These tips for improving your interview voice will leave you sounding calm, confident, educated, and engaged. As a Career Coach, I know that a good interview is key to getting the job you want, so I’m not offering the same old advice to sit up straight, smile, and avoid saying “Um”.
Doing some research, I found a few simple exercises recommended by many vocal coaches to give a relaxed and confident sound to your voice. This allows you to project the information and a sense of your expertise to your interviewer.
In addition, I’ve learned more about the common speech habits that public speaking experts try to eliminate in their own speech patterns. Polishing your public speaking helps you in other situations where both the content and presentation of what you say is important.
Here are 8 vocal tips for preparing and presenting a great interview voice!
- Relaxation exercise. This is a great exercise to release not only the tension in your shoulders, back, and chest, but in your voice, as well. It can be done sitting or standing. Pay close attention to the muscles in your shoulders, back, and chest. Take a slow breath in, and then hold your breath for a count of five while you tighten every muscle you can feel in your target area of shoulders, back, and chest. Keep them tight. At the end of the five-count, slowly breath out, releasing the tension in those muscle groups. Gently move those muscles a bit to “shake out” any remaining tension and notice how much more relaxed you feel. This helps lower your stress level and improve your posture, which in turn helps you support a lower, more confident tone in your voice.
- Jaw stretch. Many vocal coaches suggest stretching exercises for your jaw before public speaking or singing. Tension in your jaw can make your voice sound angry or aggressive, and can cause you to mumble. Begin by slowly opening your mouth as wide as you can, feeling the stretch of your jaw muscles as you do. Bring your mouth closed again, touching your teeth together gently. Repeat five times. This can easily be done anywhere by camouflaging the exercise as a yawn!
- Stretch and relax your vocal chords, too, by using an exercise called buzzing. Use a V or a Z sound to “buzz” like a bee, then vary the pitch, sliding your voice high and low. It should sound a little like you are using a kazoo. Repeat three times, then take a deep breath and let it out with a whispered “Ahhhhhh” sound. Your voice will sound and feel more relaxed and confident!
- It’s a simple exercise, but it helps manage stress and keep your voice relaxed after you’ve done the above exercises, and it’s discreet: You can practice this one in a crowded elevator or lobby. Breathe in for 4 beats, hold for 4 beats, and breathe out for 4 beats. In through your nose and out through your mouth is traditional, but the counting and slowed breath is more important. This is a simple breathing exercise used by vocal coaches, yoga instructors, and even during labor in childbirth to stay centered, calm, and relaxed.
- Speak deliberately. Practice giving yourself a moment to answer each question, and slow your answer down just a touch. When we are under stress, we tend to speed up our speech, which also raises our pitch. This can leave you sounding pleading or uncertain, which is not the ideal for a job interview. Slow down to sound confident in your own skills and fitness for the job you want.
- Eliminate vocal fry. While practicing your interview answers, keep an ear out for vocal fry creeping into your answers. A recent speech fad, vocal fry is the low buzzing voice used by those running out of air or restricting air to sound world-weary or disinterested. While effective and fun in casual speech, it’s affecting millennials negatively in job interviews and wherever speech and tone have high stakes. Eliminating this speech pattern from business settings is best: Sounding disinterested during your interview is never a good strategy.
- Limit upspeak to questions. Practice confident speech patterns. Ending a sentence in a higher tone has traditionally been the way we ask questions or solicit agreement with a statement or idea. If it becomes a habit, it makes you sound uncertain. Practice ending most of your sentences in a lower or even tone, indicating confidence in what you are saying during an interview. Save the upspeak for questions.
- Be yourself. Don’t try to change your voice to sound like someone else. Use the vocal exercises, practice good speech habits, and focus on using your own best voice. Not only is it impossible to juggle playing a character while interviewing well, it’s dishonest. The hiring influencer who is interviewing you wants to assure that you, not a character, is a good fit for their organization. That’s your goal, too, so be yourself.