How to Own the Room in a Job Interview, with Rachel Beohm
It’s not uncommon to feel as though a job interview is an interrogation and that your entire life is on display for the interviewer to pick apart. But, an interview is a two-way conversation. And while it’s important to prepare for the questions you may get, Find Your Dream Job guest Rachel Beohm says it’s also crucial that you walk into the room with confidence, and the knowledge that you belong there. Rachel shares how eye contact, positive body language, and knowing your value before you walk into the interview can help you to come across more confidently.
About Our Guest:
Rachel Beohm is an executive coach and speaker who specializes in nonverbal communication and personal presence. She trains executives, HR professionals, speakers, and job seekers to present themselves powerfully through the use of nonverbal communication skills so they can achieve their goals, and helps her clients face difficult or scary situations, such as public speaking, negotiation, and job interviews with confidence and power.
Resources in This Episode:
- For more information on Rachel’s one on one coaching or to find out where she will be speaking next, visit her website at rachelbeohm.com.
- Download Rachel’s free interview guide, “Ace Your Interview,” at http://rachelbeohm.com/interview/
- If you wait for employers to bring up salary, you’re wasting your time and energy. My guide, How to Talk About Money in an Interview, shows you how to do salary research before meeting with a hiring manager. Learn how to be more comfortable talking about money and get the tools you need to request a higher salary.
Find Your Dream Job, Episode 278:
How to Own the Room in a Job Interview, with Rachel Beohm
Airdate: January 13, 2021
Hi, this is Mac Prichard.
I had a cycling accident recently and broke several bones. While I recover, I need to take a short break from podcasting.
So through March 3, we’re sharing some of our most popular interviews from the last five years.
I hope you enjoy them and thank you for being a listener.
This is Find Your Dream Job, the podcast that helps you get hired, have the career you want, and make a difference in life.
I’m your host, Mac Prichard. I’m also the founder of Mac’s List. It’s a job board in the Pacific Northwest that helps people find fulfilling careers.
Every Wednesday on this show, I interview a career expert. We discuss the tools you need to find the work you want.
This week, I’m talking to Rachel Beohm about how to own the room in a job interview.
Rachel is an executive coach and speaker. She helps her clients with public speaking, negotiation, and job interviews.
She joins us today in person in the Mac’s List studio in Portland, Oregon.
Rachel, welcome to the show.
Walking into a job interview is scary for most of us. What’s the most important step listeners can take before going through that door?
Thank you, Mac. It’s a pleasure to be here.
You’re right, walking into a job interview can be a very daunting proposition. It’s kind of like going on a blind date; you have a lot of future riding on this, potentially, and it can be very nerve-wracking. So I would say the number one thing for people to keep in mind is to prepare themselves mentally before they go into a job interview. Take a moment to breathe and remind yourself who you are and how you want to be in that interview.
It’s important, of course, to think about what you want to say. Prepare for the potential questions you’re going to get, and that sort of thing, and yet often I find job seekers, when I coach them, they have these scripts that they come with, they have answers, canned answers to the questions and they want to get them all out, and sometimes they forget to just be in the moment and so, often, having a word in mind of how you just want to be in that interview helps a lot.
Tell us, Rachel, when you talk about owning the room, what does that mean? This isn’t about swaggering or being arrogant or telling people what to do, tell us more about what you mean when you way it’s possible for people to own that room.
I’m glad you brought up that word arrogant, it’s a word that I use frequently because that is exactly what I don’t want to be a proponent of. There’s a fine line there between confidence and owning your space and being present and projecting and communicating presence versus being arrogant. So owning the room simply means being comfortable in the space and claiming that entire space for your presence. It has to do with being grounded and being willing to be seen and showing up in a way that is powerful.
What does that look like to the interviewer or perhaps the panel of interviewers who are sitting on the other side of the table?
Well, Mac, that again, is an important distinction there, between one interviewer and a whole panel.
When you’re one on one, it has to do with giving that person your attention, as well as though not being so closed in your own little bubble that you have no idea what else is going on in the room. That’s exceptionally important when you’re in a panel interview. Often, one person will ask the question and the interviewee then answers that person and forgets that there’s a whole other series of people there. So owning the room has to do with being aware of the entire space, speaking to everyone that’s on the panel, even though one person may have been the questioner in that case, and relating to everyone.
