Acing job interviews: The art of articulation

Sooner or later, all of us will have to engage in that dreaded thing called job-hunting. I recently had to do this and thankfully emerged from the process in one piece (and with a job). Although you're probably expecting one of those "Here are the 10 best ways to get a job" posts, I have to disappoint you on that one; not because I don't want you to get a job, but because there are already so many articles written about this topic that, to be honest, I simply read and followed the instructions of those articles when I prepared for my job hunt. Even though it sounds like a cop-out, my best advice in that regard is really painfully simple: just do your damn research. Believe me, the resources are out there; just read, study, and follow the instructions of all those articles giving you tips and tricks on how to structure your CV, write a good cover letter, and conduct a good interview. In this blog post, I'm going to offer a slightly different view regarding the topic of job interviews (and job hunting in general).

Even the most cold-blooded person in the world will be at least a little nervous for job interviews. Obviously, I was also nervous for my interviews but there were two shifts in perspective that made this challenge a lot less daunting. The first one was to realize that an interview is simply a conversation. Let's start there.

Conversation

What is the nature of a conversation? At its essence, it's simply two or more parties asking questions (which you should definitely do as an interviewee!) and verbalizing and communicating their thoughts so that every party is understood by the other.

Job interviews became less daunting to me because I realized that they were just another conversation. Just another conversation where I did my best to communicate my thoughts and message to another human being in the clearest and most efficient manner possible. Another conversation where somebody asked me questions because (s)he wanted to obtain information about me and I asked that person questions because I also wanted to know something.

Hence, the most important thing is articulation. Can I articulate my questions in such a way that the other person understands what information I'm looking for? On the other hand, can I articulate my thoughts clearly enough so that the other person understands exactly what I'm trying to communicate?

I know what you’re thinking: “Why is he talking about job interviews as if I’m a five-year-old?” My intention is not to belittle your intelligence; I’m simply trying to demystify something that gives people so much anxiety by showing you that, in its truest form, it’s really not such a ridiculously scary beast.

The Art of Articulation

Hence, a job interview is merely an exercise in articulation. Will you be able to answer every question perfectly? Of course not. But should you be able to communicate your message/thoughts well, regardless of whether you have the "right" answer or not? You damn well better.

This means that you have to make a constant habit of practicing the way you articulate your thoughts. In other words, become more aware of how you communicate your thoughts and ideas to people every day. Do you lazily chug out piecemeal, grammatically-weak sentences that just about get the message across? Do you constantly use shortcuts, say the word "like" all the time, or, worse yet, speak in never-ending run-on sentences? Are you the type of person that can never get to the point of what (s)he's trying to say?

Whatever the case, practice speaking in more grammatically-correct sentences and communicating your thoughts more clearly, succinctly, and logically (i.e. there's a clear beginning, middle, and end to what you're trying to say). If necessary, take a course in speaking or story-telling. Heck, if you can afford it, get a speech coach.

Remember: get to the freakin’ point and say what you need to say! Briefly answer the question, add a short story or anecdote to color it up a little, and finish by reiterating your main point/answer. That’s it. Don’t go a hundred times around the rainbow to answer a question.

A common complaint or fear that I hear with regards to job interviews is that people feel like they're shifting from their normal way of talking to a nerve-wracking world overflowing with anxiety. By becoming more conscious of the way you speak in your daily life and practicing it more frequently, you decrease this "shock" feeling so that it doesn't feel like you're transitioning from one world/manner of talking to a completely different (and far more formal) one. The space between the two worlds decreases, making it much easier for you to move between the two and be your regular self in the interview. Hence, if you want to improve your job interview skills, start making a habit of improving your everyday articulation skills.

This is also why I listen to so many high-quality podcasts. I am listening to and learning from people that are experts in articulating their thoughts with amazing quality. I personally recommend Jordan Harbinger from the Jordan Harbinger Show and Tim Vickery from the BBC Radio 5-Live World Football Phone-In.

Do your homework!

Obviously, I'm not saying that you should walk into the interview completely blind because it's "just another conversation". You have to do your homework beforehand, research the company in question, and prepare for common interview questions. But to repeat what I said earlier, job interviews became a hell lot less daunting to me when I realized that they are, in effect, just another exercise in my ability to communicate a message to another human being in the clearest and most efficient manner possible so that (s)he understands it the way I intend it to be understood.

In that sense, I guess it really is "just another conversation." 

No more, no less.

See you, Space Cowboy.