Projecting Your Gravitas: A Key to Winning the Job

I’ve coached hundreds of school leaders and teachers about the importance of presenting oneself in a confident manner during an interview. This is called “gravitas”; that is ability to project self-confidence, influence, credibility, and command respect. When you speak, do others listen? Do not confuse gravitas with arrogance. People who project gravitas should also be thoughtful; they think before they speak and enhance the conversation by adding. Be mindful that the court jester never becomes the king or the queen.

In seeking a position as a school leader or a teacher, you must convince your potential supervisors that you are the kind of person who brings a certain bearing to the position. The teacher represents the adult leader in the classroom. In the context of a job interview, here are several methods to project your gravitas:

1. Be present, listen, and speak once you’ve formulated a response

People with gravitas are attentive to the core of the interviewers’ questions, the underlying issues and agendas. So, during an interview, take a moment to formulate a thoughtful and relevant response, and draw upon your self-assurance that your response will have value. This can be done quietly without trying to show off that you’re the smartest person that they will interview. Be respectful of the people around the table who may be more accomplished and experienced than you. But be confident that your thoughts have value too.

2. Demonstrate deep understanding

Your challenge is to put forth relevant information and ideas that demonstrate deep understanding. Someone who is self-confident and secure treats everyone with respect, even some panelists who might challenge your answers and might not treat you with respect. Never appear combative or show irritation.

Remember the lyrics to the old song, “You’re got to know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em …”. Be mindful about timing what to say, when to say it, and what not to say. Try to make your ideas concise, on point, and clear. Don’t repeat yourself. Only when necessary, ask questions to clarify what is being asked, but keep answers on topic, and avoid providing a long context and introductions to your answers. Do not view questions as “gotcha” opportunities. Your goal should be to try to guide the process in productive directions.

3. Communicate like an adult

As an employer, I want to hire professionals—adults. People with gravitas speak like adults. Too many young people saturate their sentences with word fillers and phrases such as “like”, “you know”, “at the end of the day”, “to be honest,” and “in reference to”. You know what I mean! Also, avoid ending your sentences with an upward inflection to your voice as if you’re asking a question rather than making a statement. You want to be taken seriously. Therefore, you cannot just dress and look like a professional, you must also sound like a professional.

4. Do not confuse confidence with arrogance

There is a thin line separating arrogance and gravitas. Arrogance means that you’re perceived as coming across as overbearing, conceited, a know it all, someone who has a lot to say but really offers little in the way of substance. Most of us are repelled by arrogance in others. To me, the opposite of arrogance is modesty. Oftentimes, less is more. We admire wisdom. I once asked an extremely successful businessperson about his newest venture. He described his new business in one sentence. I commented, “You did that in one sentence.” He smiled politely and responded, “If you can’t explain something in one sentence, then you don’t understand what you’re talking about”. That’s gravitas.

5. Monitor yourself

How are my responses being received? Is my audience hearing me? Are they resonating with my ideas?  Are they nodding and smiling? Exercising your gravitas is not a trick—it’s a matter of being effective. When gravitas is lacking, people notice, and when it’s there, it’s magic.

When you walk away from the table, you want your audience to say, “That candidate really held our attention and was most impressive.

Dr. Aronstein is a career coach who works one-on-one with leaders and aspiring leaders in developing their resume and preparing for job interviews. Learn more: www.larryaronstein.com

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