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Women in Leadership: 6 Ways to Rock Your Next Job Interview

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Are you bursting with talent? Do people think of you as a charismatic leader? Are your strategic thinking and execution skills well above average? Do you get along with people? Feel comfortable taking risks? If so, research conducted by the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and Copenhagen Business School and CEPR suggests that you might eventually be a good candidate for an executive position such as Chief Executive Officer, Chief Operations Officer, Chief Financial Officer or Chief Marketing Officer.

Unless you’re a woman.

The study found that even when women outperformed their peers in the skills most valued by people hiring for C-level positions, they are 28 percent less likely to be hired. Why is that?

Per the research, when all things between candidates were equal, hiring managers went with the person with whom they felt the strongest connection. That could present a problem for women and minorities.

Why? Because humans are hard-wired to be attracted to people who look and think like them.

So, if you walk into a room and no one looks like you, you’re going to have to work harder to develop a rapport with the people making the hiring decisions. And you’re going to have to do it before you’re even 60 seconds into your interview.

Luckily, there are some easy things you can do to minimize this obstacle.

1. Smile 

When someone smiles at you, mirror neurons in your brain make it hard for you not to smile back. Smiling releases dopamine, which makes people feel better. And research shows that it also will reduce your stress level. So, walk in, make eye contact and smile, it’ll put you and your interviewers at ease.

2. Fake It Until you Make It 

No one knows how you feel but you. So even if you’re shredding inside, act confident until you are confident.

3. Mirror Their Body Language (unless it’s hostile)

There are subtle psychological cues that we send with the way we listen to each other and position our bodies when we sit. By mirroring the way the person across from you is sitting it is a subtle way to make them feel connected to you. Here’s a cheat sheet you can use to make sure you’re sending the right signals.

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4. Do Your Research

Remember, the interview isn’t just about you, it’s also an opportunity for you to determine whether this job and company is aligned with your abilities and values. If you’re not sure who’ll be in the room, research the company on LinkedIn and comb through its website. Take notes on things that you want to ask about and be sure to note their mission, purpose and any achievements or press announcements they’ve recently made. If you know who’ll be in the room, look them up on LinkedIn and see what you might have in common. Prepare questions you have about the job in advance and include notes on topics you can use to inspire small talk. In this way, you’ll have conversation starters and follow up questions prepared that show off your intelligence, curiosity and initiative.

5. Show Interest in Them

People love to talk about themselves. Listen for cues during your interview where there may be an opening for you to ask them a question about something they said, their view of the culture or their history with the company.

6. Stay Positive

Even when you’re answering one of those questions about your biggest challenges, resist the urge to go too deep into what went wrong and never bad-talk anyone who was involved. Remember: This isn’t coffee talk with your best friend, this is business, so stick to the facts. State the situation, why it was a problem, the solution you found and then what the result or lessons learned were.

Looking for more ways to advance in your career? Join me at an upcoming Women in Leadership: Executive Leadership Skills course. You’ll not only learn how to overcome what may be holding you back, you’ll also work on your five-year career action plan.


About the Author

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Kristi Sanders

Kristi Casey Sanders, DEC, HMCC is director of professional development for MPI.