It’s interesting how we perceive ourselves. Everyone is different. Do you carry the most recent mirror image of yourself, the one you saw this morning where you stood tall, breathed in and performed a suave nostril flare? Do you see yourself as the younger, slimmer version of yourself, airbrushing out your perceived faults? Maybe you’re less kind about yourself and have a distorted, unflattering self-perception. Does it matter anyway? That’s for you to decide.
Yesterday a close friend rang me in a state of distress. She’s known for dramatic tendencies, something she’ll attest to herself, so I didn’t allow myself to get too alarmed too soon. ‘Oh my GOD!’ she cried. ‘The most horrific thing happened to me this afternoon!’
‘Tell me….’ I said
‘I have just seen my AT REST face. I had no idea! Why didn’t you tell me?’
‘Tell you what?’ I asked, completely bewildered. It turns out my friends husband had taken a photo of her with his phone as she walked back from a shop to their car. ‘I had no idea he was taking my photo and now I know what I look like when I am just being ME!’ Relieved there was no impending tragedy I afforded myself a little giggle. ‘It’s not funny!’ she almost shouted. ‘People have been seeing me like this for years!’
‘Why did he take your picture?’ I asked.
She snorted. ‘To show me what a miserable cow I look when I’m not pouting apparently!’
‘And, do you….?’ I tiptoed into the question.
‘What? Look miserable? Yes!’
‘Well that’s great news then’ I said, thinking on my feet.
‘If you’re not happy with your AT REST face, at least you are now aware of it. Imagine if you had spent the rest of your life with an AT REST face you hated and you never got to see it for yourself. This way, you can practise a new AT REST face, one you feel happy with.’
She thought about this for a few seconds. ‘Surely though, an AT REST face is one you have when you are not thinking about it? Why can’t I have a naturally beautiful AT REST face, instead of looking, tired, angry, bored, old , slack-jawed, loose- jowled and hunch-backed?’
‘Maybe that’s the trade off?’ I suggested. ‘Never rest and make sure you have a fabulous AT REST face or stay with the AT REST face you have.’
Not long ago I received a text message from my friend. It reads ‘Just seen a magazine pic of Kate Moss with dreadful sulky AT REST face on holiday. Feeling MUCH better now, thank you! x’
So my thought is to BE AWARE. Even if you are not speaking at a meeting your AT REST face can give across a message that you may not like.
Be prepared. It is common sense that having a good night’s sleep is the basis for feeling fresh and energetic for the day of your speech. Don’t drink the night before (not even a cheeky one to settle the nerves!). At worst you will feel horribly hung-over, at best, sluggish and slow. Make sure your outfit is clean, ironed and hanging up the night before. Rushing around first thing, trying to make snap decisions about what to wear will only make you nervous. I wouldn’t recommend wearing new shoes as they are never that comfy to begin with. You need to be focusing on your speech not on your aching feet!
Have a decent breakfast, preferably something healthy like wholemeal toast and a banana. This fuel will not only keep your blood sugar stable, it will help your mind remain clear and sharp. If your speech is after lunch, make your lunchtime food choices with these thoughts in mind. Drink plenty of water. Being properly hydrated is crucial.
If your speech is during a lunch or dinner, it goes without saying to steer clear of alcohol until after your speech. You don’t need ‘Dutch courage’ you need a clear head!
Decide how many times you want to go over your speech and stick to it. Work should have been done by now so trust yourself. Don’t go over and over your speech, making last minute changes or picking out imperfections. However, go over the beginning part of the speech as this is when you will feel the most nervous. Once your speech gets going it will almost unfold by itself. Trust that.
Arrive in plenty of time. Make sure you have back up if using PowerPoint or other presentation tools which have the potential to fail. If you can see the venue beforehand – great. If you can rehearse in the space beforehand, even better. Take advantage. If you are dealing with microphones, don’t be afraid to ask the sound person for help.
If you have a chance to meet your audience beforehand, do so. Shake hands, introduce yourself and smile. Having made that connection will give you a feeling of rapport with your audience. DON’T tell anyone you are nervous or that you hate giving speeches. Stand tall and believe in yourself. If you do, your audience will believe in you. Remember they are only human beings!
