“Is this outfit okay?” “What happens if I give the wrong answer?” After all the time and effort that goes into putting together a cover letter and resume, many job applicants are unsure about how to handle the job interview. So much so that bombing interviews is almost a rite of passage. When your livelihood and your career options are at stake, however, it’s important to leave potential employers with a good impression. This is your shortcut to projecting confidence in a job interview.
It All Starts With a Handshake
You know how sometimes in movies the “higher ups” or a boss will shake the main character’s hand and comment on the grip of his or her handshake? This is an example of art imitating life. While your clothes and general appearance will make up most of that first impression, a strong handshake can cement a positive opinion. It’ll let interviewers know that you mean business and that you’re not going to be mistaken for a doormat anytime soon. Word to the Wise: Don’t overdo the strong handshake thing. You're going for firm, not bone crushing.
The Importance of Deception in a Job Interview
You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.-Abraham Lincoln
Most people aren’t at ease during interviews. It’s okay to be nervous. Instead of the usual clichés about steeling the butterflies in your stomach, we’re going to suggest you go another route; focus on learning how to fool your interviewer all of the time. One of the first things you’ll want to do is settle your body language. Avoid fidgeting and do what you can to keep your hands in one place. For instance, you may have to adjust your outfit by doing little things like tying your hair back if you know your tendency is to play with it. Avoid self-protective postures like hunching your shoulders. If you mom ever made you sit against a board or walk with a book on your head, now's the time to remember those lessons. At the other end of the spectrum, you’ll want to avoid crowding your interviewer or adopting overly-confrontational body language such as pointing. As silly as this may make you feel, try video taping a mock interview with a friend, then watch the tape so you can see what you look and sound like. In addition, you’ll want to stay away from “verbal tics” such as “um” or “like” when you’re trying to convey your thoughts. The believability is in the details. If you know you're an um-er or a like-er, try making a pact with a loved one to avoid these tics around each other while you are job searching. Having a supportive friend point out these tics can help you learn to take a deep breath, slow down, and speak more intentionally.
Sound and Fury
“…it is a tale. Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”-Macbeth Act 5 Scene 5, Shakespeare
Put simply, you don’t want your interviewer to get the impression that your words don’t carry any weight. For this reason, you’ll have to pay special attention to the amount of eye contact you’re making. Generally speaking, people find those who make steady eye contact to be more trustworthy. To that end, you’ll also want to pay close attention to your facial expressions. You don’t want to be docked points for looking blank when you’re just trying to thinking your answer through.
When Your Mind Goes Blank
Speaking of thinking your answer through, what should you do if you cannot think of an immediate answer to an interview question? As tempted as you may be to forge on ahead and keep talking until you can create a coherent answer, sometimes pausing is the best course of action. If someone asks you a question that stumps, you, take a breath, restate the question, and, if necessary, say that you need a moment to think. Your interviewer will be able to tell if you're floundering. It's best to be honest and as unflustered as possible. If, after a short pause, you absolutely cannot think of an answer, try to answer at least part of the question.
Nobody Likes a Cliffhanger
Have you ever read a book or watched a show that was made for the express purpose of promoting the sequel? You don’t have to be a faithful fan of Robert Jordan’s to appreciate the frustration. The last thing you want to do is leave your interview on a cliffhanger. You should always go for the follow up. For many companies, initiative and diligence are traits that they want to see in potential hires. Best of all, staying in touch is just a simple matter of leaving with a business card or permission to connect on sites like Facebook or LinkedIn. Perhaps the biggest key to projecting confidence in an interview is to make sure you know what you’re talking about. For those who have researched the company and rehearsed the answers to common interview questions beforehand, this advice can be the difference between getting the job and being passed over. No matter which way it goes, however, don’t forget to send a thank you note!