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Interview

Blushing

November 21, 2013 | By | No Comments

Blushing …

What is it? Well most of us know how it feels and probably first experienced it as small children. It’s that flaming heat that pulses in our cheeks when we have been caught with our hand in the biscuit tin, trying to sneak out that extra Jammy Dodger we were told ‘No!’ to, five minutes earlier.

It’s the burning hot, double cheeked, slap of shame we feel as we get shouted at in the school corridor in front of our peers; a cruel jibe or nasty nickname leaving the rest of the crowd laughing at our expense.

Or It’s the breath-taking, scorching, ember-imitating, moon landing-type lighting effect, facial glow that bestows us when having to open our mouth and ‘speak’ to a room full of silent, expectant people. An audience, all staring and waiting to hear only OUR voice.

If you haven’t experienced ANY of the above, consider yourself lucky. I consider you a little unusual , no disrespect but blushing is perfectly normal. (I defy you to think back to your teenage years, remember catching the eye of your first crush and NOT blushing!)

Anyway lets get the science out of the way. Blushing is simply the body’s response to embarrassment, anxiety or any other over stimulation for that matter. When we have these feelings, the fight or flight response kicks in, the blood vessels in the face widen and blood flows there leaving the cheeks looking much redder.

Some people believe that blushing serves a social purpose in that it displays a sign of contrition over a social faux pas; a way of expressing shame or regret, instantly securing an unspoken understanding of a mistake. Apologising without having to speak.

However in terms of blushing due to the sheer terror of having to speak in front of an audience, the science and psycho-babble does little to help in practical terms.

Here’s what might.

1. Stop worrying. Your face might feel like it resembles the top of a Belisha Beacon but most people won’t even have noticed I promise you. Ignore it and carry on. The more you stop thinking about it, the less blood will rush to your cheeks. If you want to be a worrier, then worry wisely. Worry about devising a cracking speech, work on your pitch, pace, delivery and posture. Worrying about blushing is a waste of resources.

2. After you’ve washed your face in the mornings, run the cold tap. Fill your hands and douse your face in icy water, repeating the phrase ‘icy calm’ in your head as you do so. Each time you feel the freezing cold water on your face, repeat the phrase in your head. When you’re in a situation when you feel a blush coming on, repeat the phrase to yourself. Your brain should soon make the connection between the words and the cold feeling and this should help cool you off when you feel warm of face. Try it.

3. If anxiety is making you blush then look at all aspects of planning, preparation and positive psychology; all the things that underpin your presentation. Take control. Make sure you are well organised, have things properly prepared so nothing is a last minute rush. This doesn’t have to feel like a hideous ordeal. You can make it into an exciting challenge and you know what, if you do get a little bit of a pink tinge to the cheeks, console yourself with a quote from the Greek philosopher Diogenes which puts the whole thing in a very positive light:

‘Blushing is the colour of virtue’.

Confidence

October 30, 2013 | By | No Comments

Confidence

The word confidence has always interested me,

“Timothy is a lovely boy – he just needs more confidence”   ok, great – so how does Timothy get this confidence? It is not like maths test, where you just learn the answer and that’s it.

So, where do you get it from and what is it?

One particular dictionary definition is ‘belief is one’s own abilities’

Synonyms: – Trust, belief, faith, dependence, reliance, credence, courage, assurance, self-reliance, aplomb.

Let’s face it if confidence means inspiring all the above in people then who wouldn’t want more of it!?

In the scientific journal Nature, they explain how confidence plays an important role in our evolution.  According to the research, confidence motivates us to take action in the face of uncertainty. The more confident we are, the more likely we are to fight for the resources we need to survive. And yet life is filled with uncertainty isn’t it , we certainly cannot control  it, nor say for certain what our future holds. This realisation itself can add to our fears.

We might be worried about being rejected by at a girl at a bar, so we end up staying with our friends and never approach her. Or maybe we are afraid of starting a new career because we don’t think we will be any good at it. So instead we stick with our old job, even though we hate it.

Confidence can help us to be motivated to change things whilst the lack of it can sabotage us in many ways.

For me, confidence means knowing, trusting and being happy with yourself. Most people would like to be more confidence, especially when it comes to standing up and speaking in front of others.  Many people simply don’t know where to get it.

I do not believe there are magic wands to make someone grow from a timid mouse to a courageous lion. I believe confidence takes time and that upbringing, life experiences, friends, etc, all add to (or take away) confidence. Everyone’s experience is different.

However, here are some useful tools that can help you feel more confident when you are in a challenging, such as an interview, giving a speech or presentation.

Rule 1 * PREPARATION

As mentioned earlier – who would feel confident if they had no idea what they were talking about! So, preparation is vital!! If you don’t know something – research it, If it’s a speech, rehearse it, If it’s an interview – find out about the company.

