident. Make direct eye contact when you shake the interviewer’s hand. Give a firm, dry handshake (find a place to wash and dry your hands beforehand). Be sure to smile; a positive facial expression sends a more confident message. It also suggests you’re relaxed, comfortable, in control and feeling calm. Speak clearly when you tell the person your name.
Make an extra effort to get your posture right while you’re introducing yourself. Get your shoulders back and your chin up. Be proud. Follow this through when you sit down, don’t slouch. Sit forward; don’t let your back touch the back of the chair. Keep your hands above the table (rest them on it); your shoulders will drop otherwise.
If the interviewer asks ‘How are you?’, regardless of how you’re actually feeling, be sure to reply positively. Never say ‘Not bad, thanks’ or ‘OK, thanks’. You’re not going to sound or feel confident and positive if you reply like that. If you have a habit of replying ‘not bad’ or ‘OK’, change it to ‘Good thank you’ or ‘Very well thank you’. You’ll be amazed at how much more positive you start to feel simply by speaking positive language.
Of course, not only do you feel more positive, the interviewer is also much more likely to see you as a positive, confident person too.
It would be very unusual if your interviewer starts the interview without initiating some informal conversation. So be prepared for some ‘small talk’ before the interview gets going properly.
Expect questions like ‘How was your journey?’ and be conscious that the interviewer will already be observing how you deal with this. Confident people enter into the conversation naturally. This won’t necessarily happen if you haven’t thought beforehand about how you’ll deal with the small talk. If you’re not ready for small talk, it might work against you if you start to look uncomfortable.
Always be positive with your replies. If you got lost on the way, don’t mention it. Remember the earlier points about sounding positive. This could be the first time you get tested so don’t get caught out.
People who are good at remembering names tend to be perceived by others as confident and in control.
It’s impressive if when you meet someone, they remember your name; it’s even more impressive if they do this when you’re just one of a group of people they’ve met for the first time.
If you do this at your next interview, I guarantee you’ll stand out. You’ll be doing something most people don’t do. In the interviewers’ eyes, if you’re calm enough to remember peoples’ names, you must have something about you. This is particularly impressive if you’re being interviewed by a panel of people.
Remembering names isn’t that difficult. The main reason people struggle is that they don’t register them in the first place. So in fact, it’s nothing to do with your memory. After all if you don’t take something in and assimilate it, you can’t blame your memory for forgetting it!
When you meet someone for the first time your senses are drawn mainly towards what they look like and how they behave. So without realising it, you get distracted from what they actually say. Of course, one of the first things they’ll say is their name and that’s where the problem lies. You can’t forget their name because you never actually registered it in the first place.
There are some simple steps you can take to get better at remembering names at interviews or assessment centres:
Prepare – Get into the habit of accepting that an essential element of introducing yourself is actually taking in the interviewers’ names.
Ask – If the interviewer doesn’t tell you their name, ask politely what it is.
Clarify – If you don’t hear the name, clearly and politely ask them to tell you it again.
Associate – Link the interviewers’ names with something physical that distinguishes them.
Repeat – Say the name to yourself until you remember it without thinking.
Write – If it’s a panel of interviewers and it’s possible in the circumstances, write their names down in the order they’re sitting. Then test yourself silently with each person’s name until you’re comfortable you know them all ‘off pat’.
Use – Now that you’ve done the hard work of remembering the names, use them. Address people by their name. They’ll notice this, and their perception of you as a confident, aware and assertive interviewee will build.
Using the right ‘communication style’ to achieve maximum interview confidence
To come across confidently and clearly at the interview, you need to make sure you’re not doing anything distracting that gives the interviewer a negative perception of you. We all have an instinctive communication style of our own. To come across well at an interview, it’s helpful to know what’s good about your own style and also what could hinder you. That’s because your natural style will suit some interviewers but not others.
The best way to work out your natural style is to complete the Think Confidence Communication Style Questionnaire. You can access it here. It’s based around four communication styles.
Once you know your natural style, the secret is to think about adapting it when you detect that your interviewer has a different style to you. People tend to be most comfortable and least distracted when they’re talking to someone who has a similar style to their own.
This concept is known as ‘adapting and mirroring’. To make this work, you’ll need to be super-aware at the beginning of the interview. You need to take in as much as you can, as quickly as you can, about the interviewer’s verbal and non-verbal behaviour. You’re studying the person’s body language, facial expressions, tone, pace, volume of voice, energy level, enthusiasm, expressiveness and emotion.
In fact, what you’re doing is trying to identify their communication style. Once you’ve worked this out, you can start to think about how similar, or perhaps different, their style is to your natural style. Then you mirror their style with your voice and body language. The more different they are, the more you’ll need to adapt.
