If you want to ace an interview- who better to ask than a psychologist for advice? We caught up with Dr Linda Papadopoulos to ask her advice on the dos and don’ts when it comes to sitting in the hot seat.
Please tell us a little a bit about #TheElevatorPitch.
#TheElevatorPitch is a national campaign launched by totaljobs to address common pressures and stumbling blocks around the interview process. ‘The elevator pitch’ is a short description that a jobseeker might use to sell themselves to a prospective employer. In the run up to the campaign, totaljobs reached out to jobseekers to find out what are the biggest interview pressures they experience during the recruitment process. As part of the campaign, I was there to help candidates face their fears in a real-life experience to understand how they can handle more than they expect.
What are the common pressures candidates face at a job interview?
For me, interviews are very much a rite of passage. They’re part of the human experience and something we all go through. Nerves is one of the most common issues faced by candidates during interview and this can bring on feelings of stress and anxiety. We found that the most common manifestations of interview pressures are self-doubt, talking too quickly or too much, losing a train of thought, or overheating and sweating.
Stress is often viewed as a bad thing, however it can help us prepare if we use this high energy for good - don’t be afraid of stress and use it in a positive way as extra energy/adrenalin for both prior and during the interview process. People can sometimes feel like they didn’t adequately answer a question or feel unprepared for the questions at hand, which is why preparation is so key.
What are the possible stumbling-blocks for interviewees?
You should be aware of the internal bully; so many people go in with self-doubt and think of reasons why they shouldn’t be there or feel unprepared. My advice is to stay positive and enjoy the interview. Often you may find that you are talking too fast or too much, which is a common problem that often arises from not breathing properly. Ensuring that you’re regulating your breathing and maintaining eye contact when the interviewer is speaking will provide cues on how to respond and help to moderate the pace of speech.
How should your body language come across at an interview?
Body language can speak louder than words from the moment you walk through the door. Making a positive first impression will help in making both yourself and your interviewer feel at ease. Try to mirror the positive body language of the interviewer by matching a handshake that’s equal but not too firm and reflecting a subtle nod or change in posture.
During the interview, try not to fidget with rings or any other accessories and try not to touch your face or play with your hair. Also, watch your posture, try not to hunch forward or lounge with your arms and legs everywhere, as you’ll appear a little too laid back or sloppy.
And remember: relax! It’s not easy with nerves jangling, but being open and honest will help you give your best performance.
Can body language make or break an interview?
Absolutely. The importance of non-verbal cues like smiling, making good eye contact and having a good handshake are as old as time. They’re as important as the answers themselves. Body language can convey confidence and conviction, uncertainty and doubt, so getting it right isn’t just important, it’s essential.
How can a person stand out from all the other competition?
Thorough research is interview prep 101. Knowing the employer/job you’re applying for may sound elementary, but ensuring in-depth answers to questions can set a candidate apart. A considered answer to questions that regularly crop up, like ‘why do you want to work here’, can also help make a candidate memorable. Totaljobs’ research found that the question candidates fear most is ‘Why should I hire you?’ – so make sure you have a good answer for this!
How can someone prevent their nerves from getting the better of them in an interview?
There are several things that can help. On a very practical level: wear comfortable clothing. Of course, you want to look professional, but it’s hard to feel relaxed and give your best if you’re feeling physically uncomfortable. Some people suffer from being ‘hyper-aware’ of themselves, which comes across as overly self-conscious. Harnessing this energy into answering the questions will not only stop you thinking about yourself and how you’re coming across, it will help you to give better answers too. If you’re prone to fidgeting, a common manifestation of nerves, try and use your hands to better express your point.
How can you appear more confident at an interview even if you aren’t totally convinced on the inside?
Moderating the pace of your responses makes a big difference. As part of #TheElevatorPitch campaign, we found that talking too quickly is one of the most common interview pressures and can spill over into rambling if we’re not careful! Try and punctuate your speech as if you were writing. Also, try and avoid making an interview feel like a robotic and monotone Q&A session. Show your interviewer you’re listening to what they’re saying as they’re talking - make eye contact, nod, insert timely uumms and aahhs - all these techniques show someone you’re engaged. And finally, remember to ask questions: it’s a two-way street - you’re seeing if they’re right for you just as much as the other way around.
How would you define a dream job and why do so many people miss out on having one?
I guess it’s a job that stimulates and challenges you, that makes you feel valued and that allows you to feel that what you are doing is of value to others. I think unfortunately, we live in a time when materialism is associated with success and as a consequence the subliminal message is to go for the job that pays the most. Where in fact, it may be more important to go for a job that gives you a sense of accomplishment and allows you to feel that you are growing and progressing professionally.
What is next for you?
My book “Unfollow’ comes out in the States at the end of the year, so I will be out there promoting that. I’ve just finished filming the new series of Autopsy which airs on C5 in the summer and have recently become an Ambassador for Internet Matters which is an initiative set up to help keep children safe in the digital world. My recent attempt on the quiz show circuit on the BBC’s celebrity series of Eggheads also airs on May 1st!
Dr. Linda Papadopoulos has worked with totaljobs on #TheElevatorPitch campaign, to help candidates overcome common interview pressures. To find out more about the campaign, visit www.totaljobs.com/get-you-noticed/the-elevator-pitch