Interviewing with Confidence

Being confident in yourself, your abilities and the value of your past work and accomplishments is essential to successful interviewing.

Many things separate conveying confidence during an interview, but one of the most important is simply what you say and how you say it. I often speak with clients about a general “economy of effort.” I reference economy in writing, but I stress it in speaking as well.

When you’ve made it to the interview stage, you should assume the people you’ll speak with generally believe you can do the job. That’s right, if I’m interviewing you, I’m nearly certain you can do the job. My question is, do I want to work with you. Will you fit in with the organization and the team?

First, then, if you remove the burden from yourself of believing you need to convince people you can actually do the job, you’ve removed a significant amount of stress.

Second, turn your focus to fitting in. I’ll assume you’ve taken all the right preliminary steps. You have researched the company, you know the executives, you have a “public” understanding of their goals, accomplishments, and objectives. And, if you’re interviewing, you’ve probably had some preliminary communications that provided you with other insights. You’ve noted all of these and you’ve linked your background, your accomplishments with them categorically to illustrate both to them and to yourself that you can do the job. You should be in great shape for the interview. Also, you should know IF you want to fit in. That’s right, interviews are two-way streets. Fit is a mutual assessment. Don’t forget that.

I’m not going to delve into the physical nature of interviewing, dress, posture, and other visible factors. They are critically important, but the focus here is on what you say and how you say it. So this applies not just to in-person interviews, but also to phone, webcast and other venues.  

The key to success is cogency. Be cogent in your responses. Your Stump Speech, for example is a cogently written presentation. As Dictionary.com states, Cogent is: “convincing or believable by virtue of forcible, clear, or incisive presentation; telling. 2. to the point; relevant; pertinent.”

Cogent is not: rambling, unsubstantiated, opinionated, irrelevant. 

For example, consider the difference when an interviewee is asked to define his/her communications style. The objective is to say “I am direct and to the point.”  

  1. Person Number 1:

“I believe I’m pretty straightforward with people, I don’t like to beat around the bush, and I think the people I work with appreciate the directness.”

  1. Person Number 2:

I have found a direct approach with most people allows my communications to be considered clear, concise and actionable.

You may see only minor differences, but the first person says s/he doesn’t like “beating around the bush,” but uses 27 words to say s/he is “direct,” while the second person uses 20 words. The first person, “believes.” The second, “has found.”

Who is more confident, who is more convincing, and who is actually more direct?  

My consistent advice is to listen 80 percent of the time and speak 20 percent of the time. If you talk that little, you need to be accurate and precise when you do speak. If you listen that much, you should learn much about the speaker and allow yourself to chose very appropriate words very wisely.

Again, remember, they already believe you can do the job, so too much reference to how well you would do the job, all your great ideas, the improvements you would make only risk changing their minds – and not in a good way. As a good friend of mine always says, “No one ever listened themselves out of a job.”

But, back to the beginning, if you’re confident, and you should be, you don’t need to talk too much. Rambling on, obviously (and trust me, it will be obvious) trying to impress, trying to say too much too fast, all these behaviors show you’re uncertain, not confident, seeking approval and affirmation. You never want to have eagerness confused with being needy.  

To be successful, use your stump speech to answer the first question of “tell me more about yourself.” From there ask questions about the job, the organization and about the person conducting the interview – about their perspectives and their opinions. Ask open ended questions. Yes and no responses don’t tell you that much.  

Take this approach and the person conducting the interview should see you as confident, engaged and knowledgeable. And, that’s your goal, right?