I’m sitting here, in an office (pre-pandemic) with 5 people in suits staring at me. And I can’t think of a single thing to say. Not a word. Nothing is coming to me.
Except that I NEED to think of something to say. The harder I think about it the worse it gets.
I’m clearly an idiot.
And now they can all see it.
That’s it, I’ve stuffed up this interview.
I can feel the tears welling up but please please please do not let me actually cry in this interview.
The Davis Family motto is:
Never has this been more relevant than in the consultant job interview.
Once this panic sets in, it’s hard to pull it back. We worry about: how stupid we now look; and how awkward the interviewers must feel; and how clearly the entire interview is now a write-off.
All the while trying to desperately pluck something that makes sense from our now very foggy brains.
But panic is not your friend. You can (as I have now done) overcome this fear so that silence is your friend, not your nemesis.
Learn to love silence
My public speaking skills were learned via University Debating Societies. There, if you sound loud and confident you can pretty much get away with anything. Silence is weakness in that environment.
I took these skills from my late teens into full womanhood and channelled them into my presentation skills.
Keep going at all costs.
Think of your next point while you’re saying your first.
Don’t leave any gaps.
And this attitude stuck with me in everything – teaching, meetings, conversations, interviews.
Now I know that while panic is not my friend, silence very much is. The Pause, and more importantly The Breath is such a wonderful tool in interviews. But you need to practice this – start right now! In every conversation, every teaching opportunity you need to take a breath and pause. Every time I feel that University Debating style coming back to me I remind myself to….breathe…and enjoy that breath.
Turn the panic into something interesting
You will have these moments of panic in other public presentation scenarios, so use them to practice for when it happens in your interview. When you catch yourself rambling, or you lose your train of thought and suddenly start stressing, stop and take notice.
Use the breath to reclaim the moment and refocus your thoughts. See what comes into your head and pick the thought that resonates with you, the one that makes you WANT to start speaking again. Go with it. Trust yourself to take on a new path and explore a new idea that is relevant to the question and that resonates with you
Being in an interview makes your brain like a snow globe that’s been shaken up with all your thoughts. This is where the breath comes in. It allows the snow globe to settle – that takes time.
Pause. Take a breath. Use that breath to calm yourself.
Get into a state of mind where your next idea comes to you with clarity not confusion.
You’ve got this.
We are conditioned to think that our interview panel MUST NOT see any weakness in us. And silence is clearly a weakness.
In all honesty, on the panel we can’t see what’s going on in your head. We only see panic if you project panic. And having time to gather your thoughts, and using that time to come up with something that resonates with you to talk about is a strength, not a weakness.
Once you start being more comfortable with using silence as a positive, you will actually look forward to it. That’s a beautiful time. It’s the opportunity to reset and allow yourself to focus your thoughts.
The pause is one of the best public speaking tools you will ever have, and it should be used in your interviews to connect with your interviewers.
That pause can allow you to dig deep, find meaning, and get outside of whatever the snowglobe mess is in your head. Instead of worrying about the next step, just focus on this one and what you want to say right now.c