Positive first impressions are the gateway to a successful career path, so there is no better time to start preparing for job interviews. You’ll rarely have a second chance when it comes to the interview process, so you’ve got to sound like you know what you’re doing and stay at the top of your game from the very moment you contact the interviewer. Even if you are the most charismatic or most connected person in the room, a successful interview candidate would need much more research and knowledge prior to speaking with the hiring officer. No amount of charm will help you wing a question such as “What do you know about the history of this company?”, “What are the company’s values?” Or a twisty one like “What do you consider to be the biggest challenge facing mid-sized engineering businesses like ours, and how would you measure the success of overcoming these challenges?”
Prior to attending your interview, you’d be expected to have researched the company and role position, build up the enthusiasm and prepare conversation starters to engage your interviewer. These tips and tricks will give you a solid foundation to pitch yourself from, as you effectively express your interest in the open position, and how well you are suited for the company’s current needs.
The first step to knowing how to sound like you know what you’re talking about is to know what you are talking about! You’ll be thrown many questions on the topic of the company’s background, behavioural questions, competency questions or brainteasers. To answer these, you’ve got to weave in your sound understanding of how the company operates to show you are familiar with key aspects such as how many employees work at the company, how many offices the company owns across the country, the management structure, and most importantly, the industry in which it operates. Flaunting your connectedness to the company will help you become an outstanding candidate with impressive commitment and initiative. To find relevant information about the company, you can explore the company’s website, social media pages or LinkedIn portfolio. For extensive information about the job you are applying for, dissect the job posting and every detail of the job description. Research similar roles and their demands. If the employer lists the requirements of the role, you will be prepared with a critical elaboration for each point and your aptitude for them.
An additional helpful tip is to get to know your interviewer to create a bond with them, but be careful not to scare them with too much knowledge of their personal life! Questions or topics focused on their career achievements will suffice. For example, you might mention “I’ve noticed you were nominated and subsequently won the award for the highest achieving woman in the office. I admire your dedication and hard work very much and hope to work alongside you one day.” Going the extra mile to get to know your prospective employer and praising them will open a casual dialogue with them and help you prove your enthusiasm for the position.
Definitely retain as much information about the company as you can. But don’t memorise a scripted response for any prompts you’ve prepared. The term “prepared” means you have a general to excellent understanding of the company and the ability to mould them into an effective response, NOT memorising a strict answer to every possible question that may be asked. Over-rehearsing your answer can induce more stress when you are under the pressure of an actual interview and you struggle to remember your lines. This will do the opposite of preparing you if you get nervous and fumble your words, causing you to come off ironically unprepared and unequipped to respond. The aim is to stay relaxed, authentic and hyper-vigilant to any potential question.
Avoid tensing up! It’s hard not to fidget and distract your interviewer with nervous tendencies when you let the nerves get the best of you. You definitely don’t want to give your interviewer second-hand anxiety this way! Be zen!
If you know you tend to tap your feet or speak too fast in these situations, prepare for it beforehand. It helps to calm yourself through yoga or meditation and practice putting your nerves at bay. After mastering how to radiate calm energy, you’ll go into the interview much more relaxed and by extension, allow the hiring manager to stay calm too. Or even if you take a few deep yoga breaths before stepping into the room, you’ll find yourself much more focused and powerful. Overall, you’ll notice yourself being more open and conduct yourself confidently with others and increase your chances of impressing them.
Here are some tips to help you through those nerve-racking interviews:
1. Allow yourself to pause instead of babbling on. It’s fine to give yourself a breath in between long answers, instead of allowing your sentences to run on. If anything, a profound pause if much more powerful and impactful. Don’t use a word vomit to cover up silences because it can get overwhelming for the interviewer too.
2. Avoid filler words. “Um…”, “uh…” will make you sound less confident and unprofessional. For clarity, let the pause occur and then pick up your sentence again. You’ll be more collected and have better thought out responses. Short pauses make you more authentic and real.
People who indulge in complex and long words are in fact compensating for being less educated or less respected by their peers. Smart people will use simpler terms to convey their message to everyone without any confusion being caused. You’ll also sound more believable and authentic. Giving long-winded responses can negatively reflect on you, as you give off the impression that you might be making up a story or full of yourself.
There is no better way to fill up time or silence than by opening a two-way dialogue with your interviewer. This takes the pressure and focus off you, to give you a break from an interrogation. You’ll be showing interest in their work or enthusiasm for what a regular day at the workplace looks like. Now is no better time to forge a connection with the people across the table, by finding any common interests you share! Ask what they enjoy doing in their spare time, what projects they are currently involved in or where the best food around the building is. Connect yourself in a meaningful way to emphasise your suitability for the brand or business. As mentioned before, don’t go overboard and assert yourself in a creepy manner. Avoid personal topics like asking where they live, who their parents are or perhaps their age. Pointing out you know what their pets look like or that you admire their swimwear from a long Instagram stalk is a definite no-go. Simply bring up relevant information pertaining to a normal workplace discussion in a natural way is very appealing. Have strong command of your body language to show you are listening, and give them your undivided attention as they speak.
Confident speakers are made, not born. You don’t need overtly extroverted qualities to effectively convey a message or ace an interview. Practising how to upskill your interpersonal and communication ability will be very rewarding throughout your future as these critical core skills will be prevalent in your work, social or personal lives. Practising is about repetition, reflection and creating a feedback loop to improve. This way, you’ll know your strengths, weakness while opening many opportunity doors. You can only get better over time!
So as we’ve learnt, showing enthusiasm and confidence in your skills and knowledge is the key to a successful interview. You want to leave the room with both you and the interviewer feeling like you’ve just concluded a very meaningful conversation. To sound like you know what you’re talking about, research, familiarise yourself with the company, the hiring manager, and most of all, practice your verbal communicative skills. With that, all the best of luck with your future pursuits!