Ask anyone about their greatest fears, and there is a good chance that public speaking will rank high on the list. In fact, as many as 75 percent of women suffer from speech anxiety and avoid speaking in front of groups.
But, as anyone who has ever had a job interview knows, meeting with a potential employer often triggers many of the same fears and symptoms as speaking to a group. In many ways, your goals in a job interview are the same as those when you give a speech: You want to appear confident and knowledgeable, connect with your audience, be memorable, and most importantly, inspire them to take action (in this case, offer you a job). It’s no wonder then that job interviews can make you feel anxious, triggering everything from nausea and sweaty palms to the inability to articulate your thoughts and stuttering.
Successful public speakers have developed ways of managing these nervous tics. While some people are naturally comfortable in front of an audience, many have worked hard to overcome their nerves and develop their skills. If you tend to struggle in interviews, you can employ their strategies to appear poised and confident.
1. Study Successful Speakers
What draws you to a speaker? How does a speaker grab your attention and project confidence? One of the best ways to improve your own speaking skills is to watch other speakers and identify qualities that you can imitate when you speak. Check out some of the talks given by the speakers at the Leading Authorities Speaker’s Bureau, for example. These speakers are among the most polished and poised in the world. Watch their talks to see how they command the room, establish rapport and authority, engage the audience, and try incorporating their methods into how you engage with interviewers.
2. Plan Ahead
Rarely will you find a public speaker who can make an effective speech off the cuff. The vast majority of successful speakers put lots of time into preparing their speeches. They develop visuals, practice what they plan to say, and research the audience to customize their words for maximum relevance. You need to do the same for your job interviews. Preparation might entail:
- Enlisting a friend to help conduct mock interviews, and developing answers to tough questions.
- Learning as much as you can about the company so you can demonstrate your knowledge in your answers.
- Preparing a portfolio of work to share if necessary.
- Visualizing the interview, imagining yourself projecting confidence and credibility.
- Getting a good night’s sleep before the interview, and getting your clothing ready in advance.
Knowing that you are prepared for the interview will boost your confidence, and help reduce your anxiety.
3. Know How to Use Silence
If you’re like most people, when you are nervous you start talking and have no idea when to stop. Silence can be scary — no one likes awkward pauses, and you might feel that if you aren’t filling the dead air with conversation, you aren’t impressing the interviewer.
But, silence, when used correctly, can help you perform in an interviewer. Don’t feel like you have to start talking the second the interviewer finishes asking a question. Take a pause, collect your thoughts, and then respond. When a speaker takes the stage, he or she doesn’t launch right into the speech. They take a moment, collect themselves, and then begin.
It’s also important to know when to stop talking. We’ve all sat through speeches where the speaker rambled on and on, repeating the point — or getting completely off track. Practice your responses so that you can make them in under a minute. Don’t use 100 words to answer a question than can be answered in five. This doesn’t mean you should be vague; in fact, by practicing brevity and being concise, you’re forced to be specific, which will be more impressive to interviewers.
4. Be Memorable
“So, tell me about yourself.”
One of the most common interview questions is also the one that elicits the most boring answers. Take your cues from successful speakers, and make your answer memorable. This isn’t the time to rehash your resume. Instead, give an answer that will make the interviewer remember you when it comes time to make a decision. Focus on your strengths, accomplishments, and enthusiasm for the job and the company — in other words, explain what makes you unique.
There are plenty of techniques you can steal from successful public speakers to improve your interview performance. Be sure to make eye contact, speak slowly, and speak from the heart, and you will nail any interview.
Have you ever used any public speaking techniques in a job interview? Did you find them effective? Your thoughts and comments below please…