8 Tips to Win Them Over at interviews - Likeability and Self Confidence

By Catherine Cunningham - Career Specialist - Australia

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I got my last job because my boss liked my personality in the interview.’

My client, Ernesto, was almost certainly right, so truly charming and self-confident was he. (He then sensibly added that, of course, he still made sure that he delivered the right content in the interview to reinforce his likeability.)

Ernesto understood the importance of that famous saying, ‘People will buy from people they know…like…and trust.

And Ernesto’s experience is reinforced by the latest research cited in a Harvard Business Review article which found that: 

1. More likable leaders had higher odds of getting hired for any leadership position.

2. Highly confident candidates were 2.5 times more likely to be hired than less confident applicants.

This is simple common sense. But… are you sure that you approach a job interview with common sense, really using your brain to analyse the best approach? And…do you then translate the theory into performance?

To get you started, here are 8 Likeability and Self Confidence tips to help you excel at interviews.

 Your ‘Likeability’ Strategy


1. Start at the very beginning


Probably the most common first interview question in the world is… ‘Tell us a little bit about yourself.’

This is your chance to make them like you, so that they can imagine working with you and so that they find you interesting.

Start by revealing some personal details. Don’t bore them with a chronological account of your life from birth. Make it short, sharp and shiny so that your snippet is fascinating.

Then cover off on more professional matters. Again, it’s important to be strategic about what you say. Don’t recount every job you’ve had since leaving school. Perhaps tell them exactly why you love working in your field and/or talk to them about the three key advantages you bring to the role. Above all, be animated and convincing.


2. Zombies need not apply

How can you like someone who shows no emotion?

Unconsciously, most of us use gestures to reinforce the emotions behind our speech. My unscientific analysis is: no gestures equals no emotion - no emotion equals fake language. If you are not using your hands to gesticulate as you talk, you are almost certainly using ‘corporate-speak’.

So, film yourself and check. Then if you need to, change your language to what I call ‘coffee shop talk’, i.e. the way you’d talk to someone over coffee. Again, the aim is to sound natural, normal and likeable.


3. Lights…Camera…Action

It’s very hard to like someone who doesn’t look you in the eye.

Each year, it becomes more and more likely that you will be exposed to either a video interview, which is generally used for remote candidates or a pre-recorded video interview intervention which is often used to whittle down a large pool of candidates, using software like Vervoe.

One of the stressors of a Vervoe type interaction is the strict time constraints which can fluster you such that you forget to perform. So, before you begin recording, make sure that you locate the camera lens and fix firmly into your consciousness the need to look directly at it.

It’s even more difficult to look at the camera when it’s a Skype interview with someone actually present at the other end. Your first instinct will likely be to look at the other person as he speaks. If you do this, what they see at their end is a weird sideways and downwards-pointed face that never looks at them. Force yourself to ignore their face (apart from the occasional glance) and look at that camera lens.


4. Ban the bland

Your target audience will examine what you wear for clues. Think carefully about what your clothes say about you. Don’t be boring. Use your interview outfit to show a little bit of personality and flair. There’s no need to go overboard – aim for clean lines with a hint of the unusual.


5. Reveal something of yourself

The HBR article research found that Executives who admitted to a major career mistake during an interview had a higher rate of re-employment than those who did not.

The reason? New employers took the viewpoint that Executives who have faced failure and learned from it can demonstrate the resilience, adaptability, and self-awareness prized in leaders. The researchers posited that taking ownership without shame enabled these executives to show themselves as likeable and confident in the interview process.

Do be careful here. This is one approach you really need to run past an expert to check that you are conveying the right message in the right way.


Your ‘Highly Confident’ Strategy

I have written elsewhere about the basics of Body Language and Voice, as well as how High Power Poses can help you convey a sense of confidence. They’re what I call Interview Communication 101.

Let’s now consider more advanced techniques.


6. Turn your background into a strength

You don’t have any experience in our sector.’

If you genuinely and validly believe that you have what it takes to do the job, don’t apologise.

Find the link between your background and the requirements of the new role. It may be that you have extensive change management experience or else your industry is noted for its focus on customers.

Analyse the benefits your background gives the employer before the interview, in expectation of it coming up. Practise your script again and again so that it flows naturally from your tongue. In the interview, present these benefits calmly and firmly.


7. Change the tone of the interview

Many interviewers still have the old-fashioned belief that they are in charge and, in normal circumstances, you do need to be respectful of the agenda and approach of the interviewer.

However, do not adopt the demeanour of someone who is powerless, who is subjecting themselves to being grilled by an interrogator.

I am not talking about taking over the interview. Instead, convey the impression that you are very comfortable with their questions. Respond as though you were being chatted to at a business dinner i.e. be on your best behaviour, but sound relaxed and natural.


8. Reveal your rationale

Many people know and use the STAR model to answer behavioural interview questions. What they don’t think about is explaining why they did what they did.

At a senior level, your next employer wants a feel for your workplace philosophy. Indeed, you can look quite shallow if you leave this information out. So, reveal the rationale behind the A = Action part of your STAR answer. It conveys confidence and self-assurance.

Sushi and Babies

When I recently interviewed applicants for a role in my company, I knew that I would have to work very closely with the successful candidate and I wanted to uncover the ‘real’ person as much as possible.

So, in addition to questions designed to uncover work practices etc, I carefully wove in questions that they could not possibly have practised or anticipated. One applicant, Kim, had Ainsley and I in fits of laughter as she talked about her life in Japan and about her young children. We all just clicked and I hired her with no qualms.

I uncovered Kim’s likeability and self-confidence with clever questioning. It’s dangerous for you to rely on the skill of your interviewer. Take charge. Accept that it is your job at the interview to make your prospective employer like you, and to make her relaxed about your competency.

Both qualities are essential and conveying both to a stranger is achievable.



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