How to feel genuinely confident and impress at job interviews

Practical tips from a corporate psychologist

Greta Andrews-Taylor from The West Australian contacted me last week.  She was hunting for tips for her readers on how to prepare for job interviews, such as learning to use special body language and vocal tone to create the impression of confidence.

The answers I gave took her by surprise.  I told her that none of these things will help in a job interview, and might even work against you.  Here is a quick summary of what will actually work to win you that job

Job interview techniques

Before the interview

Preparation for an interview has two parts:

  1. Technical:  Make sure that you understand the role and have researched the company.
  2. Conversational: Practice having the conversation you are likely to have in the interview, out loud.  Talk to your friends, family — or self — about it.  This helps to build fluency and genuine confidence on the relevant topics, so that by the time you get to the interview you will have discussed them many times before and will feel comfortable.  Don’t let the first time you ever speak on a subject matter be at the actual interview!  A great place for rehearsing like this is while driving alone in your car, because you can ad-lib and try different angles until you sound good, without having to impress anyone!

The day of the interview

For the actual interview I strongly advise against using what I call stick-on techniques, like consciously adjusting your vocal tone or body language to try to appear confident.  This distracts you from the core task, is exhausting, and is unlikely to leave a good impression because it makes you look stilted and actually more nervous.

Instead, use methods that generate genuine confidence, such as power posing and pre-framing.  These are incredibly effective because they cause the very best version of yourself to emerge naturally.  Psychologists who are familiar with these techniques can teach them to you in under 30 minutes.

The single most useful thing, though, is to remember one simple, critical fact:  An interview is mutual.

Interviewees so often position themselves mentally as ‘less than’ their interviewers, as if they are begging for a favour.  The reality is that the business has a real problem — a gap or a need that it’s desperately hoping someone can resolve.

This means there are only three things for you to focus on during the interview:

  1. Working out, mutually, whether or not you can genuinely fulfill this need for their business.
  2. Deciding whether or not you want to do that for them, now that you know more.
  3. Communicating clearly and honestly about the value you can bring, so that your interviewers understand what they will be receiving when employing you.

It is not an exercise in modesty, nor bravado or persuasion.  It’s a factual, problem-solving conversation that shows authenticity and maturity.  It will win you far more jobs than any special interpersonal ‘techniques’ ever could.

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