For this, our concluding article in our summer school “Ready for Anything” series, we are focusing on how to make a lasting impact as a star interview when meeting with potential clients. We’ve invited David Roylance from Speak to Shine, who helps women to smash the glass ceiling by helping them connect to their authentic powerful voice, to share his advice.

As we head towards what may be one of the biggest recessions the world has seen, we at Speak to Shine have been concentrating on giving as much as we can to people who want to prepare for whatever is next with confidence and certainty.

Value the first 23 seconds

We know that people make decisions and judgements about other people in the first 23 seconds of meeting. This is true whether on the phone or over a Zoom/Skype/Teams meeting. It is as if a switch flicks at the 23-second mark in the head of the listener. The switch is marked – “Worth my time/Not worth my time”. It is not impossible to get people to reassess the judgements they make at 23 seconds, but it is difficult.

With my clients, I suggest they focus on making the best impression within that first 23 seconds, maximising the chances of the switch flicking to “worth my time”. Extraordinarily little of the decision making is around competence at a conscious level. It is not about what you say, it is about how you say it. Interviewers want you to be a brilliant STAR interview. They want you to succeed. They want to feel safe around you. The best way to make them feel safe is to be confident in yourself. Physically, vocally, energetically. This is the same on the phone or in a video room.

Use the STAR system

Interviews are always about establishing value. If the interviewers can see the value that you potentially could bring to a role, then it becomes a no-brainer to offer you the role. You cannot force value on someone. You can choose to offer something they are likely to find valuable. Value is always defined by the idea of problem solving. Using the STAR system to answer questions works well. STAR stands for Situation, Task, Action and Result. Answering questions following this format establishes a structure through describing your previous behaviour and results, how you are likely to bring value at the level you are applying for.

You should have at least three stories that you can bring into an interview that illustrate that you are a problem solver. The STAR system allows you a structure to tell stories. The stories should be based around the principle of People – Problem – Solution.

  • Who are the people who had the problem?
  • What was the problem?
  • What was the solution you made?

Remember to take your interviewer on a journey between problem and solution so that they are clear that you were the reason that solution took place.

Manage your posture and movement

As well as what you say in an interview, you need to focus on how you say it. The keys to coming across as confident are the body, the breath and the voice. With my clients, we use the Alexander Technique as a method of releasing tension in the spine that results in us losing the confidence of others. We have to release that tension to stand tall, or sit in an upright position so we can breathe deeply into the stomach. The breath defines the quality of voice and the pace at which we speak. If you are breathing in the stomach, you have full use of the entirety of your brain. If you breathe in the chest you look anxious, you sound anxious because you only have access to a third of your vocal range. Also, the hypothalamus steals oxygen from the frontal lobe of your brain so it is difficult to remember everything you have prepared for an interview or meeting.

Learn how to build rapport

As well as being confident, it’s vital to build rapport. At the unconscious level, this is all about reflecting shared values through physicality, gesture, tonality of voice and in language. Two things I might suggest focusing on, if you are being interviewed on the phone or in video, are vocal tonality and backtracking language. As a voice specialist, I break the tones of the voice into three areas, the head (the highest notes), the heart (the mid-range) and the warrior (lowest notes).

The head voice is an expression of enthusiasm. It is associated with big emotions. The heart voice is associated in building rapport by showing an interest in the other person. The warrior voice is the voice of professional credibility. Try noticing which notes your interviewer is using. This will be an unconscious signal about what they need from you at an unconscious level during your STAR interview.

People build rapport with people who they feel they are like. People especially like feeling that they are being listened to. This is where backtracking language comes in. By this, I mean reflecting at the interviewer the same words, or phrase, that they used to you a moment prior. This is a technique to be used judiciously and sparingly. However, the unconscious mind hears that you listened to be able to use the same words back at them.

Focus on the experience

The other thing to focus on during your STAR interview is the other person’s experience. What is in it for them if they choose you? Focus on making the experience for them and their needs as easy as you can. It is great to walk into a room with an outcome in mind. However, our emotional attachment to that outcome can often undo us, by making us nervous. So, what outcome does the interview need in order that you get yours? Solve their problem and you are a shoe in. Take your energy away from your internal experience and focus on their experience of you.

Get results

These techniques may seem simple, yet they are effective. Only yesterday, one of my clients reported back to me she has created for herself a promotion to a C-Suite position in one of London’s top NHS Trusts. She has got an extra £15k a year out of it and control of a massive budget. At a time when many people are assuming they can’t get promoted or make more money, she has shown it is possible. What she used to make it happen is everything I have written above. Use what resonates and make it work for you.

Speak to Shine works with women to help them develop their voice and presence, so that they achieve significantly more responsibility, credibility and earning power.

Putting it all together

Go back to our earlier posts on building your personal brand to help you think about your unique values and the impression you want to make in those crucial first 23 seconds. Practise using the STAR model to describe at least three examples of your achievements. If you struggle with your breath or nerves come across in your voice, practise deep breathing. Most importantly, remember to listen as well as talk!

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