Interviews can be incredibly stressful, and hunting for a job is never fun. So when you are lucky enough to secure an interview, you need to have the skills and confidence necessary to land the job you want. Here are the top ten most important interview skills that will help you impress employers and outshine the competition.
1. Prepare, Prepare, Prepare
Ok, so this first one isn’t exactly a ‘skill’ per se, but rather a strategy for honing your skills, polishing your image, and the foundation upon which your entire presentation will be based– because that is exactly how you should think of an interview: as a presentation you are giving. If you walk into an interview with the attitude that you are requesting a job or asking the employer to do you a favor, your interviewer will notice your diffidence. But if you think of the interview as an opportunity to prove to them what you yourself already know– that you are qualified and will make a great employee– then they will perceive you as confident and able.
The best way to project this type of attitude is to spend time beforehand researching the position you are applying for in order to find out the qualities of an ideal employee. Once you have done so, you can determine which of your own qualities and past experiences best align with this image, and be sure to focus on those during the process. The knowledge you gather from this will not only give you talking points, but also make you more confident and aware of what to expect.
2. Image Is Everything
An interview is like a snapshot. It is a very brief and condensed opportunity for you to show a complete stranger who you are and what you are capable of accomplishing. So your personal appearance is extremely important. Dress the part, be clean cut, present yourself as being professional and organized, carry yourself well, don’t fidget, don’t slouch in your seat, and be aware of all the ways you are communicating (because many of them are non-verbal).
3. Speak Well
This means many things: don’t use slang or curse, don’t be overly chatty or interruptive, speak clearly without mumbling or being loud, don’t rush through your responses nervously, and answer promptly and decisively, but without seeming too overly eager or cutting in before it is appropriate. Obviously, these things take practice, so prepare in front of a mirror or with a friend.
4. Eye Contact
This one is a very small and easy way to project yourself in a positive light. Don’t be looking at the floor when answering or being spoken to, look the interviewer in the eye. Maintaining steady eye contact commands a presence in the room and projects confidence. Just be sure to look away every once in a while so that things don’t get creepy.
5. Nailing the Hard Questions
This skill, like most, requires a good deal of preparation and practice. Go online and find lists of difficult interview questions and prepare responses for them that you can produce in the interview. Of course, you can’t know everything they will ask, but by preparing yourself for hard questions you will stand a much better chance of having something better to blurt out than “laziness” when the ask you what your worst quality is.
6. The Mirror Technique
The mirror technique, which employs a subconscious psychological cue, is surprisingly effective. When you subtly mirror the posture of a person you are talking to, they subconsciously like you more than if you hadn’t. So if your employer has his left arm resting on the table, rest your right arm on the table. If he has his hands folded in his lap, fold yours.
7. Have a Conversation
You should not be the only one talking, and you shouldn’t hesitate to ask questions, either. Remember, your interview is a chance to establish the fact that you will be a good fit for the workplace and that you can communicate effectively. This means avoiding a monologue and engaging your future boss in a two-way dialogue.
8. A Firm Handshake Goes a Long Way
It is a little thing, but it speaks volumes about you.
9. Don’t Ramble
Avoid going off on tangents, telling irrelevant stories, or tripping yourself up while responding. Be direct, and answer thoroughly, but without unnecessary anecdotes or asides that will make you seem spacey.
10. Follow Up
After the interview, be sure to send a follow up email thanking them for the opportunity and saying that it was nice to meet them. Nothing fancy or long, just a quick line will be enough to remind them of you and reaffirm your interest in the company.
If you can develop these ten skills you will have gone a long way toward getting that job you have always dreamed of. Interviews aren’t easy, and it takes a lot of work to get them just right. But if it means being able to get the work and the salary you desire, it is time well spent. Good luck!
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