Whether you’re actively searching for a new job opportunity, or a recruiter reached out to you about an interesting role, it’s paramount to be well prepared for that first call.
The chance of making a good first impression in an interview only lasts for a few seconds. Our body language, our gaze, how we present ourselves, and our voice tone immediately set up that first impression. When we’re performing virtual interviews (which tends to happen more and more often), the lighting we use, our surroundings, and also the background noise also have a great impact during the first few seconds of a call.
Although we can control (most of the times) how we dress, what our background is, and how we adjust our webcam and microphone settings, other aspects are harder for us to control. Our body language, how we direct our gaze or how we communicate confidently can take up a bit of practice.
So, the question is: how do we prepare for this?
Well, there’s no rule of thumb for this. We’re all different, and what works for me might not work for you. However, there are some strategies that can help you build that confidence and present yourself accordingly — and that will take about 15 minutes of your time.
Record yourself while presenting a pitch.
A pitch is a short presentation (2 to 3 minutes) about yourself, where you’re not only introducing yourself, but also highlighting what makes you great for the role you’re interviewing for. Recording it may feel a bit weird (not all of us enjoy seeing recordings of ourselves on camera!), but it will help you actually have a clear idea how you look and how you sound.
Watch the video twice; the first time, watch it without sound. This will help you focus on your body language. Here’s what you should be looking for:
- Your posture (are you back, neck, and shoulders straight?)
- Your gestures (do you gesticulate a lot? Is that part of your natural communication style, or did you try to improvise?)
- Your gaze (are you looking towards the camera? Are you reading a script?).
The second time, close your eyes and listen to your voice. Here’s what you should be looking after:
- Your tone (is it high-pitched, denoting anxiety?)
- How fast you talk (are you talking faster than usual, denoting stress? Do you have trouble understand what you speak?)
- Pronounciation (do you understand the recording even with your eyes closed?)
You can send the video to a family member or friend in whom you trust, so they can provide you with an unbiased perspective.
Everything we just mentioned can be trained, which is what I’ll be covering next.
Make a list of things you want to improve in.
When I first started job hunting for an HR position three years ago, I only noticed I was speaking too fast when I was asked by a recruiter to “please, slow down” so they could understand me better. As I was sharing this experience with a group of friends, they exchanged a very suspicious gaze between them, and ended up telling me that recruiter was right. I do tend to talk fast, when I’m nervous or particularly excited about a subject.
What do you want to improve?
Practice makes perfect, so we all heard.
A bit of practice each day while we’re jub hunting takes only small portions of our time, and can make a big difference even on the short run. Here are some topics you can consider on this, regardless of the specific aspects you’re looking to improve:
- Practice breathing. There are several mobile apps nowadays that help you focus on your breathing and even teach you mindfulness, if you’re interested in that. Deep breathing can help you fight stress. For mindfulness, I recommend the Calm app. You can also check out Mark Williams’ book on the matter.
- Talk, and talk, and talk. When recording yourself while you practice some answers to common interview questions, don’t forget to repeat the exercise straight away, so you can quickly implement changes you see necessary.
- Practice your power pose. Back in 2010, Amy Cuddy shared a study advocating we can influence how we feel by changing our pose. Standing or sitting in certain positions can actually help us feel more confident. You can check our her TED Talk here. You can start by standing up, placing your hands on your hips, and straighten your back and shoulders. If you prefer to do this exercise while sitting down, you can stretch your back, shoulders and neck, and put your hands on your hips. Stay here for about 2 minutes.
And an extra tip for virtual interviews:
Always look straight at the camera!
When speaking to someone virtually, we tend to look at our screen to see the other person. The next time you speak to someone on a videochat, try looking directly at the camera for most of the time instead.
This will make the person on the other side (family member, friend, interviewer) feel heard and also engaged in your words.
Do you have any other tips? Share them below!