For 19 years, I enjoyed one of the best experiences that anyone who loves to talk can have—radio. As “Fast Eddie” Francis, I did everything from produce a wacky morning show to host a late night mix show on a top-rated hip hop station. My last few years were spent on a top-rated adult R&B station where I hosted another mix show, guest hosted the popular “Mellow Moods” show a couple of times, and even co-produced an award-winning talk show.
So, let’s get the fun part out of the way. Yes, I have a “radio voice” (or so I'm told). And, yes, I’ve met celebrities. The late Earth, Wind and Fire lead singer Maurice White, Louis Gossett, Jr., Jeffrey Osborne, Venus Williams, and Danny Glover (pictured with yours truly in 2007) were among my interview subjects. There were other cool notable folks I interviewed such as the two immediate past U.S. Secretaries of Education Arne Duncan and Rod Paige as well as Cornel West, NBA player David West, and Rwandan genocide survivor Immaculée Ilibagiza. Believe it or not, doing those interviews helped me grow into a better job interviewee.
If you want to become better at job interviews, be the interviewee that you enjoy hearing on the air. Be genuine, confident, polished, and sound like a leader. Here is doing radio taught me about doing great job interviews.
We enjoy hearing our favorite people on radio for a reason. They entertain and inform us, and they know that is what we are looking for. Did you realize, however, that some of these folks really don’t want to be on the air sometimes? For example, singers struggle through radio interviews at times because their voices are shot from touring. Even worse, they have their interviews booked for them so they may have no idea what they’re walking into. What they do know is that the show must go on. They can’t let their fans down so they have to sound confident and alive.
Employers understand that you may have had to go through all kinds of craziness to get to a job interview or that you may be nervous. But an employer--like a fan--wants what he or she wants, and will offer the job only to the candidate who makes the best presentation. If your day is crappy as you’re heading into an interview, make no excuses. Be confident because the show must go on.
I was once booked for a five-minute radio interview with a celebrity musician who I was really excited to meet. Unfortunately, it became a three-minute interview. She kept giving me these three-and-four-word answers! I ran out of good questions so I was in danger of annoying her and her fans with silly questions.
During a job interview, the employer wants to know who you are, what you have done, and what you can do. I know there are “yes or no” questions asked but employers want to know why your answer is "yes" or "no." If you’re a person of few words, develop two sentences to support those “yes or no” questions.
Of course, there is the other side of the spectrum because long answers can be just as bad as short answers. Talking fast can be problematic, too. I have spoken to candidates whose answers were no less than three minutes each. I always think these folks would make listeners turn the dial if we were doing radio interviews. Yes, employers want information but they have a limited amount of time to ask questions. Practice answering interview questions with a friend and observe his or her body language as you speak. When he or she starts to look uninterested, stop and ask for feedback.
When I coach people in public speaking, one of their exercises is to smile while delivering part of a speech. It’s perfectly normal for many of us to wrinkle our eyebrows, mumble, or even speak softly when we are concentrating on what we’re saying. That shows that we are either being thoughtful or lacking confidence in our answers so we have to be mindful of the volume and tone of voice.
I can tell when people are smiling during radio interviews because there is a brightness in their voices and it works the same way for job interviews, especially phone interviews. The physical benefit of smiling is it helps you relax and literally allows more volume to come out of your mouth.
These days, I am an avid podcaster and I make regular guest appearances on radio shows. I constantly listen to my recordings so I can improve my sound. I am never satisfied, picking apart my articulation, vocal performance, and content. You, also, can benefit handsomely from recording yourself answering practice job interview questions.
Here's what you listen for. First, get rid of speaking crutches--expressions such as “um,” "absolutely," “y’know,” or “like.” Just as you are probably distracted by radio guests who constantly use crutches, employers can get distracted by candidates who use crutches. Second, know what you are going to say. Prepare to pitch your experience and skills, and practice telling short stories about times you have made a difference as well as lessons learned (to handle behavioral questions). Third, learn something about the company conducting the interview. Some of the most embarrassing moments in radio interviews happen when interviewees know nothing about the audience they are addressing. Hiring managers expect candidates to be at least somewhat familiar with potential employers. The more prepared you feel, the more confident you will feel when it’s time to shine.
So, do you think you will listen to radio interviews differently now? I hope so.
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