I’ve spent years sharing advice about job interviews. My main advice is to walk into a job interview prepared to stand and deliver: Show the employer how you will do the work profitably so the employer will want to hire you.

But sometimes I forget that that’s the substance of a good interview. A good interview also has style and presence. What’s that? It’s how well you communicate. And how well you communicate is an indication of your conviction.

Employers are impressed with people who can and do speak with conviction. That’s who they hire.

Talk to a kid in grade school today, or to a high schooler or a college student or someone just starting out in the work world. You’ll experience one of two things. Either you will be amazed at how thoughtful some kids are and at how well they speak — you can hear their conviction. (You might cringe a bit, remembering how awkward a speaker you were at that age.) Or you’ll be shocked at the miasma of meaningless sounds emitted from their mouths — at the confusion they betray and at their lack of conviction.

In my opinion, our schools don’t do a very good job at teaching kids to write and speak. Some teachers pull it off and my hat is off to them. But I worry about how students coming out of college present themselves in job interviews. I worry how they present themselves when they try to develop the contacts they need to get in the door at the companies they want to work for.

Poet Taylor Mali makes the point better than I do — with conviction. Watch the video above.

You are judged by your presence and your conviction. What do your job interviews sound like? Which part of Taylor Mali’s poem do you sound like?

If you need help, I suggest these two books:

Talking Your Way to the Top, by Gretchen Hirsch.

How to Get Your Point Across in 30 Seconds or Less, by Milo Frank.

(Thanks to IT guru Bill Sterling for sending along the link to Taylor Mali’s poem!)


  1. I agree Nick but here is the double-edged sword, “You are judged by your presence and your conviction.” That is true, and ideally means the most presence and conviction wins out however since most employees especially HR are anything but loaded with both to have IT means you are likely to intimidate them.

  2. This reminds me of a few key points to conversations that I’m noticing more and more:

    Enthusiasm and confidence are part of that style. Do you really want the job? Are you sure that you aren’t going to be sloppy or just OK at the job? Seriously? Really? Your would be boss shouldn’t have to question if you are motivated and want the job. This is what I’d equate to conviction.

    Another aspect is the use of humor. Can you make a joke and stand behind it? If you make a mistake, can you admit that or will you dig yourself a massive hole instead of merely confessing, “I’m sorry, that was an attempt at a joke,” which may open an interesting door.

    When I was in grade school, there were 2 main points to a speech: Knowledge and delivery. Do you know what you are talking and how well can you deliver that? I remember a speech by a classmate about a friend he called “appetite” that was about weight gain, delivered in a very funny style that went over well.

  3. Reposting b/c my earlier comment disappeared:

    What an aural & visual pleasure! Thanks for posting this – must steal & share with other infography fans.

  4. Years ago a manager asked me, “Cindy, do you realise that within 10 seconds of opening your mouth, you send people to sleep?”

    Wow – THAT hurt!

    But I had a habit of speaking hesitantly and it gave the impression I was waiting for the other person to confirm or argue what I was saying. I was a recruiter – so it didn’t instill a lot of confidence when I was discussing candidates with my clients. I made changes. People took more notice when I spoke. This in turn gave me more confidence to speak with conviction.

    So while it hurt, it was probably the most useful feedback I’ve ever been given. The other is “it’s not always about you”… but that’s another story!

  5. Well said and well timed. I am wondering if it is inter=connected? The job seeker is really, down-deep, wishy washy about the job itself. I WANT TO FIND MY PASSION. And that, quite obviously, shows through.
    One other thing might help would be to realize there are all kinds of life situations where one has to generate some internal motivation to get oneself UP.
    Or, it could just be a lack of awareness of how to show this internal motivation in actions and talk.
    Good discussion. This could be a class. Required.

  6. My agency’s web blocker won’t let me see the video, but hey, incomplete info doesn’t deter many commentators these days.

    Nick has two articles that speak to this issue: ‘Age Discrimination or Age Anxiety’ and ‘Too Old to Rack & Roll’. Substitute anything else that causes anxiety in the interview for ‘age’, and you’ll get the picture.

    I recently had a client in my job search skills seminar who had been out of work for 18 months. The first few days of class she was slumped in her seat, looking inches shorter than she really is. She was a defeated person. I don’t think she actually learned many things she didn’t already know in the class, but she was re-energized. She finised the course in November and started her new job with a porperty management firm Feb. 1. We have a large sign in the classroom that says ‘Attitude Is Everything’.