Research shows that 85% of the reason you get, keep and progress in a job has more to do with people skills than technical knowledge. Charisma is the difference that will make the difference. It is that nebulous quality that drives people to be with you, follow you and even emulate you. In an interview it can be the vital ingredient that gets you the job.
Interview panels ultimately give jobs to people they like, people they see fitting into the company, getting on with them and others and able to bring lots of positive energy to the table. So while you are busy focusing on displaying your technical skills and competencies remember it is just as important to serve up a little charisma to really make a connection with your interview panel.
Some people just seem to be naturally charismatic such as Barak Obama in the run up to the US presidency and Mother Theresa through her work with poverty. But if you are not ready to lead a country or save one you can start to learn how to feel more charismatic and how to project it.
First step is that you have to feel good about you and then you have to help your interview panel feel good about you too. Have a confident purpose and plan for you interview – What do you want to achieve and this needs to be more than “I want the job”. What impression do you want to make, what core skills and competencies do you want the panel to see in you, what key message do you want to get across and leave hanging in the air when you exit the room?
Often we make the mistake of believing that interviews are a passive affair for the candidate: they ask the questions and you give the answers! This is very far from the truth. When you have a clear intention and plan for the information you want to convey you can start to identify ways in which you want to influence the process and the panel. You do have to answer their questions but you can be proactive and take charge on the additional information you provide.
Give a firm handshake on arrival; look the panel straight in the eye, treat each person you meet as if he or she is truly important. Don’t interrupt. Don’t mentally cut off the other person. Don’t reload while he or she is speaking. Listen! Listen! Listen! Visibly respond to the panel members not just the one asking the question. Smile, nod agreement and address them by name.
Focus your answers closely to the question and always ask the panel to repeat if you think you may have gone off track or if you need to buy a bit more thinking time. Structuring your answers to three points can be very helpful as we know that grouping in threes makes information more engaging and memorable (rule of three).
Always have one or two “killer” questions that demonstrate strongly your ability to see the big picture or that you are aware of emerging trends and issues coming up the track in your sector/role. Asking a question is your opportunity to sell yourself a little more, so don’t waste it on “filler” questions on induction or training or opportunities for development.
Finish with a strong closing pitch summarising three or four key relevant competencies that you bring to the role and an expression of your enthusiasm to work with this particular company. Our brains tend to remember the beginnings and the endings and so make sure you close as strongly as you started. Go out with a band not a fizz!
Remember that interviews are a performance and while its not Othello or Scarlet O’Hara we are seeking to emulate, you do need to present a slightly louder, brighter, more engergised and more boastful version of you!