Fake it ‘til You Make it
We all know people who just never seem to doubt themselves, who can walk into any room or any conversation with sure-footed ease. The truth is that nobody is really always sure of themselves. Even the people who exude confidence outwardly are often just putting a brave face on, when they feel differently inside.
Make no mistake: when you’re interviewing, you must project confidence, optimism, and positivity. Those are qualities that are desirable in any future employee, so that’s what an interviewer is going to be looking for.
And yes, I know this can be unfair. If you’ve been on the market for a long time, dealing with countless rejected applications and being turned down at the final stages of interviews, confidence and optimism may be the furthest thing from what you’re feeling. Even if you’re not feeling down for the most part, you might just be having a bad day. But if you allow yourself to project this outwardly, you risk knocking yourself out of the running … regardless of your qualifications and experience.
There are three things you can focus on to help make sure this doesn’t happen to you, and that’s what I’d like to share with you today.
Practice and preparation for interviews is, hands down, the best way to feel more confident going in. But here’s the thing: even if you don’t feel confident going in, answering interview questions smoothly and without too much hesitation will make you sound more confident than you feel. In between interviews, you simply can’t do too much practice. Keep on top of all the common interview questions, the ones that are asked in almost every interview (strengths, weaknesses, why you left certain jobs, etc.). Practice your answers, and record yourself so you can self-coach and improve. Watch yourself in a mirror to practice giving your answers with eye contact. Any time you’re asked a question in an interview that you haven’t heard before, or one that trips you up, add that to your practice list. The more prepared you are, the more confident you’ll feel … but even if you don’t feel confident, you’ll sound like you are.
Like preparation, your posture can be a ‘one-two punch’ when it comes to projecting confidence. It probably goes without saying, but if you stand straight, and sit across from an interviewer with an upright posture, you will appear more confident to that interviewer. Here’s the neat thing, though: there’s scientific evidence that these physical cues also affect your thoughts. Walking and sitting with a more confident posture will lead you to feel more confident. Your physical bearing goes beyond how straight you stand and sit, though. Throughout the interview, you can also demonstrate confidence by keeping your head up and maintaining good eye contact with your interviewer, keeping your hands reasonably calm, and avoiding ‘fidgets’ like toe-tapping and pen-clicking.
Tone of voice can sometimes convey just as much information as the words being said. A confident tone of voice is positive and upbeat. It’s clear articulation, without mumbling. It’s at a comfortable volume for the room, clearly audible but not overly loud. It’s a pace that’s not rushed, but also not too slow or with long pauses. When you’re preparing to respond to questions in an interview, consider your tone. Be constructively critical with yourself when you’re listening to your practice recordings, and modify your tone until you can hear a note of confidence in your voice. I promise you, it’s there. Here’s a last tip (one from the world of phone sales): you can hear a smile in the tone of someone’s voice. When you’re telling a story or making a point that you particularly want to emphasize, smile. The interviewer will hear it.
I’d like to offer one important closing point. There’s a difference between confidence and arrogance. Too many quiet, introverted people make the mistake of believing that the people that knock interviewers’ socks off are the brash, brazen, ‘shotgun fingers’ type (people of a certain age, like myself, might picture Herb Tarlek from WKRP). On the contrary: that kind of outward projection is often a cover for insecurity, and we recruiters can tell the difference. You don’t have to be a raging extravert to be likeable, or appear confident. Instead, think about these three P’s to project the quiet confidence that will help you ace your next interview and land that job.
*Okay, full disclosure: I’ve never used the word ‘parlance’ in conversation, I probably never will, and I hesitated to use it here. But I really, really like alliteration.