You walked into the interview and presented your case. You made all the right points. Yet, your interviewer may not have heard these points the same way. Though you didn’t realize it, it’s possible your communication style was out of sync with your interviewer. Let me explain.
Academic researchers found clear differences in the way American men and women typically communicate. These differences were based on how we socialize at a young age. And they impact how an interviewer measures your confidence and believability.
Below, you will learn some of the differences these researchers discovered. You’ll also get tips for how you can manage these differences during your interview.
You may take pride in your accomplishments. Like many people, you may also feel funny talking about them. It just seems like bragging.
Meanwhile, across the desk, some interviewers perceive such modest behavior as a lack of confidence. And, and interviewer may wonder whether this lack of confidence is caused actual lack of skill to do the job. Such a perception, while more common among men than woman, can apply to interviewers of both genders.
In your next interview, be ready to proudly own what you have achieved. Remember, you aren’t expected to have a perfect answer to every question. So don’t let a few doubts undermine your confidence and overall performance.
At the same time, a constant song of self-praise can start to make a jobseeker look like a prima donna, someone who would be hard to work with. Particularly for some women, this behavior can be unappealing.
Rather than trying to look perfect, you may want to take a poke or two at yourself, to show a bit of humility. For instance, consider using comments like, “At first, that was a real challenge for me. However, I’m really proud of how it turned out…”
A brief word of caution on this: be sure to make such comments in a way that doesn’t undermine your core job skills.
Did I do it, or did we do it?
It’s more modest to share credit with the pronoun “we” than to proudly own an accomplishment with an “I”. For some women, excessive use of “I” can seem haughty and arrogant. For some men, using “we” suggests the speaker did little of the work.
As you prepare for your next interview, think about how you can balance proving your accomplishments with showing your team orientation.
You make a point, but get some pushback from your interviewer. Do you accept their point of view as different than yours and avoid a destructive fight, or do you argue back to prove the value of your ideas?
Certain industries and company cultures, particularly in “male industries” want to make sure you can ‘handle the heat’ of loud, argumentative conversations. Others want you to show more support for colleagues.
If you do your homework, you can learn about the organization and decide whether its work environment is a place where you feel comfortable. Then when you hear pushback from your interviewer, respond in a way that fits with their culture.
Another tactic that individuals use to avoid disagreement is verbal hedging. This sounds like, “In my opinion, I think what could possibly be the case this time is maybe….” Unfortunately, this behavior makes your ideas look weak – your ideas aren’t even strong enough for you to voice support behind them. Be careful.
The word, “Sorry” can be a great way to show sympathy, especially among women. Yet overusing this word can suggest a lack of authority. It can also cause the interviewer to see you as less confident.
When you can, avoid using the word sorry. For example, consider replacing,
“Sorry can you repeat that?” with “Would you mind rephrasing that question?”
It’s not easy to be blunt and direct. In fact, at different times, both men and women will speak indirectly. We choose softer, indirect language to save face in an embarrassing situation. We also speak indirectly to show humility with positions of power.
As a job seeker, you may feel compelled to speak indirectly towards your interviewer, the person who can decide your professional career fate.
Unfortunately, being indirect can hurt you in a number of ways. First, direct people will see your softer language as a lack of confidence in your professional abilities. Second, your message will be diluted, and your interviewer, often already distracted, will miss some of the points you are making.
Particularly for men, you may also feel uncomfortable talking about your mistakes or weaknesses. Yet, if your language is too soft and indirect, your interviewer may feel that you are hiding something.
At the same time, make sure that your speaking style is not too far out of line with your interviewer. According to management researcher and academic Deborah Tannen, “People in powerful positions are likely to reward linguistic styles similar to their own.”