Did you know that being a skilled public speaker makes you better at job interviews?
Think about it. When you have a job interview, it’s really just a series of small impromptu speeches. There’s a speaker, an audience, a message, and a measure of performance and evaluation as well. So let’s take a look at three strategies we use in the world of public speaking that can give us a leg up on the competition when it comes to interviewing.
Researchers have discovered a combination of qualities which make a great speaker. It comes down to the balance between warmth and competence, and it’s often called charisma. Researchers from the University of Toronto found that we can very quickly and very accurately determine whether someone has charisma by examining their nonverbal cues. Things like positive facial expressions, direct eye contact, open and strong body language, and use of metaphoric language lead us to believe that someone is both warm and competent.
So when it comes time to interview, make direct eye contact, smile, keep your hands and arms relaxed and visible, sit up straight, and lean toward the interviewer slightly. This nonverbal communication will tell the interviewer that you are both warm and competent.
Skillful use of pauses is one of the things that sets great speakers apart from mediocre ones. When you are presenting in front of an audience, the temptation is to fill up all the time with sound. But those moments of silence are the ones in which the audience is most captive. You have them in your hand, and they are eagerly awaiting what comes next. Professor, speaker, and writer Alf Rhen says that not all pauses are created equal and you just might be surprised how powerful a skillful pause can be.
In a job interview, it can be incredibly powerful for you to take a moment to stop and think. If the interviewer asks you a question you aren’t prepared for, or that you need some time to process, don’t be afraid to buy yourself some time. Say something like, “That’s a really good question. I want to think about it for just a moment.” Or, “Do you mind if I take just a moment? I want my response to be careful and accurate.”
This strategy of taking a moment does two things. First, it allows you to respond in a more thoughtful and effective way. Second, it tells your potential employer that you are a careful communicator. It tells her that you are serious about thinking before you speak. That’s an important and valuable quality in an employee. So your brief silence just might speak volumes to the interviewer.
One of the worst things you can do in a job interview is to ramble incessantly. Great presentations are thoughtfully organized. The same should be true for the responses you give to interview questions as well. But how can you prepare a response for a question that you don’t know is coming? You go in with a few strategies.
One of the easiest is to organize your response in a past, present, future format. Say the interviewer says something like, “Tell me about your ability to handle conflict” or “What are some accomplishments you have been proud of?” Instead of launching into an unorganized response, use a past, present, future organization. Give two examples, one from the past, and one more recent that you can briefly touch on. And then end with how you hope to continue to grow or change or demonstrate a strength in the future.
You might also try the general-specific-application pattern. Start with a couple sentences of general response, move into a specific example or story that illustrates your general response, and then end with how that might be applied in the job or company for which you are applying. These two simple formats can work for about any question and will help you feel more prepared going into your interview. But don’t cling so tightly to these strategies that your answers feel formulaic. Above all, be open and be yourself.
When you head into a job interview armed with a few simple public speaking strategies, you’ll be more than ready. Just show your charisma, make use of pauses, and use organizational tactics to keep from rambling.
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