Confident appearance in four steps

"I want to prepare for a job interview series that's coming up in the next few weeks." "And what exactly do you want to work on?" I ask my coachee - a prospective COO from the telecommunications industry.
"How can I quickly find out what's important to my counterpart? I'm less concerned with the stereotypical issues - the 'typical' external characteristics from which one infers personal behaviours and competencies. That's where I feel fit. For me, it's about interpersonal issues. You know, I'm a second look guy - but five or seven times out of ten, the second look doesn't even happen - how do I get that communicated?" "If you think about the first five minutes of an interview. Where do you think things get stuck? What do you find most difficult? What can you do to make the first five minutes the best they can be?" "There's this ambivalence - do I go into the interview hurrah - I'm coming in now, I've got the flag in my hand, and I'm walking by and trying to take over the conversation, or do I go in softer, more level-headed and try to adjust?"

What other option do you have? The coachee looks at me helplessly. Silence. After two minutes and more inquiries on my part, he asks me to make a suggestion: "What do you think of sovereignty as a solution?" He likes the idea of appearing sovereign. "You brought up the word sovereignty - just how do I appear sovereign?" This is the second time we've worked together - giving me a chance to draw on techniques we've already discussed. So I ask, "What techniques that pay into your sovereignty have you already tried?"

I-messages as key

In the discussion environment, the "I" messages help me. For example, I would have said in the past: You should make a plan ... Today, I say: This is my plan, this is how I do it ... That definitely feels more confident. I also try to recognize the space between stimulus and reaction. I ask myself what my conversation partner wants to hear - I try to listen actively and then make a clear decision and respond consciously. I'm trying to do that more and more often; I'm increasingly catching myself actively doing that, setting my mind to it."

Active listening - but how?

Active listening reflects the factual and emotional level to the conversation partner. This form of conversational leadership builds mutual trust and thus improves communication, not only in challenging and inspirational topics. Especially in job interviews, active listening scores with sovereignty because it shows respect for the person you are talking to and, at the same time, builds trust. Active listening also forces us to stay awake during the conversation. Wide awake. During the conversation, you are in reception mode - 100 per cent. The other person also senses this. The results of the exchange are more sustainable because they are more binding.

During the coaching, the coachee develops a 3-step plan:

1. non-verbal "active listening"!

When listening actively, adopt an open body posture (e.g., no folded arms) and listen intensively to the other person by consciously making eye contact. Remain natural.

2 Active listening

In contrast to "passive" listening, active listening involves sending verbal and non-verbal signals to the other person - that you understand what they are saying.

- Nodding the head

- Short confirming comments: "mhm ...", "yes", "understood" etc.

Concentrating on the other person during the conversation. Do NOT stray mentally; instead of, for example, already preparing in thought for the next answer, listen to the counterpart.

Ask the following questions in your mind:

  • What does my conversation partner feel?
  • What is his interest?
  • What is important to him about what he is saying?

Write the three questions on a post-it and pin them to the computer. This way, the questions are always in view during the interview. Or - if the discussion takes place in presence - internalize the questions until they are a self-evident "thinking ritual".

3. mirror to the other person: I have understood and feel good!

Share the content, feelings, and needs with the other person (e.g. via the 4-quadrant model).

Do you have a plan?

"What would be another thing you could do better?"

"Well, so far, it's been more of a haphazard approach. I could do a better job of planning the conversations."

"How exactly could you prepare? What could the planning look like?"

Silence again. Valuable space in the coaching process.

"What would be the first step?"


"Communication - including active listening - takes place verbally and non-verbally," I continue.

"Oh, you mean my body posture?"

What else?

"Facial expressions and gestures."

"Very good. Let's play out the conversation once." We distribute the roles - I am the CEO with whom he will have the conversation: "Mr. Müller, what do you need from us to also bring the necessary differentiation factor that we expect from you?"

Even before my coachee says the first sentence, I interrupt him. His facial expression was strained and negative, and he started with a deep sigh, sending out several non-verbal negative signals in the very first second. In the course of coaching, I developed a mini-training with him that helps him start with relaxed facial expressions and gestures that come across as confident.

"What else is important for a confident appearance?" I continue to ask afterwards.

Silence again.

Away with the softeners

The coachee begins, "I could try ...!" "STOP!" - I say." "Right now, you are losing sovereignty. If you use so-called softeners, these are filler words like: could have, should have, would be, actually, try, but, etc. These words weaken your statements and come across as insecure. A confident sentence does NOT contain softeners. Watch your language from now on. Notice when and how often you use softeners. In the next step, begin to omit the softeners consciously. Practice the 'new language' daily. So that you formulate 'softener free as a matter of course in the job interview."


At the end of the day, the prospective COO has identified four topics that he can start working on immediately and that will help him become more confident. His core insight? "Preparation - preparation - preparation!"

[Translate to English:] | Sergey Nivens