Some people are writers. Others are talkers. When it comes down to the job search, everyone has to be able to do both… and well. You can buy a book or hire a résumé writer to get the written part of the application complete. But how do you get over the interview jitters and really come across as the polished professional that you are on the job?
For those people who are naturally inclined in sales, the interview isn’t something to be feared. Everyone else hates the stress interviews cause, and are constantly worrying, “Will I say the right thing?”
Getting to the point in a highly stressful situation is actually more of a critical job skill than you realize. Practicing speaking can build your competency in this core area. As a frequent speaker myself, people are stunned to hear that not only was I a stutterer when I was a kid, but also that I am an extremely shy person. You wouldn’t know it if you met me! Fortunately, thanks to the dedication of a family member, I was quickly entered into the world of speech and debate throughout my high school and college years.
Then I was off into my professional career, and I remember quite distinctly being at a conference listening to a riveting keynote speaker, who had no notes and was fully engaging the audience. Wow, I thought, wouldn’t it be great to be able to carry something off like that!
Fast forward twenty years, and through progressively responsible experience in my employment lifetime, I have had to step up and provide sessions and leadership at conferences and workshops. This thrust my own public speaking into a suddenly new role. The pivotal moment was when I was on stage addressing 500 people at an awards banquet, and I realized that this was just about the same as a workshop. You have a message, and everyone is there to hear it.
The interview is the same thing. You have a message about yourself, and the prospective employer is interested enough in you that they called you in for an interview to hear it.
A great resource for finding the supportive proving ground in speaking is Toastmasters. I am not a member, but I know countless people who have joined, and reaped the benefits as a result. They’ve been able to focus on what they are saying, how they are saying it, and sense how the audience is receiving their message. Learning what kinds of words or phrases could provide subtle clues as to your state of mind in an interview can be very enlightening. Use of “ums” and “ahs” are hedgers, and can communicate that you are not confident about what you are talking about, or let the interviewer know that you are very nervous and not focused.
Toastmasters or other clubs that encourage members to develop their speaking skills are definitely a wise investment into your skill set. You never know when you might have to give an executive-level presentation, or need to pump yourself up in an interview. If you are relaxed and comfortable with the act of speaking in a highly scrutinized setting, you’ll perform a lot better by staying locked in on the content that you are delivering.
For more information on Toastmasters, please visit their website at toastmasters.org – and gain a whole new skill set!