After watching the video from TED, “10 ways to have a better conversation” with Celeste Headlee, we decided to apply the advice given in the video to an interview situation, to help show you not only how to have a better conversation, but also a better interview. According to the video, we all know the basics of having a good conversation – look people in the eye when they’re talking to you, nod to make it seem as if you’re paying attention – but we should forget all of this! Why pretend you're paying attention when you could actually just pay attention?!
This simple yet effective advice can be applied not only to everyday conversations, but also to job interviews. At the end of the day, an interview is a conversation that allows the interviewer to find out more about your personality and how well you would fit in with the company. Here are 10 ways to have a better conversation and therefore a better interview:
1. Don’t multitask
Be present and in the moment. Stop your mind from wandering and try your best not to think about how nervous you are or if the interviewer is judging the outfit you spent the whole night before picking out. Focus on answering the questions to the best of your ability.
2. Don’t pontificate
If you pontificate, you can come across as having a lack of empathy. Empathy and open-mindedness are crucial for many jobs, not only client-based roles but also for interaction within a team or company. Although it's great to be confident and feel strongly about what you’re saying, it's also important to listen to the other points of view, even if you don't particularly agree with them. By being open to new ideas and suggestions, you are proving that you are adaptable and open to alternative solutions, a quality which is highly sought-after by recruiters.
3. Use open-ended questions
Open-ended questions such as “Who, what, where, when and why” help incite a more detailed response. Although it's maybe not a good idea to start directly posing open-ended questions to the interviewer as they might find it a bit strange, you can still apply this technique in a more discrete way.
For example, if you notice that the interviewer shows a particular interest in one of your hobbies, you could ask them a question such as “Ah, you like hockey?” and then continue using more open-ended questions. If you use this technique, the interviewer is more likely to walk away feeling great, as though they have been really been listened to and understood. As well as establishing a connection between you and the interviewer, it also shows that you are a good conversationalist with valuable interpersonal skills.
4. Go with the flow
When someone's talking, it's inevitable that interesting stories will pop into your mind. Without realising it, you will probably stop listening to whatever they're saying as you wait for a right moment to tell them about your amazing story. Forget about whatever it was you wanted to say and concentrate on what they saying, otherwise it's not really a conversation, just people shouting random phrases as each other.
If you stop listening during an interview, you might miss some important information. It also looks as though you’re not really interested in whatever they're saying, which definitely won’t leave a good impression.
5. If you don’t know, say that you don’t know
This is a tricky one. Although this is great advice for everyday conversations, it's important to avoid underselling yourself in an interview. In the words of Sir Richard Branson “If someone offers you an amazing opportunity and you’re not sure you can do it, say yes – then learn how to do it later”. It is acceptable to exaggerate your skills and qualities to a certain extent in job interviews, but remember that if you are chosen for the job and are unable to live up to your claims, your employer will quickly see the truth and it could destroy their confidence in you.
6. Don’t equate your experience with theirs
Conversations shouldn't be an occasion to compare your experiences with someone else's to prove how much harder your life is or how strong/intelligent/amazing you are. Interviews, on the other hand, are the perfect opportunity to promote yourself. Just be careful to do so with measure, it’s good to sell yourself but employers might be less likely to employ someone if they don’t think their head can fit through the door.
7. Don’t repeat yourself
When we have a point to make we tend to rephrase it and repeat it over and over again, however, it can be very condescending and boring. It’s easy to panic in an interview and repeat yourself, but try to avoid this as much as possible to show the employer that you are are more than just a one-trick pony and keep them interested in what you have to say.
8. Don’t go into the details
Okay, of course the interviewer wants to know what degree you studied and at which university, but it’s very unlikely they want to know that you started university on a cold and slightly windy day, on the 21st of September 2013, and that you were so nervous for your first day but when you got there you sat down beside Rachel, who is now your best friend forever and lives in Nottingham, and that your French Literature module was quite challenging to start off with but in the end you learnt so much, and now you just love all kinds of French books and even poetry, especially from the 18th century…
In the wise words of Calvin Coolidge, “No man ever listened his way out of a job”. It’s easy to ramble on and blurt out every word that comes to mind when you’re nervous. The point of an interview isn't to judge your ability to talk, or measure the amount of words you can speak per minute (225 according to the video). Interviews allow employers to find out more about your personality and decide if you are suitable for the job in question, based not only on your ability to talk but also your ability to listen.
It's a myth that the best sales people are those who know how to talk – it's the people who know how to listen to a client’s needs and provide them with the best solution. Of course, it’s not a good idea to sit in silence either as that would be awkward: prove that you are a good communicator who knows how to talk and listen to other people's ideas.
10. Be brief
This fits with point 8, “don’t go into the details”. Interviewers are busy people and will often see many candidates in the same day. Be brief and to the point to make sure they don't nod off.
In the wise words of Celeste "Go out, talk to people, listen to people, and be prepared to be amazed!"