When you leave your service commitment, the job search process can be overwhelming and intimidating, particularly the interview. How do you build rapport with a hiring manager? What skills do they want you to talk about? How will you communicate your interest in the job without seeming desperate?
During your military career you likely never had to formally interview for a job or promotion. Now, for the first time, you are faced with someone evaluating your skills, experience, personality, and style to see if they want to offer you an opportunity to earn a living at their company. You are not evaluated on many of the qualities which made you successful in the military. Now, you are being assessed on a myriad of characteristics which may feel obscure.
What is Confidence?
Projecting confidence is critical to building trust with civilian employers. Confidence is not arrogance or pushiness. Confidence comes from:
- Understanding your abilities, offer and values
- Speaking from your abilities with sureness
- Being genuine and authentic
- Projecting certainty about the truth of who you are and what you say
For many of the job interviews you will pursue, you may be less than ideally qualified for the role. Knowing this, some employers still want to meet you and evaluate your abilities and character, to see if it is worth investing in you (to teach you skills you may need for the work). It is common for hiring managers to want to "take a chance on you" because they feel you are a good investment, not because you possess all the skills and experience they need for the job.
In a job interview, the following behaviors will display confidence:
- Good eye contact. It sounds like common sense that when you speak to someone, you look at them. Yet, many interviewees do not make eye contact -- instead looking at the floor, their hands, or the ceiling. Look directly at the interviewer when speaking to them, or when they speak to you. Nod your head in agreement, if appropriate. If you need some visual "relief," quickly glance down at your notes, or off to the side. You don't want to send a signal that you're bored or uninterested.
- End sentences down. When nervous, your vocal chords tighten up and this can cause you to speak in a higher pitch than normal. This tone sounds insecure and hesitant and is hard to control. However, the way you end your sentences is controllable! If you end every sentence with an "up" tone, it sounds like you're asking a question. Instead, end your sentences in a more definitive tone, making you sound more declarative and confident.
- No fidgeting. A confident person is present and focused. They won't play with their hair or jewelry, pick at their fingernails, or twirl a pen. Avoid fidgeting at all costs. Keep your hands on your lap, or holding your pen and note pad. Fidgeting is distracting.
- Responsiveness. When asked a question -- whether you have a prepared response or not – answer quickly. It is completely appropriate to take a few seconds to consider your response, but not to take 90 seconds to form a reply. Also, focus your answer to address the question asked. Try not to give responses that are off topic or vague. Similarly, if you don't have an answer to a question, honestly admit that. Ask the interviewer if you can get back to them with a response by email later that day. It is not expected that you will have a firm response to every inquiry.
- Ask good questions. A confident person asks questions. In researching the company before the interview, develop questions around the job, company goals and mission, workstyle, culture, work/life balance, and growth plans. Your questions should show interest in where things are now (the job) and where you can help them get (goals, mission, growth).
Confidence is a perception. We view people who are confident as more successful, interesting and attractive. Employers seek candidates who have a good sense of who they are and what they can offer, yet are humble enough to learn and grow.