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Sunday, May 19, 2013

How To Lose An Interview In 30 Seconds Or Less

Interviews are a contact sport, where verbal sparring replaces fists. Don't ever walk into one unprepared. If you don't know what you're doing, you will get slaughtered.

Here are 10 tips to help you keep your reputation alive, even during the most brutal of Q&A sessions:

1. Know your subject matter cold. There is no such thing as "winging it." Study up. Get coached. Read. This should be happening far out in advance of the interview, because for the 24-48 hours beforehand you won't be able to retain any information by "crashing." If you are very knowledgeable and not just dancing around the facts, people will get that from the ease with which you speak (note they probably won't be able to follow the subtleties nor will they really care).

2. Know the interviewer or reporter. Everything is online nowadays. Study the kinds of questions they tend to ask, the articles they write, their point of view and interests, their interactive style, everything you can know you should know. Know who they are writing for. Know what their interests and equities are. Take their ideas seriously. You may disagree, but that doesn't mean you should ignore.

3. Know the context or environment. Go there early. Get comfortable. Look around you. Test the microphone. Mechanical difficulties make you look like an idiot, even if it's not your fault. Stand close to the camera, away from the camera, sit high and sit low. This is not vanity. This is practicality.

4. Dress intentionally. Look at your outfit. Don't wear weird ties with patterns that will glow or reflect. Wear appropriate clothes in flattering colors. Be extremely harsh and objective about this. Sometimes fashionable is good, sometimes classic is good. Note you don't have to be thin. You do have to wear clothes that fit. Some will judge the interview based solely on how you look.

5. Lower your voice and slow down. If your voice is high-pitched, nasal, or you talk too fast, the viewer will get turned off. You can get a vocal coach, you can get your best friend. A bad voice can ruin anybody's day.

6. Look at the host or the camera. The other day I watched an interview where the guest looked down at her notes. It was terrible. She seemed ill-prepared, untrustworthy, and lacking in confidence. She lost, totally. Don't do that. Smile. Laugh. Be at ease. You're fantastic! You aren't going to die. This is a moment to remember - you're on stage. If you can't handle being on stage, get off and let someone else handle it.


7. Don't talk off-mic. This is an easy mistake to make. The interviewer wants you to say something unguarded, controversial, and headline-grabbing. They ask you a question before or after the interview. It's supposed to be tangential to the story. It ends up leading the story.


8. Don't lose your cool. It's the interviewer's job to provoke you and sometimes to distort things. Don't be provoked. The only time you should act angry is when you're trying to send a message that is based on known fact. I cannot emphasize enough that you should only make statements based on what you absolutely 100% know to be true. If you do not know, do not say.

9. Don't disrespect, dismiss or invalidate the host or the question. If you are being asked to explain something that is of serious concern to the audience, and you do any of these things, it shows that you are arrogant and out of touch. If you are asked a purposefully combative question, simply call attention to the fact that the question is purposefully combative. For example: "I understand that you are trying to ask me a controversial question, but the reality is XYZ." Don't blame someone else. Don't deflect. Don't run away with your body language or with your words. Simply walk into the challenge and walk out the other side.

10. If you are wrong, admit it. This does not make you look bad. This makes you look honest. You don't have to beat yourself up. You should simply and objectively hold yourself accountable. If you find yourself going down a bad road - maybe you're talking too much or saying the wrong thing - simply stop. Of course, don't dwell on or end with negativity. State what you are doing to improve, increase, enhance the quality of your work and results.