Executive Interviewing Tips: Control Your Conversation

Jun 22, 2016 12:38:04 PM

Today I’d like to share some insights that I’ve gained after studying nonverbal communication, and apply it to the interview situations that you will be in during an executive job search.
I do quite a bit of one-on-one interview coaching with my clients prior to their upcoming job interviews, and I’ve found that executives at the highest levels in some of the largest companies, who have gotten to where they are by being an “alpha” personality, can crumble during the mock interviews I put them through. (Now, it’s better that they break down with me, so that I can build them up, vs. dissolving into a puddle of incoherent goo during a high-pressure interview.)
I believe this is because executives are used to being in control of every situation in which they find themselves. In an interview, across the boardroom table from a decision maker, they find themselves, possibly for the first time in a long time, not feeling entirely in control of their future. They perceive the decision about whether or not they work for the company they’re interviewing with to be in the hands of the person sitting across from them.
In actuality, they can be in control of the hiring process, and whether or not they get the offer – and it all starts with maintaining three critical factors of nonverbal communication. I’ll break it down in this article, but for more detailed advice, click on the video at the bottom of this page.
What I have learned is that it is a precious combination of being comfortable, confident and in control that will help you win the interview. I’d like to disclose three secrets to maintaining these “3 C’s” of nonverbal communication.

Here are the 3 secrets to being perceived as comfortable, confident and in control during a high-pressure interview:


Everyone has heard that it’s essential to maintain eye contact during an interview. That’s Interview Basics 101. However, when we’re put in a stressful situation, our eyes can dart quickly back and forth, even if we maintain control of our head and are facing the interviewer.
To overcome this, many job seekers, even at an executive level, attempt to maintain 100% eye contact, which is actually more detrimental than darting eyeballs. Full-on eye contact can get a little uncomfortable and downright creepy for the victim of the stare.
The perfect amount of eye contact is 80% focus on the other  person’s face, and 20% of the time, glancing away – but only about 20 degrees left of right of the person’s face. In other words, don’t spend 20% of the time completely looking around the room. You can, however, look up and to the left while remembering an example of an achievement you made, and while telling that story. …And don’t forget to smile while recalling that story – smiling throughout the conversation is so important!


A little known fact about in-person communication is that only 7% of what we communicate is the actual words that we say. Five times that amount is communicated by our vocal inflection and the tonality of our voice.
Studies have shown that control and authority are demonstrated by a lower voice, even with women.
You may have noticed someone that feels a little out of control, or a little uncomfortable, may talk faster and their voice may go higher. The higher and faster you talk in your answer to any interview question, the less control you are perceived to have over yourself, and your authority in the conversation actually lessens.
The advice I can give to you is to keep in mind the speed of your side of the conversation, and how high you talk. Be aware of the normal “octaves” of your voice, and during the interview, keep your voice in the lower half of your range. If you need to practice this with someone, then do it – because this is so important!
The slower and lower your voice, the more control you have in your conversation. Not only does this make you seem more comfortable, confident and in control, but it makes the listener feel more comfortable in the conversation as well.
When a person doesn’t feel in total control of a conversation, either on the phone or in person, they tend to “check in” with the other person too often. By “checking in,” I mean asking the interviewer if they are making sense, or if they answered the interviewer’s question, or if they are being understood…
I’m not saying that you shouldn’t check in to make sure you don’t need to clarify something every once in a while – but only do so after you have completed your story or at have completed your thought. It’s checking in before you complete your story that lessens your authority in the conversation.


This information can make you feel less anxious about an upcoming executive “high stakes” interview, knowing that you have control over a lot of how the interviewer feels about you at the end of the interview.
So much of the outcome of an interview is due to nonverbal communication and how you make the interviewer feel. The more you can make them feel comfortable, confident and in control by being those things yourself, the more likely you will be the one to get the job offer – then it’s up to you to choose whether you want the job.

This may seem like a lot of information to absorb, and if you want a further breakdown of all of these strategies, feel free to watch the video I made giving this advice by clicking the video above or click here to watch the video. I go into greater detail of each one of these subjects, and even give you an extra secret to winning the heart and mind of the decision maker!

If you would like some personalized coaching in your next interview process by ME, call our office at (816) 600-2478 or simply email me at Tammy@BeyondJobSearching.com . We also work with executives to rebrand you to create a larger executive and thought leadership presence, and we can work with you very closely until you land your next position.
Tammy Kabell

Written by Tammy Kabell

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