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The saying "first impressions are lasting ones," means your initial contact with a prospective employer needs to exude confidence. Once you're face to face or on the telephone with an interviewer, your ability to present yourself well and articulate your skills and qualifications can translate into assertiveness and help land you the job.
Choose a flattering interview ensemble that says you're a capable professional. If you're worried that your clothing choices aren't right, you're not likely to be confident about your appearance. In her article, "Lose the 'Frump Factor,' Win the Job," for The Ladders, Joyann King reminds job seekers that what they wear to an interview should be appropriate and stylish. "The right outfit can increase your confidence and make a lasting first impression," wrote King, a New York fashion writer, editor and stylist.
Stand Up When Greeting the Interviewer
Looking up at the interviewer from your seat in the reception area automatically puts you at a disadvantage because you're in the lower position. As the interviewer approaches you, stand up so you're her equal. Smile and welcome her greeting with a firm handshake, clearly state your name and tell her that it's a pleasure to meet her. Establishing equal footing from the moment you meet is critical to sustaining an assertive demeanor throughout the conversation. It's difficult to suddenly become assertive during the interview if you are meek from the start or if the interviewer is looking down on you -- literally.
Participate in the Conversation
Successful interviews are two-way conversations. They're as much about the recruiter or hiring manager determining whether you're a good fit for the role as it is you judging whether you want to pursue an opportunity with the company. Consequently, there's a give-and-take exchange that ensures you're both getting enough information to make a decision. Although many interviewers see themselves in charge of the interview, it's up to you to assert yourself in talking about your qualifications. Don't force the interviewer to probe for answers. Give complete responses to her questions. For example, if the interviewer asks, "What did you study in graduate school?" don't simply say, "I studied sociology." Answer her question, state the degree you earned and briefly explain why you chose that discipline.
Tell the Interviewer What You Know
Job seekers often focus on proving they researched the company by sharing tidbits of news they've read online or seen in the news. "That's great if you intend to play company trivia, but if you can connect what you know about the company to what you know about your field, that's even better," says Margaret Fisher. Fisher is a leadership coach and president of Fisher Group Solutions, a Washington, D.C.-based consulting firm that trains employers on workforce challenges. "If you can speak to the organizational culture in a way that places you in a critical role -- one where you bring valuable skills to the organization -- then you're positioning yourself to be a top candidate," she says. When you articulate how your qualifications match what the hiring manager seeks in an employee, that's an assertive approach that lets the interviewer know you want the job.
Unless your parenting skills directly correlate to the job for which you're interviewing, leave your motherhood role at home. This in no way suggests you should demonstrate characteristics that many typically attribute to men. It means you need to resist all temptation to share anecdotes about your children or draw parallels between your roles as a mother and prospective employee. Given the socialization differences between men and women, you might appear less confident and assertive if you position yourself in any other role than a professional.