How can you show assertiveness in an interview?

How can you show assertiveness in an interview?

By Published On: 1. October 2023


A job interview is not just about presenting your professional skills. Your personal skills also play a big role. And one of them is assertiveness. Assertiveness is the ability to defend your points of view and achieve your goals even when you face resistance. This can be especially important in positions of leadership. But how do you show assertiveness in an interview? In this article, we'll give you some valuable tips. Meet us on the casual interview floor and let's find out together how you can convincingly demonstrate your assertiveness with the right strategy in your next job interview. Be ready to be authentic, confident and convincing - we'll show you how!

Why is assertiveness important in an interview?

Assertiveness is a key skill often sought by employers in a variety of industries. But why is it so important to be assertive in an interview? Assertiveness demonstrates strength, initiative and leadership - qualities that are respected and valuable in today's business world. But how exactly does assertiveness play out in an interview and what implications does it have for you as an applicant and the potential employer?

A sign of leadership and initiative

Showing assertiveness in an interview is a clear demonstration of leadership skills and initiative. Employers often look for those candidates who have the potential to step into leadership roles and have the ability to make decisions independently. When you show assertiveness in the interview, you send a signal that you are a self-starter who is capable of handling tasks and projects without constant supervision or guidance. It also indicates that you may have the ability to inspire others to action - undoubtedly a desirable skill in any role.

However, it must be emphasized that assertiveness in the interview does not mean imposing your will on others, but rather demonstrating the ability to express and advocate your opinion in an effective and respectful manner.

Impact on employers

The impact of showing assertiveness in the interview is also important to employers. Employers who hire a candidate with assertiveness can be confident that they are bringing on board someone who is able to withstand stressful situations under pressure while achieving optimal results. In this regard, the ability to accept constructive feedback and make changes when necessary is also a sign of assertiveness and is highly valued by employers.

Another benefit for employers is that assertive individuals tend to participate more actively in meetings and discussions and identify opportunities for improvement. While this sometimes encourages constructive feedback, it can also create challenges if a healthy level of assertiveness is exceeded. So ideally, assertiveness should always be coupled with a good dose of emotional intelligence and respectful interaction.

In summary, assertiveness in an interview sends important signals, both about your potential and skills, and about your character and attitude toward work. For the employer, it is a reliable indicator that you can be active and independent at work, while being able to communicate effectively with others and respect their perspectives. In today's workplace, this is not only desirable, but often necessary.

Understand the importance of assertiveness

You already get that being assertive is super important at the interview. Now let's dive a little deeper and clarify what it means to be "assertive" and how you can demonstrate this important trait at interview.

The definition of assertiveness

What does it actually mean to be assertive? An assertive person can speak uncomfortable truths, express his or her opinion, make decisions and represent his or her own interests. He or she can hold his or her own and is able to persuade others or - if necessary - to dominate them at times.

The ability to assert oneself can be particularly advantageous in a work team. It helps to tackle problems, resolve conflicts and achieve common goals. Assertiveness is strongly linked to self-confidence and a strong personality. It requires courage, openness and strong communication skills.

One of the challenges of interviewing is setting the right tone. You want to come across as confident and assertive, but not aggressive or overbearing. This is where the right amount of empathy and social skills come into play.

Show assertiveness at the interview

OK, so now you have a clear idea of what assertiveness is. But how can you demonstrate this quality during a job interview?

First, through your language and body language. Give clear and concise answers, be firm but not demanding. Explain why you think you're the best person for the job and give examples of how you've shown assertiveness in the past. Maintain eye contact, keep an upright posture, and avoid nervous habits such as fidgeting with your feet or constantly touching your face.

Second, assertiveness can also be shown by the choice of story you tell. For example, if you are asked to describe a situation in which you successfully led a project, focus on the aspects that show your ability to be assertive: How did you lead the team? How did you make decisions and resolve conflicts?

Ultimately, you need to be aware that assertiveness is a continuous process. It doesn't mean you always have to be 100% assertive, but rather that you are willing to stand up for yourself and your ideas in situations where it is appropriate.

How you learn assertiveness

You're probably wondering how you can actually learn this wonderful assertiveness that everyone talks about. How can you master this part-art, part-science and let it shine in your next job interview? And you may be wondering if it's really possible to learn assertiveness. Good news! Yes, it is possible, and I'll show you how.

Development of communication skills

An important first step to learning assertiveness involves developing your communication skills. Assertiveness is actually a form of communication. It is a dialogue, not a monologue. It's important to be able to articulate your thoughts clearly, but it's equally important to be a good listener. By listening, you show respect and empathy. When speaking, you must be able to engage in constructive and respectful dialogue.

