Talk Your Way into a Job
March 29, 2011
When hiring managers and employers rate the importance of job candidates' skills during a job interview, communication consistently tops the list. Speaking deliberately, asking the right questions, listening to the interviewer and controlling your body language are among the key ways to communicate in a more engaging manner and nail the job interview.
"Communication and interpersonal skills remain at the top of the list of what matters most to recruiters," according to a September 2007 Harris Interactive/Wall Street Journal business school survey. Specifically, verbal communication ranks highest, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers' Job Outlook 2011.
The following are some key communication elements crucial in a job interview.
Conversation As soon as you have an opportunity to speak, start strong. If you start out shy or reserved, it can be difficult to get yourself to turn on a conversation later. Rob Sullivan, a career coach and author of Getting Your Foot in the Door When You Don't Have a Leg to Stand On, tells Monster.com that a good formula "has you doing most of the talking for the first two-thirds of that conversation, and then ceding the floor to the interviewer."
Think about what you want to communicate beforehand to avoid rambling responses, interrupting the interviewer or answering a simple question with a 10-minute reply. Good answers are succinct and stick to the point. Articulate your strengths and weaknesses. Speak confidently, but not arrogantly. Emphasize your specific strengths and stay positive. Once you open your mouth, be aware that this is not the time to air out grievances. Do not bad-mouth anyone, WorkTree.com stresses.
At the end of the interview be sure to say, "Thank you."
Questions Most of us are familiar with the common questions asked during job interviews, some trickier to answer than others. Be prepared to answer softball and difficult questions honestly and respectfully.
However, you must also ask your own questions. Silence may suggest you don't really have any interest in the job or the company.
It is important not to squander the interview opportunity by asking mundane questions the interviewer has heard before, or worse, not asking questions at all. This is an opportunity to take more control of the interview and impress the interviewer on your own terms. You want to ask questions that make the interviewer sit up and take notice. Your goal is to make a statement in the form of a question while also finding out for yourself whether this position and this company is a good fit for you.
Listening Communicating involves more than just talking. Listening is an essential part, though you shouldn't confuse it with hearing.
During an interview, you have to use active listening, wherein "you make a conscious effort to hear not only the words that another person is saying but, more importantly, try to understand the complete message being sent," MindTools explains. It can be difficult to stay focused during a job interview, but a good listener pays careful attention to what the interviewer is saying rather than, for example, "forming counter arguments that you'll make when the other person stops speaking."
Part of active listening entails using short responses ("I see") or simple gestures (a head nod) to acknowledge you are listening to the interviewer. You aren't necessarily agreeing with the person; you are simply indicating that you are listening.
Body Language You can communicate a lot before you utter a single word. Some hiring managers claim they can recognize a potential candidate in less than 30 seconds, CareerBuilder.com says, and body language speaks volumes.
"Even if your spoken answers convey intelligence and confidence, your body language during job interviews may be saying exactly the opposite," according to CareerCast.com.
Once the interview begins, your body should be relaxed. This is especially true regarding your arms; remember that crossing your arms across your chest is a closed, even hostile, position. Moreover, have a firm and confident handshake, make eye contact and smile when appropriate. Do not fidget or rub your neck, drum your fingers, slouch or stare blankly during the interview, as these all make you look bored and disinterested, CareerBuilder.com warns.
When you go into a job interview, think about the situation from the employer's perspective. You may be the 10th person the manager is interviewing that week, and many people feel just as awkward interviewing as they do being interviewed. A comfortable but engaging exchange may be a welcome relief from the humdrum interviews, and it could set you apart from the pack.
...Seventh Annual Business School Survey by Harris Interactive and the Wall Street Journal The Wall Street Journal/Harris Interactive. Sept. 17, 2007
Job Outlook 2011 National Association of Colleges and Employers, Fall 2010
Effective Communication Begins with a First Impression by JD Schramm Harvard Business Review, Aug. 17, 2010
Think of Your Big Interview as a Simple Conversation by Thad Peterson Monster.com
Questions to Ask Employers During Interviews Virginia Tech Division of Student Affairs