How do you do that, Rachel? You’re sitting there in a chair perhaps, and there are perhaps 2, 3, 4, 5, people on the other side of the table, how do you make that connection with one or more folks?
The first step is to practice before you get there with being aware of a space that’s bigger than that little space bubble that we tend to carry around. Especially nowadays, we’re all on our phones all the time and so often, the amount of space that we’re aware of is just that short little distance between us and our phone screens. Just practicing opening up that sense of space, whether or not you’re with another person helps a lot when you’re actually in a stressful situation, to have a bigger sense of space and not just be in this…it’s daunting. If you’re not using to doing that and then all of a sudden you try to do it when you’re stressed or nervous, it’s a lot harder.
Practice it when you’re not stressed. I like to do it at the grocery store, that’s my favorite place to walk in and just be like, “I’m owning this store today.” And it’s amazing how people relate to you differently when you have a big sense of space like that, so that’d be the first thing I’d say.
Then, when you get into the room, actually look at it, look at the space, the corners of the room
and see how big it is and where you are in relation to those people and the walls and the ceiling, and be willing to own that space and then, of course, make eye contact with all the people that are there.
You don’t have to make eye contact with them to claim the space but it’s a good place to start.
I can imagine listeners are at home, they’re any number of people. It’s Friday, they’ve got an interview on Monday, and they’re getting ready, and so they’re going to go shopping this weekend to that grocery store. How do you own the grocery store and translate that into what you need to take into the interview room on Monday?
Owning the space really has to do with being, first of all, aware of it, like I said, and then secondly, sending your energy out to fill it. So the thing to keep in mind here is that it does take a great deal of energy to fill a space with your presence, so on the day of the interview? That might not be a good time to practice in that morning, but the day before would be excellent. You go grocery shopping on Sunday.
You walk in and simply being aware of how big that huge grocery store is and opening up your body language and sending your energy to all 4 corners. It’s a little woo but when you try it or when you see it, you can tell in other people how much space they’re aware of and how much they’re claiming. And then on the day of the interview when you go in, I suggest keeping quiet, physically quiet, and then when you walk in, opening that up and taking in that space.
Okay. What’s your best tip for sharing that energy when you walk into that room and sending that energy out? How can people do that?
Sharing the energy…let’s see, I would, again, make eye contact with everyone, that’s kind of a basic tip and smile. And then I would say, the open body language really, really helps. If you’re nervous or anxious, it’s natural to want to pull in and be small. That’s your fight or flight or freeze response, make yourself as small as possible, but that doesn’t communicate confidence. It communicates that you feel threatened and it’s natural to feel threatened when you go into a job interview like I said, there’s a lot on the line sometimes. So instead, if you can, open up your shoulders, put your shoulders back a little bit, stand up tall, feel both feet on the ground, and simply keep your arms away from…you know, no crossed arms, don’t put them in your pockets but have them open, available to move around when you’re gesturing.
Those types of things really communicate an openness which then communicates confidence.
Any tips for stretches or exercises that can both limber you up and help you show that energy that you said is so important?
Absolutely, there are lots of yoga poses out there that do that. One of the things that I like to do with clients is we’ll stand up and I’ll just have them put their arms to their sides and then reach out in front of them and then reach up as high as they can and then we’ll go through it numerous times and each time, we’ll just be aware of greater senses of space. Reaching out in front while looking at the wall in front of you and then reaching up to the sky while looking at the ceiling and then even going beyond. Reach out in front and what’s on the other side of that wall? Reach up to the ceiling, what’s beyond the ceiling? And you will feel this sense of openness and energy kind of go through you and open up that space.
You’re not slamming down 2 or 3 espressos before you walk into the room or maybe having a candy bar?
No. You could do that, but that might lead to jitters as opposed to actual grounded confidence and power though.
I know from your articles, you say rituals are an important part of preparation, can you talk about that? The kind of rituals that you recommend people pay attention to before they walk into that interview room, Rachel?
Sure, there are several things that I do, for example, before presentations that I find really help me get grounded and also prepare for that and for different people, it’s different things. You have to find something that you can incorporate that feels natural to you and also works but deep breathing is one that I think probably everyone can benefit from. And I don’t just mean before you walk into the door, you take a nice deep breath, but actually taking a few minutes to close your eyes and practice that deep, diaphragmatic breathing where you can actually see your abdomen going in and out. That will provide you with chemicals of calmness and it releases hormones, the adrenaline hormones, so that’s one.