If you are sitting on stage, following another speaker, remember you are on view the entire time. Look interested, sit up straight and smile at times. Also breathe! Deep breaths will help you feel calmer and help you become more grounded. I have heard people advise to take a deep breath in and then begin. Don’t, this actually adds to your anxiety. Try this: Breathe out, then speak.
Don’t aim to be perfect. Simply aim to get your message across to your audience. Remember you need to be heard. Speak slowly, clearly and loudly enough. Smile and look around the room, engage your audience with plenty of eye contact.
There will always be a degree of nerves and adrenalin but don’t fear them, they are your friend. They will keep you aware, alert and determined. There’s that age old tip to imagine the audience without any clothes on. To be honest I’ve never tried it myself, but you never know!
Remember – be yourself. I know I seem to say this a lot but it is so true. People have come to listen to YOU. You never know you might even enjoy it!
This weeks blog has been written by guest blogger Simon Rudland who is currently ‘Waitrose Store Manager of the Year’. As well as being a store manager, Simon looks after marketing for Waitrose in the South-East and regularly interviews people for a variety of positions.
As a follow on from my previous blog ‘Beat the Competition to the job’, guest blogger Simon has shared his ‘likes’ and ‘dislikes of interviewees.
I don’t think there is any other aspect of working life which means so much to people as being successful in an interview situation.In my time interviewing candidates for a number of different levels of management, I’ve been privileged to see prepared, confident and articulate people excel beyond expectations; but I’ve also sadly witnessed the effects of crippling nerves, unbelievable facades and nonsensical drivel that would make even the most hardened professional outwardly cringe.
I’ve often heard it said that the interview process is not ‘fair’ – in that it assesses one’s ability to have refined interview techniques, to be adept at demonstrating the formula that makes for a good candidate, rather than examining one’s real ability to do the job well – and there may be a touch of truth in that.But I honestly believe that a good interviewer will see through all of the learnt behaviours.They will be looking for small yet clear signs of the skills and styles that match their requirements, and it may indeed be that the most flippant remark or unconscious action is the one they find most compelling.
Below is a small list I’ve compiled of my personal ‘likes’ and ‘dislikes’ of interviewees.These might not necessarily match the rules contained within the interview text books – they are simply my own views – but I do think that there is logic to them that might be worth considering:
Openness – To some degree, everyone puts on a bit of an act for an interview.Whether that be an act of formality, of overt politeness, of confidence, or of pretending to be someone totally different. Interviewers therefore spend a lot of mental energy breaking down the barriers that come with the act, and surmising what the candidate is actually like. How would they fit into the existing team? What is their true skill level? How would they cope under the relentless pressure of the job? etc etc. The easier you make that mental job for the interviewer, the more endeared they will be to you.It’s such a lovely feeling to be able to sit back, relax and listen to a candidate, knowing full well that what I am seeing is the real person, rather than a projection of who they would like to be.
Research – A candidate that has spent time researching the company, the job role and the data, and is able to articulate a personal viewpoint on these things receives a big tick in the box.I often like it when someone is able to slip in a fact or figure they have researched, even when not directly asked about it (without diverging too much from the question of course), as it shows a level of mental agility as well as commitment.
Someone who can articulate relevant transferable skills – In many instances, it is understandable that a candidate may not have specific evidence of doing the job for which they are interviewing. That is fine – it’s what training is for. The best candidates are able to discuss achievements they have had in previous roles and link the skills they showed then to what is required in the new role.I know it sounds simple, but I am often surprised at how many people fall into the traps of either (i) talking to death about their wonderful previous successes, without mentioning any relevance to the new role; or (ii) trying to think of examples of what they have done which exactly match the new role, but falling short when it becomes apparent that the experience they claim to have does not truly exist.
