Why job-seekers need presentation and media skills

Are job-seekers really prepared for those make-or-break recruitment interviews? You can have all the knowledge, all the degrees and diplomas in the world… but will they be enough to land you the great job you’ve set your heart on?

These thoughts came to mind as I read a BBC News report headlined ‘Brown shoes and loud ties hinder investment banking hopefuls’. A survey by the Social Mobility Commission in the UK found that in the world of investment banking, candidates were often assessed on their dress rather than their potential. Brown shoes and ‘loud’ ties were unacceptable.

It’s tempting to dismiss this report as another example of lingering social discrimination in Britain… that the us-or-them world of Downton Abbey survives to limit the opportunities for smart young people from un-smart backgrounds.

But instead of rolling our eyes and sighing about ‘snobby Brits’, lets make sure all young people are really prepared for the big job interview. And that’s where some principles from presentation skills and media skills can help:

  • Body language and tone.

Audiences are quick to judge you. Whether in an auditorium or at home watching your TV interview, they instinctively form an opinion based on how you look and how you sound. The best message in the world can go unheard if the audience is fixating on your tone, or your dress, or your lack of eye contact. Understand that communication is so much more than the words from your mouth. Practice in front of a mirror. Film yourself. Get friends to help you develop your poise and presence.

  • Know your audience.

Understand their expectations. Some audiences are put off by formal language and technical jargon. Others expect that – and would dismiss a more casual approach as dumbing-down. Some audiences want to be entertained, some audiences want to be impressed. How you dress and how you deliver your message needs to be flexible, but aligned to the expectations of the listener.

  • Focus your message.

Know what you want to say, and say it simply. Why do you want the job? What makes you the best candidate? What can you give to an organization? Where do you see yourself in three years? These are obvious questions. Do you have short, strong, compelling responses ready? Media training is all about focussing your message, delivering that message in the boldest, briefest way possible, and anticipating the questions – especially the ones that may make you uncomfortable.

  • Rehearse.

The interview is not the place to practice your interview skills. Whether you are doing a media interview, a speech or facing a prospective employer, you will be stressed. If you stumble early, you will be more stressed. The solution is to practice, practice and then practice some more. Know what you want to say, and rehearse your answers in private or with friends.

Maximize your chances of landing that top job. Some of these tips from media skills and presentation skills will help. And when you’ve got the big job… well, put on those brown shoes and that loud tie and go celebrate.