Of course, there’ll be some interviewers who have a similar style to you. You probably won’t have to adapt a great deal, perhaps even at all, to mirror these people. It’s the interviewers who have different styles to you that you’ll need to work hardest on.
You can find out more about using your communication style effectively here.
Using your body language
To be remembered for the right reasons by your interviewer, it’s essential that your verbal and non-verbal communication is impressive. Non-verbal communication is about what you do and how you do it. Verbal communication relates to what you say and how you say it.
The last thing you want to be doing is distracting the interviewer while you’re talking so you need to work out if you have any unusual physical habits. It takes just one bad habit for the person’s perception of you to be affected.
Impressive interviewees have already worked out if they have any distracting habits. They’ve also worked out a strategy to overcome them. The perception exercise mentioned earlier will have helped you to identify any habits you have. We may have already covered some of them in the Guide, so you should already be in a stronger position to address them.
Don’t forget that it normally takes about 21 days to break a bad habit or to take on a good habit. So don’t get complacent if you think you’ve cracked it after a week or so. Keep going until you’re absolutely certain.
Using body language to reinforce your answers
I’d like you to use your imagination for a minute; you’re a soldier going into battle. On your belt, easily accessible, you have a number of essential pieces of kit to keep you alive: ammunition, grenades, bayonet, medical kit, water and radio. At some point, you’ll need to use all these items if you’re to survive and win.
You can draw a clear comparison here with the challenge you’re going to be facing. Whereas the soldier is going into battle, you are going into an interview. Sure, it’s not a life and death situation but it does matter. So, on your belt you have your own essential pieces of kit to support you: eyes, posture, walk, hands and facial expression. Just like the soldier, it’s essential that you use all of these physical traits in order to win. Winning for you is being offered the job.
So how do you make the most of the equipment you have available?
Getting your eye contact right
Your eyes give so much away. Poor eye contact could mean the interviewer thinks any one of these things about you…
There are some really simple techniques you can use to improve your eye contact. Firstly, have the confidence to take a moment to look at the interviewer just before you speak. This sends the message that you’re not frightened and you’re in control. Without even saying anything, you’ll send the message: ‘I’m ready and I’m confident’.
Try to make bold eye contact but be careful not to stare the interviewer out! Try to look the person in the eye while they’re speaking but while you’re speaking, it’s natural to look away on occasions; people expect this while you’re thinking about what you’re saying. If you’re addressing a panel, try to look at each person regularly.
I rarely meet people who are naturally good at this. The majority have to work hard at it to get it right. It’s worth it though because once you’ve cracked it, you’ll see a huge difference in the way people respond to you.
Using your hands expressively
Some people think the best thing to do with your hands is to keep them by your side or hide them because otherwise they’ll be a distraction. This is madness. Your hands should act as a support to what you say. If you use them well, they can help you to reinforce your points.
So don’t fall into the trap of thinking your hands will distract the interviewer. I very rarely meet people who are too demonstrative with their hand movements. The vast majority don’t use their hands enough at interviews. The trick is to try to relax; let your hands do what comes naturally. The natural action is for them to move as you talk. This is why really confident people look relaxed – their hands move naturally and in a coordinated way with their voice.
The following tips should help:
- Use your hands to emphasise or clarify your point. For example, if you plan to address a number of points, use your fingers to support this: hold up one finger when you’re referring to point 1, two fingers for point 2 and so on. You could use two hands for this if you prefer – rest the fingers of one hand on the outstretched palm of the other. Another example might be when you’re describing a minor issue – lift your hand so it can be seen, and bring your forefinger and thumb together to emphasise how small the issue is. There are of course many other examples that could be given. Try practising on your own using your hands to reinforce your verbal message. It can make a huge difference to people’s perception of you.
- Have a ‘default’ or resting position for your hands when you’re not using them. Otherwise, you’ll look as though you don’t know what to do with them. If you’re sitting down, just rest your hands on the table or on your lap. If you’re standing, have your arms slightly bent in front of your body, with your hands held together and fingers gently interlocked (without whites of knuckles showing!). You might prefer a different resting position so try experimenting and find your own – it’s important that you’re comfortable and relaxed with it, otherwise you won’t use it.
Here are some of the don’ts to watch out for when using your hands:
- Don’t use fast or jerky hand movements – they don’t portray a confident demeanour and can be a distraction.
- Don’t point at people.
- Don’t fold your arms. This could be seen as defensive.
- Don’t tap on surfaces with your fingers.
- Don’t fidget, wring your hands or touch your face or neck. This can suggest you’re feeling nervous or insecure; just as children often scratch their leg when telling a lie, adults scratch the back of their head, rub their arm or fiddle with their fingers when they’re nervous.
