The Best Career Advice Almost No One Takes

Korn Ferry CEO Gary Burnison says using your smartphone is the secret to upping your interview game.

Published: Oct 23, 2019

You’re getting the interviews, but not landing the job. So, you do the usual: polish your resume one more time and find new ways to say the same old thing. But if you’re like most people, you won’t do the one thing that could really make a difference in your next job interview.

The secret weapon is your smartphone. Only by video recording yourself (or having someone else do it) as you answer interview prep questions can you see and hear how you come across. The camera, as they say, doesn’t lie.

The problem is people try to “wing it” and congratulate themselves for how well they think on their feet. Except, they can’t. People overestimate their strengths and underestimate their weaknesses all the time.

Here are five ways you can take the best career advice that most people ignore.

1. Look at what you don’t want to see. We may be obsessed with taking selfies, but a lot of people avoid looking at or listening to themselves “on camera.” Just pushing “record” and seeing that red light makes them feel highly self-conscious. And that’s the point. The nervousness of being video recorded is a good proxy for being “on” in a job interview. When you play back the recording, you’ll hear every “um,” “you know” and “like” that you say unconsciously. You’ll also notice how you sit, your facial expression, how much you fidget, and so forth. One candidate I interviewed never moved a muscle during our entire conversation. It was freaky! At the other extreme, I’ve seen people squirm in their chairs, pump their legs up and down, and gesture wildly. You need to exude confidence and competence. If you want to know how well you do that, get in front of the camera.

2. Rehearse; don’t memorize. You’re not auditioning, so there’s no need to memorize your lines. Memorized answers that sound canned and unnatural can’t convey your authentic self. You need to rehearse—preferably with a coach or mentor who will give you the tough love feedback that your friends, spouse, or other family members can’t. Go over your video recording together to discuss your delivery. If your mentor also knows your role and industry, that’s an added plus.

3. Be brief, be concise. Video record your answers to basic interview questions: describe your most recent position, what’s your greatest career accomplishment, what are your strengths/weaknesses, why do you want to work here, and—of course—tell me about yourself. As you listen to your answers, consider how you can respond more concisely. Your goal is to give a 30-second answer. You need responses that are punchy, crisp, compelling, and to the point. You can always elaborate when the interviewer asks a follow-up question.

4. “ACT” to create rapport. As you watch yourself on video, consider your “ACT”: authentic, connecting, and a taste of who you are. Being authentic means truthfully representing yourself, your experiences, and your background. Creating a connection helps the interviewer relate to you and creates rapport. Giving others a taste of who you are conveys what you have to offer and how well you’ll fit the culture. Your “ACT” also helps improve your likeability. It only takes a few seconds for the interviewer to make crucial determinations about you, including how trustworthy you seem and whether you’d be a good fit.

5. Don’t “buffer” your video interview: What about telephone or videoconference interviews? While the same rehearsal rules apply, you do need to make adjustments to convey your energy and enthusiasm, without overacting. Keep your responses very concise. Don’t speak too quickly. Also anticipate any “surprises” you could encounter with technology glitches. Have a practice Skype session with a friend, check the background for distractions, and dress from head to toe, even if you’re only visible to your shoulders. One candidate in a video interview was Brooks Brothers from the waist up, but showed he was only boxers from the waist down when he had to jump up and close a door.

It takes time to video record yourself and analyze the results to reflect on how you can improve. But given the importance of your next interview, why wouldn’t you make the effort? The only one standing in your way is you!    

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