Kathy Lavinder, CFE
Owner and Executive Director of Security & Investigative Placement Consultants
One of U.S. President Ronald Reagan’s nicknames was, “The Great Communicator.” People across the political spectrum acknowledged his ability to command attention and effectively communicate his message. Unless you’ve also been nicknamed, “the great communicator,” it’s probably worthwhile to think about how you can improve this critical skill that will definitely come in handy during an interview. As an anti-fraud professional, communication is a key skill. You must talk with people to gather critical information and then communicate key findings to higher-ups, or communicate your skills and experience during an interview.
I’m convinced great communicators are made, not necessarily born, and I know that many great communicators work at the skill. If you’ve never had any training in public speaking, find some in your community and sign up. The fundamentals of strong public speaking are just as applicable in one-on-one communication as they are in speaking to a group. These include good eye contact, an awareness of how you are being received, and acute listening when the communication becomes a dialogue.
Preparation is a vital key to a successful interview or presentation. Run through the communication in your head in advance, taking into consideration potential questions, reactions, different responses, and various ways to present complex or sensitive information, or information that is simply unwelcome news. Prepare notes because they will help you synthesize and organize the information you need to share.
Here are five of my top tips for communicating during an interview:
- Let the interviewer control the interviewer. They get to ask the questions and decide which topics will be addressed until they indicate they are open to questions.
- Have smart questions in your back pocket. Demonstrate that you’ve paid close attention and have understood what they’ve said. Ask for more detail about a particular point the interviewer made. Drilling down to obtain a more substantive or nuanced understanding will be productive for both parties. Don’t ask questions that are obvious or inappropriate; an interview is not the time to ask how many weeks vacation come with the role.
- Be concise. No one has time for “the complete life story” or the verbal equivalent of a long-form essay. I always advise candidates to answer a question, pause for a second, take a breath and allow the questioner to jump in. Either the person will ask for more detail or move along to another question.
- Give concrete examples. Details and substance are essential to making the case that you have the necessary skills and knowledge.
- Be polite and professional. I’ve heard about job seekers who have made disparaging remarks about former supervisors or co-workers. Invariably, these comments are viewed unfavorably with hiring managers concluding the person is disgruntled or just plain negative. Remain professional in all communications, and don’t get too comfortable with the interviewer. Don’t start to talk as if the interviewer is your friend or as if you think you already have the job.
If you haven’t interviewed or presented your experience in some time, it may be useful to do some role-playing with a family member, friend, co-worker or a professional coach. Most jobs are won – or lost – in the interview phase.