If You Can Hold a Conversation, You Can Ace a Job Interview

If You Can Hold a Conversation, You Can Ace a Job Interview

Created: Thursday, February 16, 2023 posted by at 9:30 am

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by Laura Autumn Cox, Toastmasters International

An ugly fusion of fever dream and blind date – that’s how many people feel about job interviews. According to recent research, 93% of interview candidates suffer interview anxiety at some point in their working lives. A lot can be riding on a job interview, so fear of rejection is understandable. But just 2% of candidates applying for jobs are selected for an interview, and for each vacancy, employers will interview an average of 6 candidates, so, if you’re attending a job interview, you’re already thought of more highly than a lot of other applicants. You’re part of an elite.

Ace a Job Interview

Ace a Job Interview
Image: Yay Images

A job interview is partly about verifying your capabilities, but it’s mostly about allowing the interviewer to lift you out of the pages of your cover letter and CV, and to work out if you’re a good fit for their team. They want to get to know you.

How do people get to know each other? They have conversations. At its core, a job interview is a conversation. Having conversations is something you do. Every day. You regularly build rapport with people, and in a job interview, that is your goal.

To help you nail this potentially life-changing moment of rapport-building, here are four key things to bear in mind:

1. Your interviewer is human

Remember that your interviewer is also someone with worries, concerns, and joys, and who probably wants to be liked as much as you do. They may even be nervous themselves – remember that they will be aware that the interview is also your opportunity to assess if they are a good fit for you. No one likes rejection, even employers.

And everyone likes to feel validated, respected and appreciated. So do your pre-interview homework. Check out the company/organization website and Social Media platforms. Know where any satellite offices are located and take note of any awards they have been given or any charities they support. Google them. Read their press coverage. Perhaps there won’t be an opportunity to use all of this information (resist crowbarring), but this knowledge in your back pocket will, at the very least, boost your confidence and potentially allow you to impress and leave the interviewer with warm, fuzzy feelings. Remember, you want them to like you.

2. You must be authentic

By their very nature, interviews are a little unnatural – mostly affable but with a gladiatorial subtext (you need to slay the other interviewees). You’re there to win. But remember that the you that is sold at the job interview is the you the employer will expect to turn up for work.

Inevitably there is an element of performance but be wary of straying too far from the version of you that inhabits 99.9(repeating)% of your life. People are sensitive to façades. They will recognize if you’re putting on an act, and it won’t endear you to them. Being honest and authentic does not require a script (or for you to adopt a character).

Confidence is great (essential even), but don’t overpromise or exaggerate; declaring that you are brilliant at X almost certainly means you will need to back up your claim with an example (perhaps more). Give genuine evidence of where you’ve modeled the behaviors they want to see, and if you don’t have an example, think about how you would apply the given behavior in an imagined scenario.

3. Listening is as important as talking

It’s easy to think job interviews are all about what is said, but listening is just as important. Open body language, eye contact, and responsiveness are behaviors that you exhibit when you’re talking to a friend or a loved one because you’re genuinely engaged with what they have to say. Apply these behaviors in interview situations, whether you’re listening or replying to a question.

Let your interviewer see that you’re engaging with them by maintaining eye contact, allowing them time to speak, and giving visual clues like nods. Actions speak louder than words, and any brilliance you display when speaking is undermined if you’re staring at your feet when someone else is talking.

4. Be as interested as you are interesting

Asking questions of the interviewer is a classic piece of interview technique. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to walk in with a prepared list, although that can be helpful. A better strategy is to cultivate curiosity – be genuinely inquisitive.

At the end of the interview, your interviewer may ask if you have any questions, but this isn’t a given. So, where appropriate, weave in questions throughout the interview to encourage conversation – showing interest is endearing. Perhaps there is a project that you’re really excited about that you know the company is working on. If you’re attending in person (rather on video), take note of anything you see that interests you as you walk into the building, and form questions that would be appropriate for the interview setting.

But things such as hours, wage, and other contractual details can be clarified once you’ve got the job. Focus on making the best impression possible.


It’s important to remember that interviews are highly subjective. Even if you’re the most charismatic, charming, and personable candidate, there is always a chance that you and your interviewers might not click. By framing the interview as an authentic, engaging conversation with another human being, rather than some sort of interrogational ordeal, you will build rapport and establish a solid relationship that stands you in good stead for what hopefully becomes your future role.

Laura Autumn Cox

Laura Autumn Cox
Laura Autumn Cox is a member of Toastmasters International, a not-for-profit organisation that has provided communication and leadership skills since 1924 through a worldwide network of clubs. There are more than 400 clubs and 10,000 members in the UK and Ireland.

Members follow a structured educational program to gain skills and confidence in public and impromptu speaking, chairing meetings and time management. To find your nearest club, visit Toastmasters International.

The views and opinions expressed in this blog post or content are those of the authors or the interviewees and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any other agency, organization, employer, or company.

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