Your next interview will be perfect because of this post
Congratulations! You got the interview!
Maybe it’s for a new job. Maybe you’re a subject matter expert on the next hot podcast topic. Whatever the case, you now find yourself preparing to go “on air.” Sounds simple enough, right? You’re an expert – either on the topic at hand or on yourself – so this is going to be a walk in the park. And most everything is still virtual, so you’ll be fine, comfy at home in your element. They won’t even see you rocking those awesome slippers.
But then the panic sets in.
What if you say the wrong thing?
Will your voice crack?
...do you even have the right equipment for this?
Opportunities for failure begin to pile up. Suddenly, you’re doubting why you agreed to this in the first place. Not to worry! I’ve compiled surefire tips and tricks to have you sounding like a pro in no time. Keep calm and read on.
(Why listen to me? I’ve recorded dozens of interviews using everything from professional lav mics to the app on my phone. These days, I teach burgeoning creatives at the college level how to concept and record their own work.)
Disclaimer: The Founders team freely admits that achieving perfection as stated in the title is 1) in the eye of the beholder and 2) entirely up to you! Still, there’s no reason to add unnecessary pressure by being unprepared.
1. Your environment
🎯 Let yourself be distraction-free.
We’re starting off with an easy one here, but it’s still super important. Whether you’re in a house or an apartment, with pets or with kids, at your desk or at a coffee shop – distractions are everywhere.
In fact, multiple studies liken the amount of distraction humans deal with on a daily basis to us “playing tennis with our cognitive energies.” This kind of back-and-forth volleying of thoughts can make it all but impossible to get back into the flow of your original task.
So, put your pets in another room, schedule a babysitter for the kids, close the blinds or curtains, put your devices on DND (‘do not disturb’) and try to create a space that’s as free from distractions and/or interruptions as possible.
♟Find a silent fidget gadget.
Thankfully, humans don’t have to hunt for food or run from predators anymore, so we often end up with an abundance of energy that the body expends through fidgeting. But as it turns out, fidgeting is beneficial for reducing cortisol levels, taming nerves, and refocusing your energy.
Feeling a bit anxious about being interviewed? Grab yourself something quiet to fidget with (stress balls are great for this). Avoid retractable pens or tapping your toes, though; the repetitive noises they produce will be captured in the recording and in most cases will be all but impossible to edit out.
2. Your equipment
🎙*Tap, tap* ...is this thing on?
If you’ve done this sort of thing a few times, or if you’re being interviewed by a professional who wants to ensure the best quality for the recording, you might have already acquired (or been sent) an external microphone. These are typically USB-wired and connect easily to your computer or laptop with no software download required. But you’ll want to ensure that you’ve adjusted your system settings before the session. Find your audio settings and change the input to the external microphone.
If not, you’ll be left with the built-in microphone on your computer or laptop. This has a couple notable downsides to consider:
For one, manufacturers only put internal microphones in place because they are expected to. Often, these are inexpensive and prone to picking up interference from within the computer.
Another issue is that their location is fixed, so you might end up having to contort yourself into an awkward position to ensure the microphone is properly picking up your voice.
Haven't unboxed a Yeti recently? Still, you don’t want to sound like you’re in a tunnel, next to a fan, or in a basement.
Your best bet: Grab a pair of headphones with a microphone (yes, like the kind that probably came with your phone) or those Bluetooth earbuds that Instagram made you buy. At the very least, the input source will be much closer to your mouth.
3. Your sound
⚓️ Be willing to pivot, just not in your seat.
As mentioned, humans are expert fidgeters! Normally, this isn’t an issue. But in the case of microphones and swivel chairs, it’s problematic. Unless you’re absolutely certain the microphone you’re using has an omnidirectional pickup pattern, chances are good that it’s a traditional cardioid pattern.
Huh? In laymen’s terms, the latter means your microphone is built to pick up only the audio that’s directly in front of it. So, unless you’re going for that 4D, immersive audio experience with your interview, swap your swivel chair for something stationary.
😄 Smile for the…microphone?
You can hear a smile. (Wait, what?) It’s true. Go ahead and try it right now. Pull up the last text you sent to a friend and read it aloud. Then read it again with a smile on your face. Hear the difference? Maybe you do, maybe you don’t, but there are two great reasons to do it anyway:
The first is how it affects you. Physically, the shape of your mouth changes when you activate your zygomaticus (try saying that three times fast) major muscles. And as your lips part and your mouth widens into a smile – even if it’s fake – you can trick your brain into thinking you’re happy because activating the smile muscles stimulates the amygdala to release dopamine.
The second – and this will seem like something out of a sci-fi movie – is that your audience will be able to hear you smiling and as a result, they’ll smile, too. Mimicking and understanding another’s emotions are integral human survival traits. So much so that those same muscles that cause you to smile when activated can also detect when someone else is smiling as they speak.
⚡️ Combat the crack
Your voice – its tone, pitch, and frequency – are made from a collection of muscles. Nerves, dehydration, and pushing beyond your vocal limits are surefire ways to invoke the dreaded crack in your speech. And it almost always happens right in the middle of a great sound bite.
To prevent (or at least reduce) the possibility of your voice cracking, keep a glass of water handy during your interview. Take small sips between answers so you’re not trying to gulp down huge glugs right before responding.
You can also warm your voice up before the interview. If you don’t use your voice much throughout the day and then head into a recording without doing so, you run the risk of angering the cricothyroid muscle, which controls the pitch of your voice. Since it’s a muscle, it’s also susceptible to nerves. Take a few deep breaths. Then consider popping in a lozenge before hitting record.
🤫 Dress *quietly*
I'm not telling you to dress like a silent film star, though if that’s your style, then it’s a two-fer! We mentioned before that microphones can be persnickety about what they pick up – and sometimes that includes what you’re wearing.
Buttons, clasps, rings, bangles, earrings…even stiff shirts prone to frou-frou (that’s the sound a Can-Can dancer’s dress makes when she swishes it, in case you were wondering) can all be captured, especially if you’re a heavy gesticulator. (Mediterranean folks, we’re looking at you.)
If it’s not a video interview, opt for something soft and comfortable. If you will be visible, go for the athleisure ‘mullet’ outfit with business on top. In either case, avoid buttons and leave the jewelry off-mic.
Now, you’re ready. You know what to do, what to have nearby, what to avoid, and even what to wear. The only thing standing in the way of your next interview is that full calendar of yours. Time management is a topic for another day, so if you can’t book a slot, I’ll leave you with this: consider what you’re saying ‘yes’ to, and maybe, just maybe, do that a little less often to give yourself some room to breathe (and yes, speak).
…hey, you’re still here. 👋 While I have you, if you’re up for some fantastic scripted immersive audio, check out Classified from QCODE, or just about anything from the folks at Wondery or Campside Media.