This may mean that you may need to work on your presentation skills, perhaps a little at Toastmasters or somewhere else that will help you express yourself clearly and confidently. By improving your communication skills, you'll be better able to successfully convey your thoughts and opinions while promoting a productive and harmonious exchange of ideas.

Building persuasion and self-confidence

A good way to develop assertiveness includes improving your powers of persuasion and boosting your self-confidence. You must learn to have confidence in your abilities and decisions. Not every decision you make will always be popular, but it is important that you stand behind your decisions and develop the ability to stand firm under pressure.

This is not just about defending your perspective, but also about being someone who defends their beliefs and takes responsibility for their actions. It's about asserting yourself and your integrity to others, which requires a high level of self-confidence and self-respect.

To build your confidence and persuasiveness, you can take small steps to gradually overcome the challenges you set for yourself. Step by step, you will find that you become stronger and more persuasive, and eventually you will be able to express your opinions and ideas with authority and conviction. You will notice that people listen to you and respect you - a clear proof of your assertiveness.

Exercises to train your assertiveness

Fancy a few exercises to train your assertiveness? Want to prepare yourself to be assertive when it counts? Then you've come to the right place, buddy! There are actually some exercises that can help you strengthen your assertiveness. This way, you'll easily become the confident and persuasive person you've always wanted to be. However, before we dive into the exercises, we should quickly note that assertiveness doesn't come overnight. Just stay patient and keep at it, okay?

Exercise #1: Practice makes perfect

The first exercise is so simple that you can use it immediately after reading this text. Just take a few minutes to imagine different situations - whether in a professional or private context - in which you had to show assertiveness. What exactly did you say? How did it make you feel? What was the other person's reaction? This exercise will give you clarity about your strengths and weaknesses in asserting yourself. After you have identified where you are already good in this area and what you could improve, you can work on it specifically.

Exercise No. 2: Role plays

Another exercise that can help you improve your assertiveness is role-playing. This method is particularly effective because it takes you into direct, interactive practice. For example, you can play out several scenarios with a friend in which you can test your assertiveness. Have your playmate play the role of the opponent while you try to defend and assert your position. This may sound a little funny at first. But you will see that this practice will help you to be more confident in real situations and to defend your interests.

Exercise #3: Talking to yourself

Talking to yourself has a bad reputation, but it can actually be very helpful in practicing your assertiveness. You can imagine a situation where you need to use your powers of persuasion, and then talk out loud as if the other person were present. Make sure you speak clearly and try to structure your arguments as well as possible.

And there we have them - the exercises to increase assertiveness! As always, the same applies here: Practice makes perfect. So don't be discouraged if some situations are still a bit difficult for you at the beginning. Let's look ahead and keep at it - good luck with your practice!

Practical examples of assertiveness in interviews

So you understood the theoretical aspects and the exercises. Great! But now you might be wondering how you can show this assertiveness in a concrete way in a job interview. Don't worry, we have a few practical examples and scenarios for you, with which you can perfectly express your assertiveness. Let's take a look at it in two parts: Narrating experiences and responding to challenges.

Present experiences and successes

When you're asked at an interview, "Can you give us an example of how you demonstrated your assertiveness?" don't be nervous. This is your chance to shine. You could describe a situation from your career so far in which, for example, you resolved a conflict in a team or were able to successfully push through your ideas on a project even though there was resistance.

Remember, tell your story in a way that shows how you acted with diplomatic skill and emotional intelligence. A simple "I did it this way because I wanted to" is not enough. Show that you listened to others, understood their concerns, and then argued and persuaded factually.

Confident response to interview challenges

Imagine you asked a question, but the interviewer interrupted you before you could answer, or told you something you didn't agree with. How do you react? Instead of flinching or growling, you show your assertiveness.

In those moments, you could calmly say, "Excuse me, may I finish my answer?" or "I understand your point, but have a different perspective. May I share it?" This shows that you are able to represent your rights and thoughts with respect and professionalism, even when the situation is a bit more difficult.

One last word. Be good, practice, practice and practice again. Just as we discussed. Trust yourself and your ability. You will develop over time and you will get better and better at expressing your opinions and views. The ability to assert yourself is one that is essential in your professional life, but also in your personal life. So don't give up, do your best, and you will surely gain recognition and respect. You've got this! Good luck, my friend!

How to deal with difficult interview questions

We all know it: You're sitting there, the interview has started well, you feel in the game and then... Bam! A difficult question comes your way and you have no idea how to answer it. That's really stupid, isn't it? But don't worry! In this section we will go into how you can deal with such questions. In doing so, we'll show you how to prove your assertiveness without panicking or treading water unnecessarily.

Pay attention to your body language

Your body language can give you a huge advantage in these moments. If you are asked a tricky question, first of all try to stay calm. Don't show any sign of panic. Sit back a bit, take a moment to think about the question. Keep eye contact with the interviewer, it signals that you are in control and ready for whatever comes.