Changing your facial expressions to communicate confidence
Your facial expressions can convey a whole host of messages to an interviewer about your emotions, your feelings, your confidence levels and how you’re interpreting their questions. Some people are naturally very expressive and open with their facial expressions. Others tend to be less expressive and more ‘private’ and don’t give much away at all.
If you see yourself in the ‘less expressive’ category, try to think about how you could be more expressive during the interview. For example, how often do you smile when you’re talking to people? If the answer’s ‘not much’, you’re missing a trick. If you really want to project confidence at the interview, try to smile more. A smile can send so many positive messages in an instant; happiness, awareness, interest, approachability, sensitivity, enthusiasm and of course . . . confidence.
Using your voice to engage the interviewer
To reduce the chance of being misinterpreted by the interviewer, you have to be able to control the way you deliver your verbal message. Be conscious to speak clearly and try to avoid using slang. Simple things like saying ‘Yes’ rather than ‘Yeah’ can make a big difference.
Speed of delivery
The obvious reason for not speaking too fast is that the interviewer will find it harder to take in what you’re saying. Be careful; if you’re nervous, you may well find yourself rushing.
Talking too quickly can make you look edgy or stressed. People who look confident just don’t do this. They overcome any urge to speed up. They speak at a measured pace. This helps them to look and feel in control. It also helps them to control their thought processes because their brain can keep up with them.
Once you’re happy with the speed at which you speak, you can start to think about varying it. If you listen to people who are confidently assertive, you’ll hear them varying the pace of their delivery as they speak.
It’s really effective if you slow down slightly when you want to emphasise a point (perhaps a specific skill you have). To draw particular attention to it, say it slightly slower. There’s more chance the interviewer will take it on board. This is simply because you’re doing something different – you’re varying the pace of your delivery. It’s a simple idea but a great technique.
Using pauses to your advantage
It might seem like simple advice, but using pauses while you speak is essential to coming across as confident. Having pauses gives you a chance to think. It also gives the interviewer a chance to reflect on what you’re saying. The difficulty is that a pause means a silence; even the shortest of silences can seem like an eternity when you’re in the spotlight.
Don’t fall into the trap of filling the pause with noise. Noise feels better than silence when people are staring at you . . . so you say ‘umm’. If you do this, the interviewer may well start to see you as nervous and lacking confidence.
Most people think the reason your voice sounds juddery when you’re nervous is obvious – it’s all to do with your mental state. They’re wrong. It’s actually to do with not getting enough air into your lungs. Pausing gives you the chance to breathe while you’re speaking. If you don’t breathe properly, your voice soon starts to break up and sound ‘nervous’.
So how do you stop ‘umming’? You’ll be relieved to hear that it’s really not that difficult; but it does take discipline.
Find a quiet place on your own. Then, say ‘umm’ a few times out loud. Now think about what you have to do physically with your breathing to say ‘umm’. The answer is simple – you have to breathe out. That means you can’t breathe in . . . and that means you’re starving yourself of air. It doesn’t take long for your voice to be affected by this because all you can do is snatch shallow breaths as you talk. Soon, your voice starts to waver and break up. It gets worse and worse the longer you speak. The reason is simple – you just don’t have enough air in your lungs to be able to project your voice with any strength. It then becomes a snowball effect – you start to hear yourself sounding nervous, you become more and more self-conscious about it and then other nervous traits start to kick in. Eventually your attention is drawn away from what you’re saying and you lose control because you’re getting hijacked by the state of your nerves.
So the key to overcoming an ‘umming’ habit is to replace the ‘umm’ with a breath. To reinforce that this shouldn’t be difficult to do, try saying ‘umm’ now … at the same time as breathing in. Have a go – take a big breath in and say ‘umm’ while you’re doing it.
Can’t do it can you! Breathing in when there’s a silence really does stop you umming AND of course it gives your voice more strength.
You’ve probably heard people who speak with little or no intonation in their voice; they speak in a monotone way. How would you describe these people? You’ll probably use words like boring, disinterested, demotivated or shy to describe them. So speaking in a monotone way could have a direct link to an interviewer’s perception of you.
People with good intonation control the rise and fall of their voice. There are a number of advantages to doing this during an interview:
- You sound more interesting.
- You sound and look more interested in the job.
- You look more relaxed and natural.
- You give a more positive impression.
Make a conscious effort to modulate your tone during the interview. You’ll significantly reduce the chance of the interviewer misinterpreting your message and you’ll sound a whole lot more interesting.
