A little context…
CLARITY is to make it easy for people to understand you. If someone is concentrating on your speech to understand you then they are not paying attention to you. That’s a disaster. Because YOU are the gold. Not your speech. I don’t actually want people to notice your speech. Think of your speech like a window. Clean the window so they can see whats on the other side. And that is shiny beautiful unique YOU. So clarity is about making the right sounds that are familiar and take no processing power to comprehend.
IMPACT is how you make the other person feel. You can sit in front of someone with perfect clarity and make the other person feel uncomfortable, disliked, relaxed or happy. Do you want them to know you? Do you want to impress, to sell, convince, make them feel heard and seen, be an authority? This is subtle stuff that transcends pronunciation and accent, but that includes it.
FIVE BIGGEST MISTAKES IN AN INTERVIEW
1. Scripting and memorising your answers
When people come to me for coaching they often have a set of answers carefully written out. It’s great to think through your answers carefully and writing will probably be a part of that process. But usually those answers start to sound like an academic essay with ‘however’ ‘in summary’ and clunky things like ‘thats a good question’ ‘thank your for the question’.
Remember the window analogy from above? Your words are a window through which to see you. I don’t want to be focused on the window. Natural speech is not like formal academic essays. Natural speech makes way for you. If you sound like you are reading an essay how will I know you are sincere? You know those interview shows where they interview famous people or whoever? Well, they have a section called ‘the hot seat’, which is quick fire questions designed to force the person to answer more spontaneously. The more spontaneous your answer feels the more sincere you will appear. You need to know yourself inside out and have practiced articulating the answers so well in so many ways that the pure essence is crystal clear to you. Then you can go in without a script, speak from the heart and you will be really seen and heard and remembered.
2. You don’t know you are the right person for the job
This is related to the previous answer a little. Often when coaching people for interview I am listening to their answers and thinking, why is the person TRYING to impress me? Why are they trying to confuse me with bullshit answers full of ‘good team player’, and ‘attention to detail’ phrases. I stop them and say, hey, are you the right person for the job? Seriously? They stop and think… ‘yes, I am.’ Then stop trying to impress me. Just relax and be yourself. If you are the right person for the job then what do you have to worry about?
This comes out again and again when answering questions. They scripted the answer to the question based on what they think their interviewer WANTS to hear. NO! The interviewer wants the right person for the job. You are the right person so let them see you.
Let’s get practical for a second. Take the question, ‘what challenges have you faced and overcome?’ Scrap the clever paragraph you wrote designed to confuse and misdirect like a magic trick. You are not a politician. Now imagine you are telling your kid in heartfelt moment about the challenges you have faced. What would you say? Feel into it and let it flow. I bet there is gold in there. Be vulnerable. You are the right person for the job, aren’t you? Be you.
3. You haven’t understood the question
For this one I don’t mean that you couldn’t understand the words or the sentence. I mean that when they asked you what your strengths and weakness are, they are really asking, are you self aware? I listen to my clients’ answers and often I feel they mentioned a bunch of facts amongst the propaganda but I am not inspired to trust. This is because I’m not looking for a particular strength. I’m sure you have many, and I’m sure you have strengths you underestimate and overestimate. But are you self aware? Are you honest? Can you make me believe you?
You can extend this to other questions such as Tell me about yourself, which is really asking, can you make me feel comfortable with you? It’s a small talk question, yes work experience is relevant, but if you recite your CV I will feel the question was not answered. I have your CV here, honestly I’d rather you talk about the weather. Ok, that’s an exaggeration, but tell me something about whats important to you. Got Family? How long you been in this country? How are you finding it?
4. Your answer is so long!
The average person can concentrate on a person talking nonstop for about 2 mins. Even that is quite long to be honest. Unless you are a stand up comic or Obama’s speech writer, combined with those kind of rhetorical skills, then don’t expect people to listen attentively and not get lost, daydream, start focusing more on your face than your answer, glaze over, and certainly forget most of it. I can suggest a simple structure to help with clarity. HEADLINE, DETAIL, SUMMARY. This way you answer the question in the first couple of sentences, and by that I mean you answer the real question (see above), then you can give some details and maybe I’ll remember them, maybe not, but I got my answer, then you repeat the headline in the summary to remind me. Make sure I got the point. That should help.
But apart from that, keep it short. If a spontaneous story comes out and you are judging the attention and interest of your audience then go with it.
5. You don’t prove what you are saying
Set phrases that you’ve found on the internet will not impress. ‘I’m a team player’, ‘I’m results orientated’, ‘I’m a perfectionist’, ‘I’m passionate about xyz’. That last one is the absolute worst. Literally anyone can say this stuff, and I have no idea if it’s true. I prefer this way around: question, -> spontaneous story,-> ‘so I guess I’m this kinda person’. Check this out…
Q. What are your strengths?
Well, recently I started noticing a lot of people were trying to prepare for interviews and hoping pronunciation would be the fix they needed. I saw a need that wasn’t there before and it wasn’t one I had set out to solve, but when opportunities come my way, and if I can help, then I do. So I got to work on analysing the situation and building a solution. I’m happy to say it’s really helping people. So I guess I’m quite a resourceful person and also quite conscientious about providing real solutions.
Hope this is helpful. Please think on it and let me know if you have any thoughts.