How to Portray Confidence in an Interview
Portraying confidence is a core skill for interview success.
Interviews are an acceptable form of judgement in a society where being judgmental is frowned upon. Interviews feel like judge, jury and executioner. If unsuccessful, it feels like being the last kid picked for the team. If successful, it feels like winning the lottery. We cannot change the judgmental nature of interviews, but we can change how we are perceived by the other party. Nervousness and the uncomfortableness of being judged are normal. The following are strategies to align your body and mind with confidence—even if you do not feel confident.
In a job interview scenario, the first place that you will likely meet the interviewer is a lobby. Be conscientious of body language and the general vibes you are putting off. The first impressions people make are often in these transitional areas, makes sense, right? People get a good look and in seconds, they have already formed their impression of you.
Jordan Harbinger of Advanced Human Dynamics recommends the Doorway Drill while walking though transitional areas such as a doorway, hallway, lobby, elevator, etc. The idea is to act normal but confident with good posture, head and shoulders upright, make eye contact and smile. He recommends putting a post-it note at eye level on the door of your office to remember the drill and create a habit.
Amy Cuddy’s TED Talk, Your body language may shape who you are discusses Power Poses that show High Power. High Power is about confidence, smiling and making eye contact. Examples include: Superwoman with hands on both hips, steepled hands, the CEO who is standing with hands on the table and Pride, when you win a race and both hands go high in the air. The body has good posture, opens up to create a wide territory and takes up physical space.
Cuddy says: “Fake it til you become it.” Using high power body language will actually increase your confidence. She recommends using power poses for 2 minutes prior to an event like a speech or job interview to boost your confidence.
People display anxiety in a variety of different ways. During my first ‘big girl’ job interview, I picked my fingers under the table until one of them bled—I was extremely nervous. My problem in that interview was that I did not give my hands anything positive to do. I was too scared to ask permission to take notes.
Nowadays, I coach the following:
Politely ask permission to take notes during an interview.Use hand gestures while talking—this reinforces active listening and helps you remember what questions the interviewers ask. Additionally, gestures give your hands something positive to do while speaking.
The best way to combat nervousness is to be prepared. Practice interview questions by creating categories such as: Problem Solving, Handling Conflict, Leadership Style, etc. Then for each category, come up with an answer (stories are best) that is easy for you to remember.
Get a Grip!
Give a firm handshake. I take extreme pride in my handshake—perhaps too much pride. Often, people will say to me “You’ve got a nice grip!” after shaking hands.
For men and women alike, give a solid handshake. This key interaction between people sets up a positive first impression. If you have a weak grip, the subliminal message is that you are not confident.
The interview is a two-way street. Interviewers want to know if you will be a good fit, so they ask questions. Equally, the interviewee wants to know if the company is a good fit. Always come armed with a list of questions to ask. Always focus a few questions on current events of the company and the impact of those events on the job.
It is okay to ask logistics related questions: “I saw that you are open for walk-ins from 10:00 – 2:00… What are the working hours for employees?” Feel free to ask how the interviewers like their jobs and the company: “What is your favorite and least favorite thing about working for ABC Company?”
Asking questions is a natural part of an interview. During a job interview, an applicant should try to get the interviewers talking, this can reveal red flags or positive signs about working for the company that can help with making the right decision to work there or not.
“I want this job”
Never act desperate and beg for a position or discuss financial hardship during an interview, that is unprofessional. It is a good thing to be excited about a position: “I’m excited about this position… when my friend sent me the opening it seemed like a perfect fit.”
It is refreshing for an interviewer to hear that you are excited about the position.
Do not try to plot what you will say next while the other person is talking.
Know what you want.
Before setting foot in the interview, you need to know what you want in a job… and salary. Be ready for the salary conversation before the first interview. It could come up in the interview, or it could come up later—either way, be prepared. Research the company and industry using tools like glassdoor.com, friends who work there or search the ‘industry’ salary average for your location.
Come up with three numbers:
- Rock bottom. Be prepared to walk away with no deal.
- What you are aiming for. Based on your industry and regional research.
- The ideal number. (Hint: Equals infinity)
Salary negotiations freak people out—just talk to them. Have a conversation and be friendly. Chris Voss author of Never Split the Difference and former FBI hostage negotiator says that the friendlier you are during a negotiation, the more receptive the other person will be.
“They key to beginning a haggle is to rattle the other guy ever so gently. You do it in the nicest way possible.” Chris Voss
Never pretend to be something you are not. It seems simple enough, but nervous people do strange things—sweat a lot, employ sarcasm, second guess answers, act assertive, close up, fidget, etc.
The interviewer genuinely wants to know YOU, not someone that you pretended to be because you were nervous. The decision to hire you is made based on your interview and how you show up. If you pretend to be a macho, assertive salesperson in the interview and show up to work as a quiet, creative introvert… you did something wrong in the interview.
Just be yourself. If they hire you it’s because they like you. If they choose someone else, you’ll know the job wasn’t right— and you dodged a bullet.
When it comes to portraying confidence, do it anyway— when you feel like a nervous wreck “fake it til you make it.” No matter how nervous you feel, controlling your body language ensures that the other person does not see your nervousness.
The person who gets the job is the confident one… or the one who appears confident.