Candidates who spend the whole interview telling me why this job is good for them and not why they would be good for the job – This is quickly becoming my biggest pet hate. New graduates are probably the worst for this, especially when it is mixed in with a bit of misplaced arrogance (such as when someone tries to tell me that they have no weaknesses).Now, it is OK to be ambitious, it is OK to discuss your long term aspirations within the interview, and it’s OK to acknowledge the benefits of having this company/job on your CV in the future.However, this needs to be balanced with a level of professional integrity, wherein the interviewer must be in no doubt that you will be an asset to the organisation, that you will be fully committed to achieving high results within the new role, and that you will stay for an acceptable length of time.Mentioning how ‘convenient’ the role is for you, or using the terms ‘stepping stone’ or ‘stop gap’ are a big turn off.
Blaggers – This goes back to the point of ‘openness’ that I mentioned earlier. Sometimes an interviewer may want to see how someone reacts under a bit of pressure, and asking a tough question that is outside the comfort zone of a candidate is one way of doing this.In response to this, I would much rather have a concise reply, where some effort is made to engage with the question, but where the candidate acknowledges a lack of knowledge or experience, than have someone try to blag their way through and feign competence, when it is clear they have no idea what they are talking about.Ultimately, if I am interviewing someone for a role I will be managing, either directly or indirectly, I want to be confident that if I ask someone a straightforward question within a working environment, that I will be met with a straight, open and honest response, not a load of nonsense.
Talking pay too soon – I understand that there may be different opinions on this, but here’s mine: Do not bring up the subject of pay in an interview! Save the haggling for when they call you up with an offer.Now I know that some interviewers may ask about salary expectations as part of the interview (I personally never do), and of course it’s OK to respond as appropriate in that instance; but it’s not a topic that I believe an interviewee should be instigating.All too often, at the end of an interview, when I ask “Are there any questions you’d like to ask me”the subject of salary/benefits is the first one to be fired back.It’s a real shame, as this is an opportunity to ask pertinent questions relating to corporate strategy, expectations of the role, the culture of the organisation etc etc. There have been times at the end of a good interview when I’ve felt that the conversation has turned sour by the assertiveness that a candidate has displayed towards the topic of salary.You want an interview to end on a high note, not a tussle of horns, so use the opportunity to discuss a subject that will be mutually engaging.
So, congratulations – you’ve made it to interview stage. Your application form and C.V. have already done a sterling job. However, it’s a buyer’s market. Don’t be the bruised apple hidden in the bargain bin, be the huge, ripe, eye-catching tomato in the front row.
Finding work is particularly tough in the current climate. More and more candidates are battling for the same job. Here are a few tips which could help improve your chances.
Put yourself in the shoes of your potential employer. Who would you want to take on?
1.Someone punctual, reliable and looking the part.
It goes without saying that you shouldn’t be late but arrive with time to sit, relax and compose yourself. Turn up looking harassed and edgy and you’ll be marked down before you even start.
Covered in a recent blog (‘Dress to Impress’), I cannot emphasise enough how big an opportunity this is to mark yourself out from the crowd. You should look scrupulously clean and well groomed. Your choice of clothes should look neat, tidy and well put together. Everything about your appearance will speak volumes during your interview. Imagine you have a great skill base and excellent references but you are one of TWO final candidates to be chosen from. If the other candidate is evenly matched with you then things like your appearance could be the clincher. You don’t have to be a supermodel, just someone who can make ‘smart/chic’ look effortless. (ANYONE can with a little effort)
2.Someone who looks like they mean it.
Body Language is such a powerful tool. Some hiring managers claim they can spot a possible candidate for a job within 30 seconds or less, and while a lot of that has to do with the way you look, it’s also in your body language. Your interviewer/s will be processing things from your posture to your level of eye contact without them even realising it at the time.
Sit up straight and slightly forward. It says you’re taking this seriously and you are seriously interested in the job. Be aware of moving your feet up and down repeatedly in a nervous manner – it’s a sign of boredom, even if you don’t mean it to be.
Smile. It’s an ice-breaker. It’s a way of showing warmth and friendliness. However serious the role, everyone wants to see the human-being they are going to employ.
Be yourself – no point pretending to be someone you aren’t. However what you SHOULD do is have a sure idea of your skills and strengths and practise articulating them.
If you have more than one person interviewing you at once, make sure you briefly address all the people with your gaze and return your attention to the person who has asked you a question.
