Never is personal branding more important than when you’re on the line in a job interview, particularly if it’s a job you really want. Yet most of us go into an interview feeling nervous and powerless. Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! With that mindset, it’s hard to feel genuine and comfortable in your own skin, so you’re likely to bomb. What you need to do is take control.
In talking to successful people for my best-selling book, You Are a Brand, I asked them for tips on how to handle important interviews. Here are four tips that I think everyone who’s preparing for an interview should take to heart:
1. Realize that the first 15 seconds are the most important
We are pegged in a matter of seconds: good/bad, like/dislike, hire/don’t hire. It all happens in a few seconds or less, and we’re all guilty of snap judgments when we first meet someone. It’s all based on snap visual impressions; what social scientists call “thin slicing.” The crazy thing is that these quick impressions are “sticky” and tend to stay with us.
That’s why the first impression you create is critical. Think of the visual impression: the way you look and enter the room, and the verbal impression: the first 15 words you say. Your clothes, hairstyle, the way you enter the room, eye contact, and smile all convey visual messages. Make sure your visual identity is conveying the right message for you, the job, and the company.
2. Take a power pose: Lean in, literally
There’s a lot of talk today about “power poses” and “body language,” but few of us realize how important body language really is in influencing how others see us. New studies out of Harvard Business School show that some poses actually affect our performance because they change our body chemistry.
Poses such as standing tall, leaning in toward another person, or expansive hand gestures convey high power, gravitas, and confidence. Crossing arms across your chest or crossing your legs convey low power.
3. Own your value with a memorable “ brand sentence” and business stories
Be prepared with a crisp positioning statement that identifies your “Unique Selling Proposition” (USP) — what’s different and special about you in comparison with others and why it matters. For example, one person who was a big-picture thinker and also good at leading teams to implement projects defined his brand as “a bridge between strategy and execution.”
You should also be able to tell interesting stories about your professional adventures that bring your USP to life. Think in terms of cascading your message and capabilities around various themes such as “Hero to my clients” or “Against all odds.”
4. Turn the tables on the interviewer
A powerful interview tactic is to turn the tables on the interviewer by interviewing them as well so the interview is a two-way conversation. As soon as you can, ask the interviewer questions. Ask them about key initiatives and projects, and the company culture. Listen more than you talk. It’s a very powerful tactic, because if you work a series of questions into the conversation, you immediately level the playing field. When you take this approach (in a friendly way), you will come across as a person with options. When you’re not trying so hard to sell yourself in an interview, what usually happens is that the interviewer starts to sell you on the company and the job!
Try these tactics during your next interview and I’ll bet you see a big difference in your performance and results. You might even start to enjoy the interview process!
Catherine Kaputa is a personal brand strategist, speaker and author. She is the author of the best-selling You Are a Brand. Her new book is Graduate to a Great Career: How Smart Students, New Graduates and Young Professionals Can Brand Themselves for Success out in April 2016. She is the founder of SelfBrand.