Another one is power poses. If you’re familiar with Amy Cuddy’s power poses, I do those before presentations and you can do it in the bathroom, you can do it at home before you leave, or whatnot. All of these are things that are good to practice daily, I would say, while you’re in a job search. It helps keep your mind sharp and also your mood because that can get demoralizing after a while if you’ve had a few rejections and these are things that help your mental health as well as your preparation for the specific interview.
Good, well, I want to talk more about preparation because we haven’t talked about mindset and I want to touch on that but we’re going to take a quick break and when we come back, we’ll continue our conversation with Rachel Beohm.
Preparation helps you own the room when you interview. It also makes a big difference when you to talk about money with a hiring manager.
Are you ready for a conversation about salary when you look for work? I’ve got a new free guide that can help. It’s called How to Talk About Money in an Interview.
Get your copy today. Go to macslist.org/money.
Many job seekers feel awkward discussing salary. Even worse, some applicants don’t have a good understanding of what employers might pay.
Does this sound like you?
In How to Talk About Money in an Interview, we show you how to learn what a job typically pays before you apply for the position.
And we give tips you can use to talk to an employer about money, benefits, and office culture.
Wouldn’t you like to have that advice before you walk into the interview room?
Get your copy of our free guide today. Go to macslist.org/money.
The starting salary you accept affects your future earnings for years to come. So you don’t want to take a lowball offer. Learn how to get the highest figure possible.
Download How to Talk About Money in a Job Interview. Go to macslist.org/money.
Now, let’s get back to the show.
We’re back in the Mac’s List studio. I’m talking with Rachel Beohm. She’s an executive coach and speaker.
Rachel, before the break we were talking about how to own the room during a job interview and you gave some very practical tips about stretches and rituals and other steps that people can take before coming into that conversation with an employer. But I also want to touch on mindset because I know, again, from your articles that that is an important factor.
Can you talk more about what you mean by mindset and why that matters in helping someone both get ready and own that job…or that room, rather, during a job interview?
Well, absolutely. “Own the job” is actually a good slip there because I would say that’s part of it is often job seekers go into an interview and they see it as an interrogation. They see it very much as a one way street that they’re sort of on; it’s an evaluation, not only of their job skills but so often they see it as an evaluation of who they are as a person, their self worth, like, their whole identity is on the line here as they’re going into this job interview.
A couple of things that come to mind immediately; one is, simply being willing to let this be a slice of your life and not the whole, be-all, end-all, I am a failure at everything if I don’t get a job offer, if I don’t get moved to the next round, putting it in context really helps. That’s part of the mindset piece.
Another thing is remembering that it’s a conversation. It’s not a one-way interrogation and you’re interviewing them just as much as they’re interviewing you. What if they offer you the job and it’s awful and you hate it? I mean, you have to find out whether or not this is a place you want to work just as much as they’re finding out whether or not you’re someone they would like to have working for them. And on top of that, I would say, demonstrating or thinking about how you would be if you already had the job. Do you belong there? Can you walk into that room and sit down as if you belong there? Because someday you might. Someday that might be where you live, or work, well, with the way we live in work so much nowadays, sometimes it’s the same thing.
I see your point.
Yeah, right, you might be working there so can you show up as someone who belongs and that starts in the mind, absolutely.
I love those points because you’re right, so many people, particularly at the start of their career, walk into that room and they think it is an interrogation and not a conversation. I’m thinking, too, Rachel, about people who have been looking for a long time, they’re getting discouraged, what are your…what’s your advice about how to address that discouragement? In order to display the kind of confidence and energy that is going to help somebody own that room.
I think you’re right, that is really hard when you’ve been getting rejection after rejection or just there aren’t a lot of options out there, and then sometimes people walk in, especially if they’re changing careers. You know, there’s a lot of things that can go into how comfortable a person feels about themselves when they’re in that room, so again I would say, putting it into context and remembering who you are as a person, what it is about yourself that you value. That can get lost over the course of a job search.
