Why you should treat a job interview like a chat – and four tips to help you
Feeling nervous about an upcoming job interview? Find out why you should treat it like a chat, and read four tips to help you.
A job interview can feel like a one-sided blind date; you’ve already supplied a great deal of information about yourself, while you will likely know next to nothing about the person (or persons) opposite.
According to recent research, a whopping 93% of interview candidates experience interview anxiety at some point in their career. This is hardly surprising. There’s nothing quite as nerve-wracking as walking into a room or joining a video call where you, and all your potential slip-ups, are the main focus. I’m sure you’ve been there, I certainly have.
But here’s the thing, at its core, an interview is a conversation. It’s a speaking exercise. My last job interview was for a role that I’d wanted for years. After an inevitable period of fretting, I made the decision to treat the interview like a chat – because that’s what it was. I was totally myself, and totally honest. And it worked.
Four tips to help you feel more comfortable talking in a job interview
To build rapport with your interviewer and nail this all-important stage, try out these four key strategies.
1) Always be authentic
Doing some homework means you will be prepared for your interview. At the very least, you want to have a clear idea of what the organisation you’re applying to join does, and its current focus and goals. But over-preparation can be problematic.
Remember to see your interview as a conversation. Treating it like a performance means you may get yourself into a sticky situation if you forget your lines. Being honest and authentic does not require a script (or for you to adopt a character).
It’s great to be confident, but remember that declaring you are brilliant at X almost certainly means you will need to back up your claim with an example. Give genuine evidence of where you’ve modelled the behaviours they want to see, and if you don’t have an example, think about how you would apply the given behaviour in an imagined scenario.
If you get the job, or the promotion, you’re likely to interact with your interviewers again. They may even become your direct manager. People are sensitive to façades. They will recognise if you’re putting on an act, and it won’t endear you to them. So, from start to finish, be yourself.
2) Be an active listener
Interviews may appear to be all about talking, but don’t forget to listen. Consider the key facets of active listening: open body language, eye contact, responsiveness.
You exhibit these behaviours when you’re talking to a friend or a loved one because you’re genuinely engaged with what they have to say. These golden rules also apply in interview situations, whether you’re listening or replying to a question.
Let your interviewer see that you’re engaging with them by maintaining eye contact, allowing them time to speak, and giving visual clues like nods. Actions speak louder than words, and it’s no use being a brilliant speaker if you’re staring at your feet.
3) Show curiosity
Asking questions is a common piece of interview advice. This doesn’t mean you need to walk in with a prepared list, although that can be helpful. A better way to frame it is to cultivate curiosity.
At the end of the interview, your interviewer may ask if you have any questions, but this isn’t a given and can quickly become mechanical. So, where appropriate, weave in questions throughout the interview to encourage conversation.
The above three strategies will help with this. Is there a project you’re really excited about that you know the company is working on? If you’re attending in person, take note of anything you see that interests you as you walk into the company’s building, and take a mental note of any queries that stirs in you.
But things such as hours, wage, and other contractual details can be clarified once you’ve got the job. Focus on making the best impression possible.
4) Remember that your interviewer is human
Your interviewer is a human being. Yes, they will be making a decision that will impact your life, but the interviewer is also someone with worries, concerns, and joys, and who probably wants to be liked as much as you do. They may even be nervous themselves.
With that in mind, it’s even more important to think of a job interview as a conversation, rather than a courtroom cross examination. Having compassion for the person who interviews you will remind you that they have their flaws and vulnerabilities too. This, in turn will help you to relax, take your time, and be your authentic self.
Laura Autumn Cox 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.
There are more than 400 clubs and 10,000 members in the UK and Ireland. Members follow a structured educational programme to gain skills and confidence in public and impromptu speaking, chairing meetings and time management. You can find your nearest club here.
Photo by Jason Goodman