Improving your communication in a job interview (guest article)

We spend a lot of time working. Which is why having a career that we enjoy is so important to our personal happiness. But developing our career depends on our ability to perform well during a job interview.

When you’re attending a job interview, there are so many important things to consider. Being on time, dressing for the occasion and preparing comprehensive organisational research are all necessary prerequisites to success.

Then there’s communication. Communicating effectively during an interview gives you credibility and gravitas.

Any person who is a subject matter expert in a particular field always sounds so believable because they articulate themselves so well when discussing their area of expertise.

During an interview, what we say about ourselves and how we say it matters. Examples presented in response to competency and behavioural-based interview questions need to be effectively communicated. Relevant examples, presented with the right level of detail, allow us to articulate compelling narratives, which help assure our interviewers we’re the right fit for the role we’re applying for.

Anticipating which questions may arise in an interview should be a crucial part of your preparation. Start by looking at your CV. If you have used a personal profile to summarise your skills, experiences and behaviours, make sure you can substantiate these claims. If, for instance, you have referred to your leadership skills, it’s important that you have a specific example of an occasion that you demonstrated this skill. In addition to being ready to describe your leadership style, you should also be asking yourself ‘When have my leadership skills been an asset to my organisation?’ Any response should consider why these leadership skills were so important during that specific situation and how they benefitted your organisation.

Using the STAR framework helps with this process, allowing you to showcase your skills and present them in cohesive and compelling narratives. You can find out more about this approach here.

You could also look at the job description and the key competencies being sought. Think of past examples when you have used these competencies.  List experiences from work, academia or volunteering that you think may be of interest to an organisation (in particular those situations that have a positive outcome).

Communicating relevant examples is important, but choice words and phrases can also elevate these responses to a more powerful and impactful level.

Often, when we communicate with others outside work, we tend to use a relaxed and informal communication style. Job interviews, however, are formal business meetings. That requires more formal business language.  You may have all the necessary skills and experience but if you’re not citing them in a way that interviewers are receptive too, it may cost you getting the job you want.

Consider this example: In the event we spent the weekend helping a friend fix a problem with their car, we would usually describe such an event in exactly those terms i.e. ‘I spent the weekend helping my friend fix their car.’ But in an interview, our communication style would be enhanced if we related this experience in terms of ‘collaborating’ with our friend. We need to describe our behaviours and actions at this time in terms of ‘critical thinking’, ’analysis’ and ‘problem solving’, which brought about ‘successful resolution’ to the ‘adversity’ that we faced.

Did you call a friend to persuade them to come out on a Friday night? Or were you ‘utilising effective negotiation skills in order to influence their opinion’? Did we teach someone how to do something new, or did we ‘empower others through effective communication and mentoring’.

This approach matters because interviewers want to hear you talking about the competencies they have included within the job description for the role you’re interviewing for. Which, in turn, is how you successfully position yourself as the right person for the job. So, when you describe adapting, communicating, collaborating, coaching, mentoring, improving, influencing, managing and negotiating, what you’re also doing is aligning yourselves with the competencies that appear on the job description.

You can also apply this approach to yourself. Think about your behaviours and characteristics; what type of words could you be using to describe yourself? Which would interviewers connect with and relate to? Are you amiable, approachable, adaptable, decisive and communicative?

All of this helps you to communicate during a job interview with confidence and credibility, which in turn helps convey gravitas and suitability.  And who doesn’t like that?

RichardClementsThis guest article has been written by Richard Clements, an HR professional and owner of interview coaching company Clear Cut Selection. Richard’s foundations for coaching have been built on his international experience of managing internal recruitment functions and his CIPD membership. Richard blogs on his own site Clear Cut Selection and you can also follow him on Twitter here.