It’s so easy to think in terms of what employers want, putting your best foot forward, and sometimes it’s hard to keep your core self in mind and so reminding yourself of that, what your values are, what you stand for, who loves you, it should at least be you, right? You love yourself and if not, that’s something to work on because that’s going to carry you through those rough times that come during a job search.
We’ve talked about the preparation that people, you recommend, do and what happens after you walk into that room and you sit down, paying attention to your body language.
What do you recommend people pay attention to as they look at either the one person or perhaps several interviewers? Particularly if they see negative body language, crossed arms or frowns or looks of boredom or people glancing at their watch.
Well, the first thing I always say is, you’re not a mind reader, so don’t read too much into what you see as “negative” in other people. Certainly, if you see that, you can try another tack, you can modify your approach a little bit and see if that gets a different reaction.
However, there are a lot of people, and I am one of them, which is why I know this, if they’re very focused and they’re thinking about what you’re saying, they may end up with a furrowed brow, a bit of a frown on their face type of thing. I’ve actually had people ask me, “Were you upset with what I was saying or was that just the thinking face?”
I could tell you story after story of people who thought they saw negative body language from someone else and that’s not what it was at all and that’s happened to me many times. I specifically remember one presentation where there was a lady who was just frowning at me the whole time and I chose not to let it derail me, but at first it really did and then afterward she was the first person in line to come up and say, “That was so great, that was so important, thank you so much.” It just made an impact.
So, definitely, if you see consistent, negative body language, which I would say people are shaking their heads or crossing their arms or especially if there’s a baseline shift where it was positive and now it’s negative, then you need to modify your approach to deal with that. But you don’t know the baseline when you’re heading into an open room, so don’t make up stories. Don’t let it derail you if you see negative body language.
If you need to make that shift, what tips do you have for listeners about how to deal with some negative body language?
Well, the first thing to keep in mind is to actually shift yourself. So if you see…if there’s a shift in the room, then actually move a little bit in your chair. Just change your posture, whatever, while you kind of glance down maybe and then look back up. That can, it’s almost like a break and it’s a fresh start, we’re starting over.
Kind of like hitting the reset button.
Exactly, it’s very subtle and yet it’s very effective, so do that and then come up with a fresh demeanor and move on to, it’s…sometimes you don’t know what you said or did that was wrong but be ready to answer the next question and get back to the positive.
Okay, and I’m guessing you shouldn’t ignore, if it’s a small group of people, that person. You want to engage them through eye contact, and other forms of body language as well.
Absolutely, everyone, and again, if you have a big sense of space it makes it a lot easier to peripherally keep everyone in mind even though you might not want to be making eye contact with all of them. They can sense if you’re aware of their presence or not.
What about listeners who might be shy or feel awkward, and eye contact can be uncomfortable and while you’ve given great tips about things everyone can do, any special advice for introverts or shy people?
Baby steps is what I would say there. And as someone who is highly introverted myself, I can say that it absolutely can be difficult and yet it also is overcomeable. Eye contact is…even if you can make a quick glance at people, you don’t have to maintain it for the whole time, in fact, no one does. No one looks at someone else the entire time; it’s creepy if you actually do that, so just give them a glance now and then. Especially if you’re talking about something positive. That can go a long way.
Taking those baby steps. Just sitting up a little bit taller, giving a little bit firmer handshake, opening up a little bit, those go a long way.
What about voice, Rachel? It matters a lot and I know some people are concerned about upspeak, you know. Talk to our listeners about voice, why it matters and what they should pay attention to.
Absolutely, so, upspeak, or uptalk, as it is sometimes referred to, is when you curl your voice up at the end of your statements, all the time. Even when you’re not asking a question, it sounds like you’re asking a question, like that, and it can be very annoying but many, many people do it and it diminishes your credibility. When you’re in a job interview, certainly there are appropriate times when you want to curl your voice up at the ends of statements. For example, if you are actually asking a question but in general, when you are stating your expertise, when you’re stating why you’re a good candidate for the position, you want to have what I refer to as the authoritative voice pattern which curls down at the end of statements. What that says is, this is not negotiable, it’s not up for debate, I’m not asking for your input, I’m just telling you like it is. “I’m a good candidate for this position.” Sounds a lot better than, “I’m a good candidate for this position?”
How do people get good at that? Is it practice, again, is that what matters?
