We are born with complete confidence. My best proof is my 10-month-old daughter. Her walk is shaky, she constantly falls down and she can’t really communicate. Still, she never thinks twice about getting up again to try and navigate across a room and interact with others.
She is not special in these behaviors. All healthy babies do the same thing. They have not learned to lack confidence in their abilities, be nervous when addressing others, or be anxious when all the attention is on them. Most of us adults are not this lucky. We can remember past failures. We second-guess ourselves. And, unfortunately, our learned lack of self-confidence is harmful at the most important times in life, like interviewing for a job you want and need.
To make matters worse, research shows that, on average, interviewers reach final decisions about applicants in only four minutes after meeting them. In this time there is little more to evaluate than how you look and speak, how you carry yourself, and how you greeted the interviewer, all clear clues of your level of self-confidence.
Being confident from the moment you walk through the door will always give you a better chance of landing the job. The good news is that self-confidence can be generated and regained. Here’s how:
In Amy Cuddy’s video, Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are, she asserts that not only does body language affect how others see you, but how we see ourselves. Her studies show that “power posing” – standing in a posture of confidence, even when you don’t feel confident – affects your brain’s testosterone and cortisol levels, and makes you feel more confident. Her research concludes that changing your body positions does influence how others see you and even alters your body chemistry.
Power Posing before an interview – or before any event where you are in need of a confidence boost – will greatly improve how you feel and appear to others.
The Confidence Mirror
In a Radford University publication, Behavioral Interviews: It’s Not What You Know, It’s What You Did, confidence is strongly correlated to attractiveness. Multiple studies also conclude that “attractive” job candidates get more offers and make more money. Making yourself attractive during an interview with a comfortably firm handshake, direct eye contact, good posture, relaxed but passionate communication style, and a genuine smile will give you an edge over other candidates.
You can naturally adjust your body for confidence by asking, “If I was really interested in what my interviewer was saying, how would I sit?” You will be surprised how often you need to readjust your body and how much more confident you feel afterwards.
As a theatre director, I used a technique called Affective Memory to help my actors connect with their characters and generate a consistent, real and confident performance. This process is a central part of Method Acting, a system pioneered by the late Russian theatre director and actor, Constantin Stanislavski, which requires actors to call on personal memory details from a similar situation to those of their characters. Used with positive personal experiences, this same technique can be effectively applied to rehearsals for job interviews, especially when rehearsing for the critical first four minutes.
Close your eyes. Recall and experience a time you gave a firm and confident handshake. See the eyes and face of a friendly and kind person you know or interviewed with before. Hear their reassuring words. Feel the energy of a positive and successful interview, meeting, or exchange you had in the past. Pay attention to what your posture, breathing, and heartbeat were like. Rehearse and experience this interview in your head, heart, and hands – live it.
Done completely, this exercise will give you confidence for your upcoming interview by connecting it to positive and successful experiences you have already had in your life. You will no longer be walking into an unknown and perhaps scary circumstance, but one you have successfully already experienced. In fact, if done correctly, your mind will not be able to distinguish the difference between the two.
As you grow in your career, knowledge, and expertise and have more successes in life, you will naturally become more confident when interviewing. Experience and confidence usually go hand in hand.
If you are early in your career or short on the experience, knowledge, or successes you need to feel fully confident for the job you are interviewing for, seek assistance from relevant books, the web, training courses, and a mentor. Good resources and a commitment to study will give you all the confidence you need.
Exercise & Dress
Staying fit and dressing appropriately for interviews are helpful practices. Both will give you more confidence and regular exercise always provides you more energy and makes you feel better about yourself.
Focus On The Positives
We tend to focus our energies on the negative things that happen to us. Despite buckets full of positive experiences, it only takes one or two nasty comments to knock someone off their horse. In fact, meanness is at the root of all confidence issues. Being laughed at when you make a mistake, being harshly rejected by someone you like, or being taunted on a schoolyard all play a part in a person’s self-confidence. To overcome negative experiences in life, focus on positive ones. Most people can count only a few really bad experiences in life, while positive ones are abundant.
Even better, extend this positivity to others. Dr. Maya Angelou once said, “At the end of the day people won’t remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.” We have the ability to give the gift of confidence to everyone we meet by being constructive and kind in all our interactions. I encourage you to be a champion of confidence for others. It not only feels good and helps others, but gives you greater confidence as well.
Rewrite Your Self Talk
What are your low confidence triggers when interviewing? (e.g., entering the building, shaking hands with your interviewer, sitting down to start the interview, starting to speak, answering questions) Write them down now. Then write down what you say to yourself when these events occur and how it makes you feel. Cross out any negative “self-talk” and re-write the statements in a positive and assertive manner – a way that makes you feel confident and good about yourself when you read and say them. Turn, “I will never get this job” into “I am the best person for this job. This company needs me.”
Dr. Wayne Dyer, the renowned self-help guru advises, “If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” And there lies the secret to how you reverse the impact of low confidence triggers in your life.
By re-writing your self-talk, you will change the way you feel and how you behave. Negative self-talk will generate low self-confidence and self-esteem issues while positive self-talk produces the opposite effect. Practice positive self-talk throughout your life and your confidence levels will soar.
The key to confidence when interviewing is coming prepared and staying present, connected and fully engaged in the process and what you need to convey about yourself. Connect with your interviewer by providing helpful answers to questions and being actively interested in what they have to say. The more focused you are on what you trying to accomplish; the less room insecurities, nervousness, and self-doubt will have to creep in.
Published on Forbes, 23rd December 2013