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Get more job offers by learning skills to be confident during interviews

A savvy professional can use their H.U.E. (Hear, Understand, Engage) interviewing skills to advance in the workplace by getting more job offers—and by putting their skills to use day-to-day.

The good news is you can create interviewing success by preparing well. The challenge is the work of preparing and practicing.

Let’s start with being heard. Being heard often comes down to making sure people are interested in what you have to say.

You do this by being relaxed and confident during your interview.

Practice relaxation skills before you start applying for jobs

When you begin applying for a promotion or a new job, start practicing your relaxation skills for 10 minutes per day. (All my client sessions begin with a similar Daily Warm-Up.)

The goal is to become aware of the feeling of tension in your body. Tension leads to short, fast breaths, which leads to less oxygen in your brain cells. Your brain freezes up, resulting in you blanking on a well-rehearsed answer.

But when you become aware of tension in your body well before an interview, you’ll recognize it and relieve it when it creeps in. You’ll prevent the tension from crushing your confidence and making you sound unsure, which reduces your chances of a job offer.

Start with:

  1. Warming up your vocal cords. Try saying the vowels A-E-I-O-U, holding each sound for a few seconds.
  2. Do shoulder shrugs and neck rolls to relieve tension above your shoulders.
  3. Practice controlling the tempo of your breath. Breathe in for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds, then exhale for 4 seconds.
  4. Do tensing and relaxing exercises (known as PMR, or progressive muscle relaxation). Choose a few body parts—your hands, your forehead, or your lower legs, for example. Follow the PMR steps below, explained by University of Michigan Health.

Breathe in, and tense the first muscle group (hard but not to the point of pain or cramping) for 4 to 10 seconds.
Breathe out, and suddenly and completely relax the muscle group (don’t relax gradually).
Relax for 10-20 seconds before moving to the next muscle group. Notice how the muscles feel when they’re tensed and how they feel when they’re relaxed.
When you’re finished with all of the muscle groups, count backward from 5 to bring your focus back to the present.
Source: https://www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/uz2225

When you’re applying for jobs or a promotion, practice these relaxation exercises daily leading up to an interview. When tension strikes during the interview, quietly practice PMR or breathing exercises and feel your sense of control and confidence return.

Know what to say so others will want to listen

The next aspect of being heard is knowing what to say so others will want to listen. Like the relaxation exercises, you’ll do this work in the days leading up to your interview.

  1. Research the company as thoroughly as you can. Google their mission and their recent press and outreach activities. Then infer about their company culture and what they might be looking for in their next employee.
  2. Think about your place in your profession, such as what positive characteristics you bring to your current company. Which of your skills and experiences make you most proud?
  3. Then consider how your skills might fit into the new role. How might you improve the company’s or department’s operations?
  4. Visualize yourself proceeding through the job interview, especially for full-day interviews where you’re meeting with many people.

These preparatory actions set you up to feel confident about your role in the company. That confidence will come through during an interview, compelling others to hear your thoughts and be receptive to how your experiences meet their needs.

Practice professional English pronunciation

Along with relaxation practice and mental preparation, as an English Learner you can give yourself the best chance at a job offer by practicing professional English pronunciation beforehand.

Here are some ideas:

  1. Ask a friend to do a practice interview with you, then ask them to tell you which words were hard to understand.
  2. Then use an English pronunciation website (such as Dictionary.com) to hear and practice the precise pronunciations of those words.
  3. Practice speaking the final sound of your words—that is, don’t let those sounds drop off. For example, in everyday speech, native and non-native English speakers alike tend to shorten words ending in “ing” to “in,” such as: “Today I went walkin.”
    Leaving off the final sound gives your speech a casual manner that’s too informal for many professional interviews.
  4. Make sure you’re putting the stress on the correct syllable and using the correct vowel sound.
    Some common problem words are “hospital” (many people drop the “s” sound) or replacing long e sounds with another vowel. This would be like saying “snickers” when you mean “sneakers.” Even though the vowel sounds are similar, the small switch can make it hard for the interviewers to understand your responses.

Next, move from preparation for being heard to strategies for being understood during the interview.

Practice being understood

Being understood comes down to speaking concisely so your interviewers stay engaged by your ideas and experiences.

  1. First, remember that an interview is not necessarily for listing all your skills or qualifications—it’s about showing the interviewers how you’ll fit their workplace culture and requirements, using stories and examples to illustrate your skills.
  2. But don’t lose the interviewers in long-winded stories. Make sure any story you tell leads to an obvious conclusion.
  3. Keep yourself on track by following a format when telling a story during an interview. The STAR technique, which stands for Situation, Task, Action, Result, keeps you on target to tell a story with a satisfying ending that shows your interviewers what you’re capable of.
    Learn more about the STAR technique: https://www.indeed.com/career-advice/interviewing/how-to-use-the-star-interview-response-technique
  4. Practice your examples and stories multiple times before your interview. Prepare examples of how you’ve handled both positive and negative situations. Aim for short and to-the-point.
  5. Keep your fillers (um, ah, well, you know) and qualifiers (sort of, almost, kinda) to a minimum. Practice reducing these words in everyday conversations, starting today.

When you’ve prepared yourself to relax, demonstrate confidence, and tell concise, relevant stories, you’ve taken several steps to be heard and understood during interviews.

Engage your interviewers

The final step is to engage your interviewers with emotion and energy.

1. First, smile when appropriate. A smile brings variety to your voice by temporarily changing your energy and inflection.

2. When there’s something you really want the interviewers to hear, pause before saying it. Give them the chance to return to you if their thoughts were wandering.

3. Notice whether the interviewers are listening to you. Listen to your intuition if you sense you’ve lost their attention. Then try to bring them back.

    • Ask a question
    • Change your inflection
    • Make eye contact with someone new
    • Increase your gestures
    • Change your posture; try leaning forward
    • Change your cadence; speak faster or slower for a bit

4. Always come back to your stories. A story (even one that’s just about a prior work experience, with minimal drama) will always engage interviewers more than lists of projects or skills. Stories have a natural up/down/up/down movement that gives your voice reason to be equally active and interesting.  

5. Bonus: Learn how certain pronunciations can affect the tone of your words.
If you say “Thank you for your time,” using short, crisp pronunciation and a drop in inflection (lowering your pitch), you’ll sound commanding. If you say the same sentence with drawn-out vowels and a rising inflection (becoming higher pitched at the end), you’ll sound eager. Either can be appropriate, but having such mastery of your tone at any moment demonstrates composure and confidence during an interview.

Now you know the steps to be confident and be heard during an interview. For more practice, join one of my workshops on Job Interviewing for English Learners

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