Yes, so all these things that I’m talking about here are physical skills so on the one hand, they make a huge impact, even just the smallest little changes can make a big impact on how you come across to others. However, because there are physical skills, sometimes all it takes is awareness and people can shift them immediately. Other times, if they are deeply ingrained habits, it takes a little bit of time. If this is Friday and you have a job interview on Monday, choose one and work on it all weekend but don’t try to do them all because that’s too much.
Over the course of your job search, which often lasts a few months, maybe try one per week but it does take practice. I often suggest that people stand in front of the mirror and say statements, such as introducing themselves, answers to questions, and actually watch themselves in the mirror while they curl their voice down.
What about role playing? Do you recommend that before someone walks into an interview room?
Absolutely, as much practice as you can get, do it. And in fact, this is one of the things that I’ve put in some of my articles and is also in the guide that I have been working on, practice out loud as much as you can. Even if you don’t have someone to do a mock interview with, if you can go through your questions or even just introducing yourself out loud. When you hear your own voice, first of all, it gets the content into your head better and you’re using more of your senses, using your body in a different way and you also get a chance to hear what it actually sounds like, because the way it sounds in our head is not always the way it sounds in real life.
We’ve talked about body language, what are other forms of nonverbal communication that listeners should pay attention to in order to own that room?
Well, body language is a huge one and voice tone, we’ve talked about that also, as well as claiming space and being open. I’ve also mentioned breathing, though I haven’t mentioned it in terms of nonverbal communication but the way that you breathe impacts every other aspect of your nonverbals. It affects the way you move, it affects your posture, and it very much affects your tone of voice. If you’re not breathing well because you’re stressed and nervous, and your breathing is tight, that is going to make your voice sound…you can try to be authoritative like I said and it’s going to come across as being kind of stressed or angry and then that upspeak is going to come across as even whinier and worried, so breathing deeply really adds to your tone of voice.
We talked about what people should do before they walk into the interview room and you shared tips for how they should behave. When you’re getting ready to leave, any special advice there about what people can do to show that confidence and ownership?
I would say in terms of body language, it’s the same throughout, is being grounded, standing up straight, opening up that body language, and then of course firm handshakes and smiling and eye contact and all those things go a long way towards showing that you have the confidence to be there. Basically what you’re saying is, “I’m comfortable here.”
Great, well, terrific advice.
Now, Rachel, tell our listeners what’s next for you.
Well, in addition to my one on one coaching that I do here in Portland and the usual speaking gigs that I’ve got going around, I have also been working on some webinars. One of them is done, the other is in the process and I just haven’t gotten them up on the website yet but hopefully by the end of the year. I have one for networking for introverts and one on how to deal with anger in the workplace. Whether you’re the recipient or the feeler of it.
Good. I know people can learn more about you, your company, and your services by visiting your website, rachelbeohm.com.
Now, Rachel, you’ve shared a lot of great tips today. What’s the one thing you hope our audience will remember about how to own the room during a job interview?
I have shared a lot of tips and sometimes that can be overwhelming for people. They think they have all these things they need to do so what I would say is be yourself but be the best version of yourself that you can be. Be the biggest, boldest, most confident version of you that there is.
Okay, so go big or go home.
Well, Rachel, thank you for being on the show today.
One of the keys to displaying confidence in the interview room is to know your value. Rachel made that point and I agree with it wholeheartedly. When you walk into that room, you bring so many skills, experiences, and perspectives that are invaluable to an employer so when you sit down in that chair, you’re not there for an interrogation, you’re there for a conversation.
To get ready for it, you need to know what you have to offer and you also want to understand what the employer can do for you. I think that mindset not only will help you own the room during a job interview, it’s essential to any conversation about salary when a job offer is on the table.
To get ready for that conversation we’ve got a free resource that can help. It’s called How to Talk About Money in an Interview.
You can get your copy today. Go to macslist.org/money.
Well, thanks for listening to this week’s episode of Find Your Dream Job.
Join us next Wednesday. Our guest expert will be Jen Anderson. She’ll talk about how to create a thriving career.
Until next time, thanks for letting us help you find your dream job.
This is Mac Prichard again. I hope you enjoyed this interview from our archives.
Please join us next week as we share through March 3 some of our most popular interviews from the last five years.
And thank you for being a listener.