In four minutes, you could run a very quick mile, take a tiny power nap or talk yourself out of a job. That’s how long it takes the average interviewer to make up their mind about a candidate, according to research into the job interview by academics from the universities of Iowa and North Carolina.
Other nuggets from the study suggest that interviewers give more weight to negative than to positive information, that non-verbal cues such as eye contact bias interviewer ratings and that yes, it does matter how you dress for an interview. Four minutes is also long enough for the interviewer to take in how you look, sound, and come across. So, last time you went for a job or a promotion did you creep in the door like a mouse or walk into the room suited and booted exuding self-confidence?
And there’s the rub. Strange as it may seem, self-confidence is something we can lose as well as gain with age and when it departs it is often replaced by niggling self-doubt. Even high-achieving executives talk about their fear of “being found out.” However, they are generally adept at hiding it. The secret is to act more confident than you feel because sending out positive vibes greatly increases your chances of getting the job or promotion you’re after.
One way of building self-confidence in work situations is to set yourself small challenges outside your comfort zone. If you succeed the boost to your self-confidence will be instantaneous and you can take on bigger challenges. If you don’t, identify why it went wrong and see it as a learning exercise not as a failure. Self-confidence is highly susceptible to influence. If you do something well and it is acknowledged, your confidence rises whether it is connected to work or to another context such as sport or leisure.
Going for a promotion can test one's self-confidence even more than applying for a new job as your personality and capabilities are already known to those making the decision. "Even if you know you have sufficient skills and qualifications it can be daunting," says Orla Donagher, founder of Interview Tutor. "Most people focus on the weak areas of their experience even though you should never talk yourself down or highlight your lack of experience."
Donagher suggests improving your self-confidence when going for a promotion by preparing a personal fact sheet. “Carry out a detailed self-analysis of your career to date and match it to the job requirements,” she says.
“Go through your CV in detail focusing particularly on the current or last job you had. Within all the tasks and responsibilities involved where did you excel and add value? What experience have you gained to qualify you for the next step up? Did you fill in for your boss while they were away or unofficially manage a team? Did you secure new business? Were you involved in projects? If so, how did they benefit the department and or the company? Be specific and use metrics.
“If you were involved in a cost-saving project how much did it save? Review your strengths. Have you any unique skills? Have you come up with innovative or creative solutions to problems? Identify any transferable skills that would be relevant for moving up the ladder.”
Getting called for interview for a promotion should be a boost to your confidence in itself as it means your superiors believe you either have the appropriate experience for the job or are prepared to help you get it. Few people are fully fit for a new role. There is always a learning element in any promotion. Prepare thoroughly for the interview and avoid office gossip about who’s the hot favourite for the post.
"If you have a mentor in the organisation, discuss your aspiration ahead of throwing your hat in the ring as this will give you an insight into what your chances are," says Peter O'Connell, managing director of Career Development Associates.
“Even if another person has been identified as the heir apparent, expressing your interest says you are committed to the business and see your future there. A point worth noting, however, is that seniority is not a real basis for going for a promotion.”
Orla Donagher’s top tips for a promotion interview
– Dress for the new role.
– Show you are motivated, enthusiastic and keen for the challenge.
– Don’t waffle. Be crystal clear about why you are the right person for the job.
– Find ways to work in information about key projects you were involved in and any other career achievements.
– Don’t be afraid to admit you don’t know everything. Interviewers want to hear how you can make the transition from your current role to the next one. Have an example ready about how you were thrown in at the deep end and survived.
– Use monetary/percentage values to give your answers real depth.
– Where possible try to get interview feedback. Then identify gaps in your experience and set a plan in place to upskill and obtain further qualifications where necessary.