How Knowing 7-38-55 Can Help You Ace Job Interview!

posted by Dilip on February 5, 2020

As a part of my coaching practice I often help clients with mock interviews. Mock interviews and the feedback I give them often surprises them about their own level of (un)preparedness as they come for the mock interview. After doing the research on the company, the job opening, and on their potential hiring manager they often feel quite confident—even cocky—when I suggest that a mock interview practice, followed by my feedback can help them to up their game for the interview process and to get them better prepared for acing the interview(s).

During their preparation and throughout the mock interview session clients’ focus is mostly on responding to the questions I ask during our practice session with the right content. They are often more focused on getting the right responses than they are concerned about how that response comes across to the interviewer—in this instance, to me.

So, what is the problem here?

The problem is that many are simply unaware of what creates the right impact when delivering your response or your message. It is well known that in any exchange the content or the words contribute only about 7% of the impact. The major components of the impact are derived from the tone of the delivery (38%) and the body language—physical vocabulary—used (55%) in delivering the message. This is why 7-38-55 appears in this blog’s headline.

Your great message can be easily drowned out by the poor physical vocabulary and your meek tone (Remember Robert Mueller’s recent House testimony?). With diffident body language and meek tone powerful content can be lost in delivering the message, causing you to lose the impact of your response. Good content delivered in a confident tone with an impactful physical vocabulary and impeccable timing can make an impact many times that of a great content delivered without regard to how the tone and the body language come across. If any of this is still confusing, mysterious, or unclear just remember the last time you enjoyed a stand-up act and how that actor embodied all these elements into delivering a superb effect.

So, what are the ways to manage your ability to control your tone and your physical vocabulary for a great delivery and impact?

In this prescription I am not going to dwell on the most common suggestions experts make about researching the company, the interviewers, the competitors and their markets. This is table stakes. Instead, I am going to focus on what you can do to better deliver a great interview performance with things you can do on yourself and by yourself.

Becoming aware of these key factors in improving your message-delivery impact is the first order of business. How do you ratchet up your confidence level before entering the interview room? There are some well-proven exercises that one can do every time you are about to face a challenging situation—job interview being one of them at the top of that list. These physical and mental exercises will greatly help you alleviate your anxiety—interview jitters—and get you to feel better about yourself: confident, powerful, and ready to take on the world!

Mind exercises: These are exercises of visualization, breathing, and focusing. To engage in this round of exercises, first start deep breathing and learn to breathe in from below your diaphragm—from around your navel—with deep breaths. Nervousness or anxiety comes from shallow breathing and it quickly escalates into shallower breathing that ratchets-up your anxiety, with the onset of hyperventilating.  To break this cycle, calm down by going to a quiet place and start taking deep breaths and close your eyes as you practice deep breathing. Breathing through your nostrils and exhaling through your mouth with puckered lips (as if whistling) is how to do this exercise.

As you are focusing on your breath by slowing down the breathing cycle and by deliberately breathing, focus your mind on some visuals that will further help you feel positive about yourself. Focusing on your breathing as your breath goes in and out brings you in the moment, which forces you to stay in the present. Now, a strong memory of some past event that made you feel energized; some success you felt when you worked hard and achieved your goal; your parents’ or friends’ encouraging words when you came through in a clutch; etc., can help you get in that energy state purely by memory. Your mind does not distinguish between a remembered event and an experienced moment.

These visualizations often have an uplifting and anodyne effect on your mind in releasing endorphins into your body and making you feel good about yourself. Focusing your mind on some messages that you find energizing can also have a positive effect in a time of anxiety and crisis, but it requires a trained mind to benefit from its effects. Even an inspirational quote can have the same effect. So, practicing these exercises frequently can help in a time of real crisis. Another powerful visualization can be about acing the interview you are about to face and getting yourself the job offer from it.

Physical Exercises: Physical exercises involve stretching your body to extend your reach. Sitting comfortably in a chair and putting your feet on a coffee table in a relaxed pose can be energizing. Putting both your hands behind your head with your interlaced fingers and leaning back can also give you a feeling of confidence when you are feeling anxious. Yet another reinforcing physical posture is to stand, look up to the ceiling or the sky, and strike the pose of the winning athlete, with both your hands thrown skyward. Standing erect and hands akimbo with your legs apart can also provide an energizing fillip in a time of anxiety. The video below by Stanford GSB students is a good way to internalize this in a fun way. Although this video is for a stand-up presentation or a talk, many interview situations require this mode of presentation and some of the ideas here are equally applicable in face-to-face interview situations

In addition to the tips from this video, please also remember the following everyday reminders for a strong interview performance:

  1. Eye contact: Maintain positive eye contact throughout your conversation; do not stare through your interviewer. In some instances (mostly Google interviews) the interviewer is tapping away on their keyboard as you speak and staring at their screen, so do not be deterred by this “unfriendly” approach; just work it in.
  2. Delivery: Pause after each interviewer question for a few seconds, even if you know the answer. Smile, and then respond with confidence. This will carry more impact than if you start responding even before the question has ended. Pause throughout your delivery at the appropriate times for impact. Smiling as you greet your interviewer and smiling appropriately throughout the interview can greatly help alleviate the anxiety and jitters.
  3. Synch-up: Make sure that your own body gestures, the words you use, and the delivery tone all synch up. Once again see the video above for examples.
  4. Mirror the interviewer: Observe how the interviewer speaks and their mannerisms, try to mimic their behavior to synch-up with the interviewer.
  5. Ask; Don’t assume: If any question is not clear, pause and ask for clarification. If you are not sure, paraphrase the question and then respond.

These are just some of the ideas for acing your next job interview or presentation. Practice these behaviors, ace them, and see how much difference they make in your interview success.

Good luck!