Very few people enjoy job interviews. Some people get the sweats or stomach aches, others actually tremble at the thought of engaging in such a high-stakes conversation. The fact that most interviews these days are virtual doesn’t help. In fact, it may feel especially daunting to try to connect with your interviewer over Zoom.
We sat down with Deborah Grayson-Riegel, communication instructor, expert, and coach, to talk about a few practical ways for you to prepare for your interview. Try these exercises if you're looking to overcome those interview jitters and better connect with your audience.
Get to know your audience.
With any communication—especially a job interview—you should always start with your audience. However, shares Grayson Riegel, sometimes this doesn't always come easy. "We so often get focused on 'What do I want to say?', 'What do I want to convince somebody of?', 'What do I want?', 'What's the knowledge I want to demonstrate?' However, to be a good communicator, you need to put your needs and interests behind the needs and interests of your listener."
Try this: Ask yourself the below questions.
- "What is keeping my audience up at night?”
- “What is getting my audience out of bed in the morning?”
Essentially, you should be seeking to learn the worries and concerns of your audience. "How do your skills and your knowledge solve a problem for your audience?" asks Grayson Riegel.
Embrace the butterflies.
If you’re interviewing for a role, it is actually a good sign if you’re a little nervous. "That means that this is that matters, and there’s something valuable at stake," says Grayson Riegel. You can capitalize on this— you have a vested interest in this communication ending with a positive outcome, and you’re motivated.
Try this: Mentally and physically prepare for your interview.
While butterflies are a good sign, you don’t necessarily want them to completely take over. To keep nerves at bay and ensure that you’re exuding confidence, you’ll need to prepare both mentally and physically.
Grayson Riegel advises to try these three steps to prepare:
- Start by calling yourself by name. "When I call myself, ‘Deb,’ I'm talking to myself like a mentor, a coach, or a friend, as opposed to ‘I,’ which says, 'What I? We’re all the same person.'"
- Next, give yourself one piece of helpful, concrete advice. "So now I might say, 'Deb, speak more slowly.'"
- Now, put it all into context. "First, you might start by growing the context. For example, I’d say, 'Deb, remember to speak more slowly and take pauses so that people can understand. And remember you have this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to change the way young associates present.' If that feels overwhelming, you can shrink the opportunity to reduce anxiety. So, the way self-talk might look here would be, 'Deb, remember to speak slowly and take pauses so people can understand. And remember, even if you screw this up at the end of the day, your family still loves you unconditionally.'"
"This works to slow your body down," explains Grayson Riegel. "It sends a message to your heart to let it know there is enough oxygen flowing through your body and it can calm itself down. In doing that, this can take the color away from your cheeks, slow down your sweat glands, and even reduce 'the shakes.'"
This leads us to another useful tip from Grayson Riegel—don’t hide the shakes. "Oftentimes when presenting or interviewing, we have a tendency to want to hide flaws, but try to not actively attempt to hide shaky hands or a shaky voice," says Grayson Riegel. This may seem counterintuitive. However, though people feel like if they hold their hands together people won't see them shaking, it actually usually will have the opposite effect. It will just put a giant spotlight on the fact that you’re shaking.
So what should you do instead? "Instead, if your hands are shaking, make bigger gestures than you normally would—that will hide any sort of shake or tremble," shares Grayson Riegel. "If your voice is shaking, don't lower it. Speak louder. Speaking in a louder tone of voice will hide that shake and will convey confidence in a way that speaking in a quieter voice does not."
About Deborah Grayson Riegel
Deborah Grayson Riegel is a keynote speaker and consultant who teaches leadership communication for Wharton Business School and Columbia Business School. She is a regular contributor for Harvard Business Review, Inc., Psychology Today, Forbes, and Fast Company. She consults and speaks for clients across many industries, including several law firms in the AmLaw 100.