Why is it that so many of us get nervous before a job interview? We may believe that the job is tailor-made for us, but the nerves still kick in.
You can reduce your fear through preparation and practice. But how do you give yourself the best chance once you are in the interview? The best way to build a great relationship and influence people is to create rapport, a connection, a feeling of mutual understanding, of seeing common ground and liking and respecting each other. Building rapport is essential for success so let’s look at how you can achieve this in the high-press environment of an interview.
As with any presentation or public speaking, you always need to know who your audience is before you prepare your speech. It is the same with a job interview. It is increasingly likely that they will research you on social media when looking at your application, so you should do the same. Google your interviewers or look them up on LinkedIn, as you might find that you have something in common that you can then use as a point of reference in establishing rapport on the day. Connections help build trust and rapport and you can make a note to mention something (a common interest) you share in the interview.
Read through the job description. What are they asking, what are looking for, and what are the essential requirements? You need to prove in your answers that you are what they are looking for and you can do what is required.
The more you practise your answers, familiarise yourself with your CV and even do a mock interview with a friend, the more you will feel you know what you need to say and are ready for the interview. Practice is one of the biggest creators of confidence in public speaking.
Make a great first impression
It is human nature to make an instant first impression of someone.
To make sure the impression you make is a positive one, as soon as you enter the room, make sure you walk purposefully up to the interviewer(s) or for a Zoom interview, and be ready for when you first see them. Shake hands, if appropriate, with a firm relaxed grip. And, most important of all, look them in the eye and smile. Throughout the interview, you need to make sure you maintain natural, even eye contact and smile. Both of these body language actions are the most obvious way people will judge our confidence and trust in us. The most important part of any public speaking is the beginning and the end. You want to leave them feeling excited to have found you.
Utilise your body language
Your body language should act to reinforce the rapport you create. When you listen to a question from one of the interviewers, turn slightly to face whomever you are talking to and nod your head. This gives the signal that “I understand, I agree and am listening to you”.
Using hand gestures can help to reinforce what you are saying if they are natural and not excessive. Generally, open-palm gestures are good and encourage communication. You should avoid any pointing or clenched first gestures which can be seen as arrogant or aggressive.
Introduce a personal note
Using the interviewer’s name is a good way to establish rapport as we are automatically programmed to react to our own name. Imagine the difference in the answer, “Well, there was one time, when I worked at…” And then the same phrase, but with their name, “Well, John, there was one time, when I worked at…’.
Remember that you are selling
You are selling yourself, so never give other people the credit for work you have done or your achievements. The interviewers don’t care what your team or colleagues achieved, only what you achieved. So, with every single example, you must say, “I created, I managed, I achieved…’ It is always “I” and never “we”.
Handling competency-based questions
The STAR method is all-important for answering the inevitable competency questions:
- Situation. Briefly set the scene. What was the problem you had to solve or improve?
- Task. What were the challenges, and what approach did you take?
- Action. What specific actions did you take to solve the problem and improve the situation?
- Result. Demonstrate the successful outcome of your actions (and how you measured the success of the outcome).
Questions where the STAR method works well include:
- “Tell me about a time when…”
- “Could you give us an example of…”
When an interview draws to an end, as with any good speech, you should end with a strong conclusion. There are two ways to do this (and you can use both of them). One is by asking questions which help to engage your interviewer (s) and shows your interest in the organisation and the role. The second is by finishing with a strong concluding statement. Craft this to include three bullet points of why you should get the job.
Always smile and maintain good eye contact when delivering your concluding statement.
After the interview
If you are unsuccessful, ask HR for feedback. Not all employers will provide feedback, but when they do, it can be invaluable. Make sure you use the feedback to improve your chances at your next job interview. When you are successful remember to keep working on maintaining rapport when you meet your interviewers again and use the lessons to create great relationships with your new colleagues.
Nick Ronald is a member of Toastmasters International, a not-for-profit organisation that has provided communication and leadership skills since 1924 through a worldwide network of clubs.