Neatly pressed interview suit? Check. Freshly shined shoes? Check. Coiffed hair? You bet. Biggest strengths and weaknesses answers prepared? Of course.
Sure, it's normal protocol to go through a mental checklist of your look and delivery prior to an interview, but sometimes a critical piece to ace it – like being commanding and confident with your voice – is overshadowed.
Caroline Dowd-Higgins, director of professional enrichment for the Indiana University Alumni Association and host of the weekly CBS radio "Coach Me Radio" series, attests: "What you say in addition to how you say it paints the picture of your professional persona. ... Your voice is part of the overall first impression in an interview."
Dowd-Higgins, who is also author of "This is Not the Career I Ordered," adds: "It showcases your confidence or lack of, and can support or detract from what you actually say if your diction and grammar is subpar. People listen with their eyes and ears."
Her advice? Maintain ample volume, don't speak too quickly and think before you speak. Plus, she adds: "Watch for nervous ticks like speeding up and using filler words." All right?
Ilyana Kadushin, New York-based voice coach and music and film producer, concurs. She explains: "We often use those filler words ('um,' 'like,' 'you know'), when we don't feel prepared, don't trust that the other person is interested in what we are saying and yes, to fill those silences." Rely on your self-confidence to let your words "land and be heard without the filler."
Here are five ways to let your voice shine brightly and pack a punch:
1. Eliminate filler words. The next time you want to insert filler into a sentence along with the dreaded "you guys" or "whatnot," pause and befriend silence. Dowd-Higgins says: "These catch phrases will separate the professionals from the rookies and your ability to converse intelligently is often a test to determine if you are ready for public consumption with clients."
2. Practice with technology. Dowd-Higgins also recommends using your smartphone to video or audio record yourself so that you may actually hear yourself in a mock interview session. Even listening to your voice mail message and ensuring you have a professional sounding message with a gracious greeting should be "worthy of an employer's call for a second round interview," she says. Ensure the enthusiasm level is high while not rushing through your message. Take your time and enunciate your words.
3. Listen to your interviewer. When you focus not only on what you're saying and how you're saying it but also on the interviewer's words as well, you remain focused on the two-way street. In turn, Kadushin points out your voice appears "relaxed, honest and present."
4. Carry authority. Keep in mind that Kadushin says when job seekers speak in higher pitches or end sentences on a high note (as though they're asking a question) it implies to an employer that those job seekers "feel insecure" and "question their own authority and ability to do or say something."
Pay attention to your inflection as well as your core so that your words emanate from a deep, central, thoughtful place. "From that core place, one's voice becomes a powerful tool, reflecting your ideas, thoughts and feelings more readily and deliberately. This allows you to be more persistent, courageous, and deeply creative when speaking about your work," Kadushin says.
5. Remember to breathe. If you're on an interview feeling anxious, this feeling can impact your voice. Kadushin suggests: "Breathing can help us relax and allow us to speak with a full and present tone."
Vicki Salemi is the author of Big Career in the Big City and creator, producer and host of Score That Job. This New York City-based career expert and public speaker possesses more than 15 years of corporate experience in recruiting and human resources. She coaches college grads individually with an intense Job Search Boot Camp, writes and edits the MediaJobsDaily blog on Mediabistro, and conducts interviews as a freelance journalist with celebrities and notable names. BlogHer named her one of the country's top 25 career and business women bloggers worth reading.