Your physical gestures should be open and expressive. You want to try to involve the interviewer in what you are saying – remember it is a conversation, not a monologue. Keep palms up and open to suggest honesty, and avoid pointing or banging fists on the table to emphasise a point.
3.Someone who sounds like they mean it.
The content of the responses is extremely important but the tone and pace of voice is just as important. Your tone of voice sets the atmosphere during an interview. It projects your inner confidence, your authority and the ability to cope.
If you are nervous, often the pitch of your voice can rise. Take deep breaths when you are not speaking, in through your nose and out through the mouth. This will help calm your nerves and keep your voice grounded.
Be aware of your voice – is it matching your message? If you are excited, allow this emotion through your voice, otherwise people will not believe your words.
Remember to speak up, don’t mumble and if you stumble over your words, slow down. Use pauses as they are much more powerful than filling the silences with erms!!
4.Someone who knows what they’re talking about.
Do your research. CEO’s often tell me that interviewee’s do not know enough about the company they are applying to..Find out as much as you can about the company such as relevant facts and figures. You can then use that information to explain how you can be an asset in your potential role. Not only will it impress, you will feel much more confident about answering questions. At the end of the interview you are likely to get asked the question “do you have any questions for me?” – always have at least one and this is where researching the organisation prior to the interview comes in handy.
5.Someone who copes well under pressure.
Interviews are stressful. However, with a little practice and the right mind-set you can appear cool and relaxed. Remember, it’s only a job. The people interviewing you are only human too, with their own sets of challenges and real life issues. Use the nerves to your advantage – it can give you that spark and if they are under control it can give your voice more energy giving you more presence.
If you don’t get the job, then you are taking the experience of that particular interview onto the next one. What worked, what didn’t? Nothing is wasted.
When people bestow a smile upon is, it feels like a small gift or a compliment, at the very least it is a polite acknowledgement. However, you have been given something. It is social currency.
When speaking even about the driest subject, a smile makes people warm to you and want to listen to you. If you’re sporting teeth out of a horror movie, closed mouthed smiles with bright eyes can still have impact, so don’t lose heart. Just mean it.
According to writer Marianne LaFrance, author of ‘Lip Service’, women smile more than men. Apparently men with more testosterone smile less than those with less testosterone.If you’re a grump and try to justify this by thinking it makes you all man, all you’re doing is avoiding wielding your magic smile powers!
A French neurologist, Guillaume-Benjamin-Armand Duchenne, determined that, smiles of genuine happiness or pleasure, utilize muscles around the eyes as well as those around the mouth.We’re all aware of ‘smiles that fail to reach the eyes’.In studies, people who view faces with ‘Duchenne’ Smiles, rate them as more intelligent, capable, friendly, attractive, kind and sincere.
Allegedly around 80% of us are able to pull off a fake Duchenne. However, not all smiles need to be mega-wattage; showing a band of perfect veneers and eyes all crinkly and sparkly, to make a positive impression. Look at Ms Mona Lisa! People have been talking about that smile for centuries!
We all have a range of smiles, some examples:
1.The ‘Duchenne smile’ which takes over your face because you are too happy to conceal it.
2.The ‘I think you’re attractive but I am going to keep my smile small and brief, so you don’t know how keen I am’ smile.
3.The ‘God you’re boring but I know I have to be polite’ smile which is about as sincere as a loan shark.
4.The ‘I am terrified about the speech I am about to give but if I smile at you all, you’ll be kind to me I know you will!’ smile.
If you want people to think flattering things about you, then practise the Duchenne smile.As much as you can, THINK HAPPY, then smile. Most people can manage to grin broadly and crinkle their eyes but if there are conflicting messages, such as arm folding or brow furrowing then the recipient won’t be fooled. Feel it and mean it.
Just smile more in general, even if you’re on your own, it will lift your mood.
Smile at people you like and smile at strangers you pass in the street. (Maybe SOME discretion is advised) Above all, smiling humanises you, makes you seem warm, and nicer to be around. Whether you’re in an interview, giving a speech or proposing, a smile can only ever add to the occasion.