Why do you want to work for this company?
What makes you qualified for this job?
What unique perspective would you bring to this role?
Job interviews can be pretty scary because there’s a lot at stake. Perhaps another reason we feel so much pressure is that a job interview is essentially a series of small impromptu speeches. Think about it. Even with just the generic questions posed above, you’ve got a few seconds to compose in your mind a coherent and convincing “speech.” Viewing job interviews through the lens of presenting can provide some new strategies for performing well in these high-pressure situations. These 3 communication-based strategies can give you a leg up on your competition.
While you probably won’t know all the questions you’ll be asked during an interview, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t come prepared. Just like you’d research for a presentation, spend some time studying for your interview. Just like you’d take time to analyze the audience you are presenting for, take time to think about “who” the company is. Spend time on their website and review their social media presence. Know their mission statement, brands, and basic company values. Take note of the language they use. Then, use that research to inform your interview. In answering interview questions, speak their language. When you use the language of the company, you demonstrate that you understand the strategic directions of the company and that you will work toward helping accomplish the mission and goals they’ve established.
A recent study put the ability to organize #3 on the list of things employers are looking for in potential employees. When answering an interview question, think in terms of organization like you would for a speech. Aim to have a clear and logical “flow” to your answer, even if it’s a short one. Two simple organizations you might try are chronological and narrative.
For a chronological response, organize your thoughts in terms of time such as past, present, future, or a sequence of steps. For a narrative organization, think of a 2-3 main ideas you want to cover and then tell a short story that illustrates those ideas. Lists are boring and forgettable. So if you are asked about your strengths, think quality over quantity. Just name the most important ones and follow each strength up with a story of when you’ve demonstrated that strength. Not only will this help you to organize your response, it will provide proof for the claims you make about yourself. As an added bonus, it will keep your interviewer more interested since humans are naturally drawn to stories. In fact, Stanford professor Jennifer Aaker says we remember information weaved into stories “up to 22 times more than facts alone.”
You can tell how accomplished a speaker is by how she uses pauses. Great speakers use them well and often. When an interviewer asks you a question, it might be tempting to jump right in. After all, silence has a negative connotation in our society. However, taking a moment to pause can paint you in a positive light. If you are stumped by a question and need a moment to gather your thoughts, try saying something like, “that’s a great question, let me think about my response for just a moment.” This will not only give you time to think, but, more importantly, it will show your potential employer that you are a thoughtful and careful communicator. With studies showing us that companies lose, on average, “$62.4 million per year because of inadequate communication to and between employees,” it’s no wonder communication skills continues to top the list of skills employers are seeking.
The simple fact is this: if you’ve had any training in public speaking or any experience in presenting, you are better equipped to perform well in a job interview. After all, just like a presentation, a job interview is a performance, an oratorical display. So the strategies that work for you when you are preparing or delivering a presentation are highly adaptable for job interviews.
If you haven’t had any communication training, know this: it is one of the best investments you can make. From better job interview skills, to better self-knowledge, to more organized thinking and writing, to more effective conversations, the skills that you learn are applicable to nearly every situation because communication is always happening! Check out our all-new, online presentation skills course now.