Avoid Interview Flatlining: Tips for Demonstrating Interest and Energy

A colleague of mine recently confessed to “falling asleep” while interviewing a candidate. According to this seasoned Human Resources director the candidate lengthily droned on in a monotone voice luring her into a trance. Though embarrassed by her own lack of professionalism, the director crossed the candidate off her list of potentials citing “lack of enthusiasm.” Fair or not, this candidate flat-lined and killed any future opportunity with this organization.


One of the most important characteristics an applicant can demonstrate in an interview is energy…

When applicants fail to demonstrate energy and enthusiasm about a position or organization it can be interpreted as boredom, disinterest, superiority or even lethargy. This void in energy may also be misinterpreted as zero personality and it can cost a high-potential a golden opportunity. Energy is easy to infuse in an interview. It can be expressed in many ways—body language, voice inflection and direct communication. It’s something we all have and it’s very powerful when invoked properly. Think of it this way: when choosing between a static, dry yet experienced applicant and one who is enthused, energized and teachable, most would pick the latter. It’s easy to teach someone who cares, rather than teach someone to care.

Quell Nerves and Build Confidence. Probably the biggest contributor to an interview flat-lining is anxiety. Some applicants turn into a deer in headlights the minute the interview begins. Once concentration is broken, it’s a slippery slope to disorganized thoughts and uncomfortable silence. Take time in advance to practice. Schedule mock interviews with your coach, a recruiter or mentor and build your confidence by routinely striking up meaningful conversations with strangers. Attend events where you can meet new people and practice professional dialogue on the fly. The more you’re in a position to think on your feet the more likely you are to conquer your nerves

Control Tics and Project Interest. Energy can be the most powerful tool in succeeding in an interview, but unless it’s wielded properly, it can also be detrimental. Hyper body movements such as flailing hands, nervous laughter, wiggling feet and talking over others are all examples of energy gone awry. If you’re naturally energetic, develop strategies to keep yourself from coming across too strong and avoid caffiene pre-interview. On the other hand, if you’ve got a laid-back demeanor, don’t look disinterested during an interview by letting your gaze wander or crossing your ankle over your knee. Force yourself to sit up straight, lean forward and show interest.

….But not too much energy!

Speak Softly and Carry Big Impact. Will Farrell played a character on Saturday Night Live ridiculed for his voice immodulation problem. (watch below). Politically incorrect? Perhaps. Still, the skit illustrates how listeners are turned off (and will tune out) when in the presence of a loud talker. On the other hand, thoughts may wander or listeners (like my colleague) may nod off when a speaker sustains a very monotone or flat tone for an extended period of time. Professional speakers know that a controlled flex of tone, pitch and volume attracts the listener and increases professional impact. Another way to make a big impact is to express interest by asking for the job. And the salary negotiations begin.


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