Rule 2 * PRESENTATION

How we choose to present ourselves speaks as much as our words do. Dress powerfully. Dress proudly. Don’t allow the way you dress to make you feel intimidated. Use this opportunity to bolster your self-worth and your message. It is amazing how we can feel much more confident simply by what we wear. Be comfortable – don’t go for high heels if you can’t walk in them or a shirt that’s too tight – you will worry more about this than your situation, and could undermine the way you feel.

Rule 3* POSTURE

Stand tall, sit up straight, make eye contact, be expressive and smile. Smiling is infectious and empowering. Try it. Practice the way you move and interact. It can have such a positive impact. More importantly, it will make you feel confident. If you feel confident, you will be confident and your confidence will be received. Your audience/interviewer can bask in the reflected comfort of your confidence. Know that confidence is very appealing and very reassuring to your audience. When you appear confident, your message is much more believable.

Rule 4* PRACTISE and BE BRAVE!

A bit like a child riding a bike. First off, you need stabilisers attached to your bike, then, a kindly parent with a gentle guiding hand on your back. They walk along side you, reassuring you that they won’t let you fall off.  You need encouragement but you also need to feel a bit of fear. Once you realise that fear isn’t a living monster that’s out to bite you, you can keep pedaling. Keep pedaling for long enough and soon you won’t need the guiding hand, in fact you’ll be wriggling from under it, determined to ride your bike like a big boy/girl. Do you remember when you feel brave enough to repeat the process without the stabilizers? You took those baby steps until your self-belief grew into something so reassuring you knew it would be okay.

Rule 5* PRETEND

It’s simple, if you act as though you are confident, you will start to feel more confident.  If you’ve followed rules 1-4 then all the groundwork is in place and for you, the feeling it, is merely a matter of time.  Walk into that conference, interview or crowded hall thinking ‘I personify confidence.’

If you’d followed my rules, then trust me, you will.If you are shaking from the inside, remember the outside does not need to know.  You have a choice whether or not to show people your nerves. Be self-aware and practice the above points and others won’t have a clue.

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”
Eleanor Roosevelt,

Are you a waffler?

April 29, 2013 | By | No Comments

Waffle – Noun – a batter cake with a pattern of deep indentations on each side formed by the grid-like design on each of the two hinged parts of the metal appliance (waffle iron) in which the cake is baked

Waffle -verb (used without object), waf·fled, waf·fling British – to talk foolishly or without purpose; idle away time talking.

waffle

So, are you a waffler? By this, I am sure you realise I don’t mean a maker of waffles. I am sure it could be a wonderful summer job in Prague for instance, for a gap-year student wanting an interesting European experience, or anyone with a flair for the creation of hot desserts. An appealing and possibly lucrative trade. How many people do you know would find it easy to say no to a hot waffle?

So are you? A Waffler that is? Someone who idles away time talking. Worse still, if you are idling away someone else’s time. A captive audience will not appreciate being waffled at.

How do we define waffle? To me, waffle is unnecessary verbal padding/stuffing/diversion that detracts from your speech/interaction.

Of course, if you are preparing a speech and you have a time slot to fill, it’s tempting to feel the pressure to do so with an overriding disregard for the actual integrity of the content. The more relevant and authentic your information, the more power and resonance your speech will carry.

The more research you can do, the more you can cherry pick the most pertinent facts and work on delivering them in an engaging and entertaining way.

When speaking a particular pathway to a certain fact, ask yourself how much of the journey is really necessary. Anecdotes, jokes, statistics, props can all have their place in a speech but don’t let the form take over the content. After all, you want to leave your audience remembering the message. If they do this because of your clever use of music, charts and quotes then all credit to you and your powers of creativity. However, if you leave them unsure of the focus of your message, with snippets of sentences and a mish-mash of unfathomable comments, then you will have wasted a valuable opportunity.

Keeping people interested takes practise. Some people are naturally funny and very watchable and they fall into performance mode with ease. However, these people shouldn’t get too complacent. Again, if you know you can rely on your experience and personality to keep the focus of the room it can be easy to take things for granted.

 Remember you want to leave your audience with a clear understanding of the point of your message, not JUST how quick witted you are and how suave you look when you spin across the stage in your Italian leather shoes.

You are there to impart information. You need to be clear, concise and compact. That way, it will be much easier to remember.

So, instead of filling the time you think needs filling, with worthless waffle, use the time to reinforce the points that are purposeful.

Keep the waffle in its most worthy place. On a plate in front of you, awaiting the whipped cream and maple syrup.

The Interview

January 28, 2013 | By | No Comments

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.

The Interview
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:
Likes
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.
Dislikes
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.

For more information about interview technique and presentation skills go to www.surespeech.co.uk

Beat the Competition to the Job!

January 21, 2013 | By | No Comments

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.
For more information about interview technique and presentation skills go to www.surespeech.co.uk