When you think of self-empowerment, you probably reflect on those self-help videos intertwined into social media or podcasts that guarantee their words and experiences can undoubtedly change your life. However, self-empowerment in interviews reigns in a slightly different arena. It’s been said time and time again, protruding confidence is what will win an interviewer over every time. It’s rumored that even if your answers aren’t the best or you’re not the most qualified candidate, you can charm your way into a new position by just overflowing with confidence.
While confidence is important, it won’t win you respect from a business owner. The challenge begins before you even apply for that job you so desperately need.
First, you must self-evaluate and be honest about what you can realistically offer a company. Think on an in-depth level. What are your actual strengths/innate talents/training that set you a part from others in the same profession? Once you can answer that question, expand on it. Research methods to sharpen and amplify your talent through seminars, webinars and non-traditional courses to assist in building confidence in your field.
Then, put your talent into action. Take part in an activity that expands your mind, while focusing on your talent each day. In short, make sure that you are exercising your training throughout the things you do in life – not just regulating it to a professional setting. If your talent is being a communicator and you’re seeking out that type of career, be active in panels, mentoring and community boards. Volunteer to be a voice for the underprivileged through Urban League or another non-profit that helps dismantle negative socioeconomic factors. When passion meets talent, the outcome is unstoppable.
Only when these things are done will you be able to enter a room with five, stern interview panelists, sit down and take charge of the interview. Sure, you’ll be nervous at the start, but once that first question is asked you’ll feel empowered that you truly are the best candidate because you’re living what you’re speaking. There will be no greater victory.
Don’t let one word define your interview
In many interviews, HR representatives are simply trying to get a feel for your personality in a very short period of time. People often go about this in different ways. I’ve been to PR interviews at universities where an initial interview took place in an office and then I was invited out to lunch with two more individuals on staff. This was done to ultimately measure how I carried myself outside of the office atmosphere (I’ll expand on interview locations in another tip at a later date). Either way, assume you’re being studied at all times.
Specifically, this tip pertains to the “brain freeze” moment when there’s a particular word that you just know will make or break your acceptance to this company (this is a myth), but you lose your thought. You can attribute this to nervousness, anxiousness or excitability. Despite the cause, it happens. Let’s be honest. Even the most prepared, outgoing person gets nervous at some point in interviews (don’t let anyone tell you otherwise). It’s simply how you choose to manage the nervousness that will make or break your first impression with the leaders of the company.
So, should you pause and mumble until the one word that you’d like to use comes back to you? This is the LAST thing that you want to do. Despite the interviewer prompting you to “take your time” or saying “let me know if I need to read the question over to you,” once you leave the room, the interview panel will see this in a negative light.
Don’t let one word define your interview. I’ve witnessed interviewees actually pause and mumble, “Goodness, and I just looked up a good word to use here.” I can assure you, this does more damage. My advice: MOVE ON. Think of an alternate thought and don’t let your interviewers know that you have missed a beat. Prepare…. Prepare… Prepare.
Work on Improvisation
On a general scale, it’s not probable that you’ll be asked to participate in a “group interview,” but on the off-chance it does, preparation is key. Improvisation is a great tool in any type of interview, but let us throw a scenario at you.
You’re invited to a group interview at a predominately female public relations company in Atlanta, GA. The company is fairly new and could be considered a start-up, so there are unconventional rules at play here. Hence, the unconventional group interviews that you’ve been invited to. Keep in mind, you had no idea that you would be taking part in a non-standard interview so you did not have the opportunity to do extra preparation.
Here’s where improvisation comes into play. Sitting around a round table in a small, but festive room with five other female candidates, you see two White females enter the glass doors. The two act more as moderators than interviewers. After introductions around the table, the interviewers ask symbolic questions such as: “If you could be an animal, what type would you be and why?” (OR) “Who is your favorite author and why?”
The order in which you answer the questions is randomly designated by the interviewer and changes each time a question is asked. When you arrive at the author question, you are asked to go last and you ultimately hear the person ahead of you say: “Maya Angelou”. Your heart sinks. Maya Angelou truly is your favorite writer and the link between your first book and your childhood – studying her art as inspiration to everything you’re currently pursuing. However, if you give the same answer as the previous person, you’ll look like the copycat, not the originator.
This is where improvisation comes in. Be proactive. Always have at least two examples for each question that could possibly be asked. I would recommend having 10 different concrete examples to support any point that you’re trying to make about yourself. If you state that you are adaptable or a leader, there must be examples to back this up. If your first response is “taken” or the interview goes in a different direction, improvise by utilizing the other examples you already have in the chamber. Otherwise, you may find yourself stumbling, pausing and regurgitating the same information repeatedly. -> No bueno for an interview.
Don’t sell yourself short
Recently, I was on an interview panel where the interviewee was asked the standard questions: “Why would you like this job? Why should WE invest in you?”
A great answer would be different variations of this: “When you invest in something, you believe in its ability to have an impact on the world. For this reason, I’ve invested _____ (input the number of years you’ve been in your career) years, honing my craft in _____ (communications, business, writing, etc.), using closed doors as a learning experience to seek out new training and education and have the opportunity to influence the ______ industry in a positive way -- as this company is currently doing. (Give short example of how you exceeded expectations of a certain task because of your dedication) You should invest in me because I’m dedicated to learning, growing and adapting to be an asset to your company.” NOTE: The blank spaces should be filled with information specific to the type of job you want to acquire.
A bad answer would be: “I don’t know if I am the best candidate, but I work hard.” (OR) “I’m sure there are a lot of other talented candidates for this position, but I believe I am the one for you.”
Yes, I’ve heard both of these responses on interview panels and no they never go over well. Panelists understand the humble angle that you’re trying to take here, but you have one job and one job only when you go into an interview: SELL YOURSELF, NOT THE OTHER CANDIDATES.
Also, don’t take the short route with questions like this. This is the central reason that they should hire you and you NEED to make that reason as clear as possible. You can take a shorter stance on questions like “Give three adjectives that describe you”. Here, you would just give three words. There will be other opportunities for examples showcasing the characteristics you’ve mentioned.