The Best Career Advice That Almost No One Takes
You’re getting the interviews, but not landing the job. Back at square one every time, you do the usual: polishing your resume and finding new ways to say the same old thing. But if you’re like most people, you won’t do the one thing that could really make a difference in your next job interview.
The secret weapon is in your pocket or maybe in your hand: your smartphone.
People overestimate their strengths and underestimate their weaknesses all the time. They tell themselves they can “wing it” and congratulate themselves for how well they think on their feet. Except, they can’t. Only by video recording yourself (or having someone else do it) as you answer interview prep question can you see and hear how you come across.
- The Camera Doesn’t Lie: We may be obsessed with taking selfies, but a lot of people avoid looking at or listening to themselves “on camera.” Just pushing “record” and seeing that red light makes them highly self-conscious. And that’s the point. The nervousness of being video recorded is a good proxy for being “on” in a job interview. When you play back the recording, you’ll hear every “um,” “you know” and “like” that you say unconsciously. You’ll also see your nonverbal communication: how you sit, your facial expression, how much you fidget, and so forth. What you don’t know can hurt you in an interview. One candidate I interviewed never moved a muscle during our entire conversation. He didn’t gesture or change his posture. It was freaky! At the other extreme, I’ve seen people squirm in their chairs, pump their legs up and down, and gesture wildly. Don’t ignore your non-verbal cues and body language. You need to exude confidence and competence. If you want to know how well you do that, get in front of the camera.
- Rehearsing, Yes; Memorizing, No: You’re not auditioning for Annie! — there’s no need to memorize your lines. Memorized answers that sound canned and unnatural can’t convey your authentic self. You need to rehearse—preferably with a coach or mentor who will give you the “tough love” feedback that your friends, spouse, or other family members can’t. If your mentor also knows your role and industry, that’s an added plus.
- “Tell Me About Yourself”: Video record yourself rehearsing basic interview questions: describe your most recent position, what’s your greatest career accomplishment, what are your strengths/weaknesses, why do you want to work here, and – of course – tell me about yourself. When you play back the recording, listen to your answers. How can you say it more concisely, bringing it down to a tight thirty-second answer? You may not think so, but 30 seconds can come across as a long time, as anyone who has done a TV interview will tell you (think about that the next time you watch a televised interview). You need responses that are punchy, crisp, compelling, and to the point. One-word answers are a disaster, but so is a filibuster. Keep it conversational. You can always elaborate when the interviewer asks a follow-up question.
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- “ACT” to Improve Your Likeability: As you watch yourself on video, consider your “ACT”: authentic, connecting, and giving others a taste of who you are. Being authentic means truthfully representing yourself, your experiences, and your background. Creating a connection helps the interviewer relate to you and creates rapport during the interview. A taste of who you are allows interviewers to have a better understanding of what you have to offer and how well you’ll fit the culture. Your “ACT” will help improve your likeability. It only takes a matter of seconds for the interviewer to make crucial determinations about you, including how trustworthy you seem and whether you’d be a good fit.
- Don’t “Buffer” Your Video Interview: If you are good at interviewing in person, don’t assume that you’ll do just as well when interviewing by telephone or videoconference. You’ll need to adjust your energy level, the length of your responses, and how fast or slow you speak. As you rehearse, especially for video conference and webcam interviews, make sure you also anticipate any “surprises” you could possibly encounter with technology glitches. Have a practice Skype session with a friend, check the background for distractions, and dress from head to toe, even if you’re only visible to your shoulders. One candidate in a video interview was Brooks Brothers from the waist up, but showed he was only boxers from the waist down when he had to jump up and close a door. Don’t be caught unprepared.
It takes time to video record yourself and analyze the results to reflect on how you can improve. But given the importance of your next interview, why wouldn’t you make the effort? The only one standing in your way is you!