To set yourself apart and land that job you are going to have to be articulate. The way that you articulate verbally and nonverbally can make a profound impact on the audience you are speaking to. You will need to master some simple techniques so that you will present yourself as a confident, intelligent, well-spoken candidate, that has a clear vision for his/her future. In the following pages we will discuss how the words you use to describe yourself can leave the panel with a memorable impression about you. We will discuss how you need to get a handle on your bum’s and your um’s to be a successful candidate. Finally I will discuss the importance of articulating your vision.
Use the question, “what are your strengths”, as an opportunity to demonstrate that you are articulate.
Sitting through hundreds of interviews over the last several years one thing became very clear to me. Many of the candidates use the same words to describe themselves. After a while it almost becomes a distraction and one thing is for sure, I am unable to remember one candidate from another. The drill would go something like this, “So Mr. Smith give us one of your strengths”. At this point the candidate would describe himself or herself in a very typical way. We would hear hard working, team player, or “I just care too much.” Those are all good things but they are almost clique and every other candidate will say something very similar, if not the same thing. The interviewer will be left with nothing to remember you by. This is one of those golden opportunities to wow the group or at least wake them up. The way you speak does leave the impression of intelligence on the panel. I suggest that you employ a simple tool that we all used in high school to change it up a bit. Use the thesaurus. The thesaurus is a tool that takes any word and gives you another option for the same word. You can purchase a thesaurus or find one online. I suggest you make a list of qualities that you posses, that you would consider strengths, and then type them into the thesaurus. Some examples are below:
- Hard working: Diligent
- Good attitude: Optimistic
- Solve problems: Critical thinker
A good vocabulary leaves the panel feeling that you are educated and well read. If you do not have a great vocabulary you are going to have to fake it a bit. Here are some other words you can use to describe yourself that can set you apart:
• Practical intelligence
I could go on and on but I trust you can make your own list. You can find lists on-line or a favorite habit of mine is to take notes as I read books.
Clean up your bums and extinguish your um’s
We all do it. We stall and invariably we stall the panel with about 500 um’s. You do not notice it yourself but trust me the panel is driven to distraction by it. As you um your way through the interview the panel begins to fidget uncomfortably and that becomes what you are remembered for. This is not good. There is no simple solution to cleaning up your um’s it is just a practical step that you must tackle. First, I am fond of saying experience is a function of frequency. The frequency I speak of here is practice. You must practice being interviewed. Being interviewed is not natural for us and we have no formal training to fall back on. You must seek out the experience by subjecting yourself to mock interviews. You have to force yourself to become comfortable in the interview setting. Have friends and family interview you and have them critique your performance. Better yet, have someone interview you who is experienced at giving interviews because they can give you meaningful feedback. The more you practice the more comfortable you will become in the interview setting and many of your um’s will disappear. The few um’s that remain will come from questions that stump you. The key here is use a technique I like to call a reflective pause. When stumped do not feel the need to begin talking, take a deep breath, scan the audience and pause. Often times the interviewer will appreciate that fact that you are thoughtful with your answer. The pause will feel like an eternity to you but remember you are on hyperdrive right now because you are in the hotseat. To the interviewer your brief pause is just that… brief. Use the reflective pause to extinguish your um’s.
Cleaning up your bums is much easier and for the most part it is common sense. Your bums have to do with the clothes you wear and the way you groom yourself. It has to do with the way you sit in the interview. It has to do with the way you greet and close with the panel. Get some manners you slob. First, you must dress the part. I recommend a nice solid color suit for males and a pants suit for women. Just a shirt and tie is not enough in my opinion, because if you are the only one who dresses down you will stand out for the wrong reason. Also, don’t get flashy here. The goal is to look professional and confident. Dressing professional will also have the effect of making you feel more confident. Please do not forget to wear nice dress shoes and matching socks. This is attention to detail and this is who we are looking for in our line of work. Obviously, be well shaven and comb your hair in a conservative manner. Remember, we do not care about your personal style here. We care about what the 80-year-old grandmother is going to think when she sees you coming at her in her time of need. Dress for success and you will impress the panel and look and feel confident.
As you enter and see the panel for the first time it can be a terrifying moment that can set the tone for your entire interview. You have an opportunity in these moments to put yourself at ease and impress the panel. A bum just strolls in looking at the ground and plops down in the chair. The panel instantly can see that pressure is already getting to you. Polish this up and you will surely stand out. As you enter the room, walk tall with your head up. Walk at a comfortable pace and do not rush. Make eye contact with someone on the panel and greet them. Usually this will be the first person that speaks but if nobody speaks, pick a person on the end and greet them. The greeting should be a simple sir or ma’am with a slight head nod. Don’t be afraid to smile here also. Feel free to greet people with their rank, however, make sure you know the rank before you say it. It is just safer to use sir or ma’am. After you greet the first person, move on down. When the greeting is complete, have a seat in your chair. A little time taken to greet the panel at the beginning will set you at ease and give the panel the impression that you are confident.
Be careful how you sit. You are feeling great now that you have greeted the interviewer and things are already going in your favor. This is not all that complicated but you would be surprised to know that many people mess this up. Ok, what should you do? You should approach the chair and place any materials you brought with you on the table in front of the chair. Pull the chair out and have a seat. Adjust the seat forward toward the table. You should sit upright. I have seen many candidates slump or slouch and it just makes them look sloppy and nervous. Fold your hands in your lap and keep them there unless you must use them to emphasize a point you are making. Do not get carried away with hand gestures because this can become distracting. Also, do not fidget with things that are in front of you on the table. Don’t spin your pencil or tap you finger. Do not play with your papers. In some interviews the panel will place things on the table in front of you just to see if you will play with them. The point with all of this is that you need to be attentive to the interviewer and pay them respect by looking interested in being there. You’re now in the game and ready for the first question.
When the questions begin to come, remember to make eye contact with the questioner. Be very careful to make eye contact with everyone in that room. Clean up your bum’s and your um’s and you will be on your way to success.