Understanding what holds you back in interviews is the key to getting hired. TV body language expert Judi James explains how to overcome your fears, so you can market yourself with confidence.
In Britain, we’re taught that modesty is a virtue. In fact, we’re probably one of the most modest, self-deprecating nations in the world, but unfortunately, modesty doesn’t get you very far when you’re trying to sell yourself at a job interview. But how do you go about changing the habit of a lifetime?
“The worst advice anyone can give to someone facing a job interview is to Just Be Yourself,” says Judi James, body language expert and author of the book You’re Hired: Interviews. “Unless you regularly sit down with three strangers in a formal setting, then you simply can’t be yourself in that situation. What you have to give is almost like a performance of yourself that shows your strengths.”
While researching her book, Judi discovered that what most people want to know when it comes to interviews is how to market themselves. This means putting aside the modesty, overcoming shyness and boosting confidence and self-esteem.
These fears affect most people at some point, says Judi. “Even people applying for top jobs have an Achilles heel or an inner demon that says they won’t get the job. But there are techniques to help you get through.”
To deal with those inner voices, Judi suggests you make a mental note to change the dialogues in your head. “I advise people to create ‘leader’ voices,” she says. “Instead of listening to the worry voices, pick out a strong voice that you listen to when you need it – a good coaching voice that will tell you to pull yourself together and that you can do it.”
To feel more at ease in an interview, Judi suggests trying a technique called muscle memory. “Like an actor, physically rehearse the scenario,” she says. “So practise walking into a room, shaking hands with someone and sitting down in front of a desk. Then, if the worst comes to the worst on the day and your mind goes blank, your body will go through the actions and hopefully coach your brain back into action.” A good tool to take you through the motions of an interview scenario is Be My Interviewer, an interactive video based website where industry professionals, such as Duncan Bannatyne, ‘interview’ you. As well as posing difficult questions they also explain how best to answer them, giving you some really useful interview techniques.
The old saying that first impressions count are never more true than in an interview scenario. Judi describes what is known as the ’blink factor’, where research suggests that you make a 15-second impact from the moment you walk into a room. With this in mind, you need to be prepared. “Most of us enjoy the luxury of warming up,” she explains, “but you really can’t afford to. You must hit the ground running.” This means that while you wait outside the interview room, you should concentrate on pulling yourself up to full height and relaxing your shoulders. Keep your right hand free ready to shake hands, and always expect to shake hands. “It’s amazing but in the UK, people still seem surprised when they find someone’s hand stretched out,” says Judi. “Use eye contact and smile pleasantly. With the recession, these soft skills are so important – interviewers are looking to see the impact you make and how you communicate with people.”
Once you’ve settled into the interview, keep working on marketing yourself. Scrutinise your dialogue and watch out for what Judi calls ‘weasel words’: things like ‘I’m not bad at…’ which diminish from the full effect of what you’re saying.
A really good way to overcome your modesty, is to ‘show, don’t tell’. So, go armed with examples of what you’ve done at work that back up what you’re talking about – that way the facts speak for themselves.
However, even after all that practise, don’t be worried about looking a bit nervous. “It shows respect and that you’re treating the interview as a special event,” says Judi. “This recession is going to have a big impact on the way we market ourselves and employers are going to be looking a bit deeper to find someone who is genuinely committed and keen to do the job. It’s up to you to convince them that that person is you.”
You’re Hired! Interview by Judi James is published by Trotman and is available to buy at www.trotman.co.uk and all good bookshops.
EXCLUSIVE 30% OFF! Worklife readers have the chance to receive 30% off the asking price when they purchase Judi James’ book at www.trotman.co.uk: simply enter the promotional code WL30 when prompted.
To practise your interview techniques with the professionals, visit www.bemyinterviewer.co.uk
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