Interviews as presentations

I speak frequently to local business groups about recruiting and staffing issues. And in preparing for my most recent talk, I thought about how successful job candidates go through similar preparations for interviews.

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Since I spend quite a bit of blog space offering tips for interview preparation, I thought I’d post this list of Top Five Tips for Presentations and Interviews. Each idea applies equally to presenting, in-person interviews, and phone interviews.

1. Proofread.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: proofread your resume. And your slides. And your handouts. Your reputation depends on people taking you seriously. Hiring managers and appreciative audiences alike want to feel that you value their time. Any typo at all will make them think you don’t care.

2. Strike a Pose.
By now most people have heard Amy Cuddy’s advice to adopt power poses for several minutes before an important social moment, like a presentation, talk, interview, or meeting. If you haven’t read about her research, I can summarize it this way: if you make your body feel like Wonder Woman for a few minutes, your brain will believe you are a superhero. And audiences from hiring managers to auditoriums full of people respond well to your superhero status.

3. Warm up.
While you are embodying power poses, warm up your voice. Cover a wide range of high and low notes, slowly, as well as a variety of sounds. The classic acting warm up of saying “red leather, yellow leather” slowly then quickly, in low tones then in a high register softens the muscles you’re going to use when you talk, much like gently jogging before a race. You can also sing a song that you love and that’s as low as your can manage. Anxiety makes us speak in higher ranges, and this strain can wear out your voice. Speaking lower is more pleasant to the ear and easier on the vocal chords.

4. Slow. Down.
It isn’t necessary to talk fast. Interviewers want to hear what you have to say. So do larger audiences. Most people tend to speed up when they’re nervous, and if you speak too quickly people won’t understand you. Slow down. Take deep breaths. Pause when you need to think. Check in after each thought. If you’re rushing to cram in lots of information, know that they will only hear as much as they can handle. If you speak slowly and let them mentally process your information, you’ll get a better response.

5. Edit.
Don’t say everything you think, and make sure to put your information into logical order. Preparation for a talk or interview requires you to distill your experience and stories by cutting out all the extraneous information. Just as your resume shouldn’t have information from 20 years ago, and your presentation shouldn’t include irrelevant anecdotes, your edited interview should address what is asked, avoid unprofessional stories, and present your best content.

Editing is just as important for interviews and presentations as for your professional work, emails, and resume. Less is more. Be brief; use the simplest words that fit the situation. Your interview, presentation, or talk are actually about the listener, not about you. Make it easy for them to hear and understand everything you want to say.

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