Varying your tone should help you to sound more enthusiastic too. Enthusiasm is contagious. If you sound enthusiastic, there’s much more chance the interviewer will feel enthusiastic about you.
Beware of filler words
Have you ever listened to someone and wished they’d stop repeating the same word? Words like this tend to fall into two categories; ‘filler’ words and ‘favourite’ words.
‘Fillers’ are words like ‘ya know’ or ‘sort of’. They fill the gap (the milliseconds of silence) while the person is thinking about what they’re saying. They add nothing to the conversation and can be very distracting and annoying. Some people have a habit of using them all the time. You’ve probably noticed this – so don’t do it yourself!
‘Favourite’ words are words like ‘obviously’ and ‘actually’. Some people just can’t get out of the habit of repeating these words. You’ll know how distracting this can be too.
The difficulty is that people tend to be completely unaware when they’re using ‘fillers’ or ‘favourites’. The only way you’ll know if you’re using these words is by asking someone else to tell you.
Thinking on your feet
The reality is that even if you’ve prepared well for the interview, you could still get asked a tricky question.
Here are some tips to help you if this happens:
If you don’t know the answer, be honest and say so. Even experts in their field are stumped by a question sometimes. So don’t try to make an answer up. There’s a good chance you’ll get caught out. Confidently explain that you don’t know the answer and ask the interviewer what the answer is.
It’s easy to say but perhaps not so easy to do. At least if you try to relax, you’ve got a chance. If you don’t, you’ll look and feel more stressed. You’ll have more control of your voice, you’ll feel calmer and you’ll be able to think more clearly. Taking deep breaths while the person is asking you the question can also really help here. Don’t make it obvious though!
Listening properly and attentively requires an effort. Some people forget this. You should be trying as hard when you’re listening as you are when you’re talking. It’s obvious that you’ll struggle to think on your feet if you aren’t listening properly to the question. Don’t interrupt the interviewer – firstly because it’s rude and secondly because, if you reply too soon, you may well give a wrong or inappropriate answer. Don’t be afraid to pause before you answer.
Asking the interviewer to repeat the question gives you those vital few seconds to think about your response. Try to be confident when you do this. Don’t let your body language give away the fact that you’re unsure of the answer. If your body language is positive and confident, the interviewer will ‘read’ your request positively, i.e. they’ll have the perception that you’re being professional by making sure you understand the question properly.
This gives you time to think and to clarify exactly what’s being asked. Sometimes the interviewer will reply and clarify their question after you’ve repeated it – that creates even more time for you. If you still don’t feel that the question is clear, have the confidence to ask for clarification. If you do this confidently, it will be received positively because the interviewer sees that you genuinely want to give a qualified answer.
Don’t waffle – Once you understand the question clearly, make sure you stick to the point. Your answer should be specific and focused. If you’re perceived as a waffler, the interviewer may well start to lose interest – once you see this happening, your self-confidence may well suffer. When you’ve finished giving your answer, resist the temptation to add more information. There may well be a silence after you’ve finished. Don’t make the common mistake of feeling the onus is on you to fill it with more information!
Looking Forward To Success
It’s time to put all this into practice.
Your next interview is approaching. I want you to remember these 3 words: preparation, self-discipline and courage.
I am sure you’ve heard the saying ‘preparation is key’. Well if you want to perform well in your interview, you will need to thoroughly prepare yourself both mentally and physically.
It’s a given that you should research the company and job beforehand. That’s why I haven’t covered this element of your preparation in this Guide. You’ll struggle to come across impressively physically if your knowledge isn’t up to scratch. So don’t get caught out. Treat each interview as a unique challenge. Research each company in depth. Try to pre-empt questions; know the history of the company, topical events that relate to it, the names and positions of senior people. Research the role you’re applying for as much as you can.
Prepare your mind mentally by thinking positively and believing that you will succeed. Continually tell yourself that you are qualified for the job (that’s why you got the interview). You have just has much chance as anybody else.
Find out how other people perceive you and then act on what they say. Practise your body language techniques using a mirror and ask your family and friends for feedback. Have the self-discipline to use these techniques whenever you can so that they become natural to you.
Think of your interview as a role you’re playing in a film. Think of a charismatic or famous person and visualise yourself acting like them in the interview. Remember that the interviewers do not know you. They have no idea how you come across at home or with your friends. This is your chance to control their perception of you. You may only get one chance so you need to draw on all your preparation and have the courage to act the part.
Good luck. You can succeed.
Prepare and focus your mind (watch just before your interview)
You are waiting to hear your name called to go in for your interview. What should you be doing? The few minutes before the interview are valuable. Don’t waste them. You need to focus and psyche yourself up. Watch this 2 minute video just before your interview. It will help you. Good luck!