Interviews may be the most nerve-racking type of presentation that business people of all ranks and sectors must endure. Unlike appearing before a large group, if the going gets tough during an interview, we can’t turn to another section of the audience to find a friendlier face. The close eye contact between questioner and interview subject may become distracting or even overwhelming. And the consequences of an interview—whether we get a job, a promotion or a new account; whether we embarrass ourselves in a newspaper or on TV—often are more profound than those of the usual business presentation.
In short, it’s difficult to look and act our best in an interview because it’s so important that we do indeed perform at our best. To help you leave the best impression in an interview, consider these seven style and content points, drawn from the presentation training program of Airfoil Public Relations:
- Sit or stand comfortably straight. When you slouch, you give the interviewer a physical advantage “above” you, and you can appear beaten down. Try to meet the interviewer eye-to-eye.
- In an interview, your facial expressions may be even more important than gestures or other body language, because the interviewer is focused on your facial reactions. Raising an eyebrow, grimacing after an answer, averting your eyes and other expressions are likely to tell the interviewer more than your words do. Maintain eye contact during the question and at least the first part of your answer to demonstrate you are not intimidated (even if you are), and remember to smile when appropriate.
- If you are seated, keep your hands above the table or desk when responding. This demonstration of being literally “above board” will prevent you from physically drawing into yourself, will reflect openness in your answers and will allow you to gesture more naturally and freely.
- Use gestures as you would in normal conversation. Avoid locking yourself down into a rigid position or, even worse, folding your arms in a sign of defiance. Keep your hands apart so you don’t show such signs of nervousness as rubbing your arm, grasping fingers or hands, or playing with a ring or bracelet.
- Develop a few key messages that you want to get across in your answers and transition to them whenever you can. These messages will help you better control the interview and provide you a place to go when you are asked a question that you just don’t know how to answer.
- Be careful about the pace of your voice. Avoid bursting out with a rush of words or slurring phrases as you “outrun your headlights” by speaking too fast. Try to speak at about 150 words per minute—that’s the speed of the average news anchor.
- Vary the pace and pitch of your voice to emphasize the key points you want to make in your answer. If everything comes out of your mouth with the same tone at the same speed, the interviewer can’t locate the important stuff. We need verbal bold type to focus us on your message.
Many more tips are incorporated in Airfoil’s “Powerful Presentations” seminar, but these seven can go a very long way toward helping you stand out in any interview situation.