As a career coach, a huge part of my job is coaching people to remember and confidently express their best self – on paper, online and in person. While the print and online aspects of the job search can be challenging, it is the interview that is by far the most anxiety-producing aspect of job-hunting.
How can you circumvent debilitating anxiety that deprives your brain of oxygen and leaves you tongue-tied and incoherent? How can you bring your best self to challenging situations like job interviews, client presentations, or any of a myriad of social encounters that impact your work and life prospects? This is the issue Harvard Business professor and social psychologist Amy Cuddy addresses in her top-ranked TED Talk, “Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are,” and best selling book, “Presence: Bringing your boldest self to your biggest challenges.”
Her research and other research shows that in pressure-filled situations like job interviews our skills are diminished when we are internally focused. Self-monitoring prevents us from noticing and interpreting what is happening in real time. Candidates who focus on their performance during interviews are less attentive, less connected and more likely to miss important cues.
Candidates who realize getting the job has more to do with solving the hiring manager’s problem than performing well are more likely to get the job. They are more curious, ask thoughtful questions, and establish a connection with the person across the desk.
Bringing your authentic, best self to an interview requires preparation. Researching likely questions, identifying possible concerns and choosing the right stories to demonstrate your expertise are essential. And so is belief in yourself because that is at the heart of what you are selling.
If you aren’t sure this is the job for you, or aren’t convinced that you are qualified, that is the message you will communicate. Even if your verbal communications don’t betray you, your body certainly will.
According to Cuddy, “When we don’t believe our stories, we are inauthentic — we are deceiving, in a way, both ourselves and others. And this self-deception is observable to others.” So, if you doubt your success, you might as well shout, “I’m a fraud” from the rooftops because that is the message the interviewer will hear. She will know that something isn’t right.
How can you do a better job of showing up as your authentic self at your next interview? Here are two of Amy Cuddy’s suggestions. Before the interview strike the Wonder Woman power pose (at home or in the restroom stall). Put your hands on your hips, raise your chin, stick out your chest, smile and hold the pose for 120 seconds while taking deep breaths. Yes, it works.
Before your next interview, write a short paragraph about a core value that is important to you and describe a time when that value proved to be important. According to Stanford University social psychologist, Claude Steele, this self-affirmation will help the authentic you emerge naturally in what you say and do.