Take control of the situation by answering the question with a specific question. Confirm that you understand the question and see difficulty in answering it. Make the interviewer your ally and ask for further clarification or what exactly they want to know. After all, communication is a dialogue, not a duel.

Analysis of the question and structured answers

Assertiveness lies in the ability to simplify and communicate complicated issues. A difficult question often has several levels or hidden meanings. Therefore, try to analyze the question and break it down into smaller, more manageable parts. Then you can approach each part separately and give a structured answer.

Say lightheartedly if you don't know the answer to a question. Name a similar experience you've had and how you overcame it, and ask the interviewer if they think that experience might be relevant in the given context. Or use the opportunity to show how excited you are about the new challenge and how your bite and willingness to improve could help you overcome it.

Dealing with difficult questions in an interview is not witchcraft. The keys are confidence, good preparation and adaptability. Use the opportunity to show perseverance, bite and the ability to keep a cool head under pressure. After all, the interview isn't just for the company to see if you're a fit. It's also an opportunity for you to show that you're more than just a resume and that you're ready to meet the challenges of the job. Use every question, even the toughest ones, to show off your skills and character. After all, this interview is about one thing: you.

Body language and assertiveness in interviews

Oh, the power of nonverbal communication is really not to be underestimated! It makes up an amazingly large proportion of our communication and ensures that your words get all the more weight. Especially in the job interview, when you want to show your assertiveness and self-assertion of your own initiative, a positive and confident body language can give you a significant advantage. But don't worry if you get the impression that you have to pretend too much or that body language is something unnatural for you - it's actually easier than you think!

Index, thumb, eye contact: Nonverbal signs of assertion

Have you ever seen the gesture where someone holds the end of their thumb and index finger together and spreads the other fingers? Sounds familiar, doesn't it? This nonverbal sign conveys determination and certainty. This makes it a great tool in an interview, for example, when talking about your successes or goals.

But as always, avoid overdosing. Putting your hands in this position too often could quickly come across as pushy. And how do you communicate assertiveness without words if you can't gesture with your hands right now? Quite simply: through constant, but not staring, eye contact. Secure, constant glances show that you are grounded and can communicate at eye level with your counterpart.

Straight posture and open gestures: cornerstones of confident body language

We have talked about the power of the eyes and fingertips, but what about the rest of your body? It talks all the time. For this, a straight posture and open gestures are crucial.

A straight posture shows self-assertion and sovereignty. It shows that you are prepared to represent your own interests and to keep a cool head even in stressful situations. But a straight posture alone is not enough. Make sure that your gestures remain open and inviting. Crossed arms or legs, for example, can be perceived as dismissive or defensive. So keep an open and approachable posture.

In summary, body language in a conversation can say a lot about how you feel, how you are perceived and what message you are conveying. By consciously using your body language, you can nonverbally show your assertiveness. But as with everything, the same applies here: Practice, practice, practice. You will become more confident over time and it will become easier and easier for you to use your body language consciously. So, cheer up and let's go! Have fun practicing and good luck in the next interview.

Tips for more self-confidence and assertiveness

So you've learned how important assertiveness is in an interview and how you can learn it. Now let's dive deeper and give you some concrete tips on how to bring confidence and assertiveness to the forefront. These tips are meant to pave the way for you to shine in your next interview. More than just suggestions, they are concrete actions you can take to ensure your assertiveness doesn't go unnoticed.

Expressiveness and clarity

First, how you express yourself is essential. Through expressiveness and clarity, we can successfully and confidently assert ourselves. So make sure to follow these points: Clear and concise sentences, no detours. Answer directly and remain firm. Use so-called "I-messages" to clarify your points of view without attacking the other person. The more clearly you express your opinions and ideas, the better you will be able to assert yourself.

This doesn't mean you should use complicated or highfalutin words. Stick to your natural style. Be careful not to curse or shout, though; keep it professional. And yes, don't forget to smile. It's been proven that smiling creates a positive atmosphere that allows for constructive conversation.

The art of persuasive argumentation

Second, it's important to master the art of persuasive argumentation. The ability to support your opinions and ideas with solid arguments is a key piece on the way to asserting yourself. Therefore, learn how to build and present an argument neatly. First deal with the facts, then explain the consequences and finally derive a claim from them.

You may have heard of the three-step method. Make a statement, then explain it and draw a conclusion. Conclusions are evidence of your confidence and assertiveness. They show that you have thought through your opinions and can make decisions and are willing to take responsibility.

So always remember: clear expression and persuasive argumentation can help you show your assertiveness more effectively and your interviewer will perceive you as a confident and assertive person. And remember, it's not about dominating or drowning someone out, but creating a win-win situation. Good luck with your next interview!

Mistakes you should avoid when showing assertiveness

So, you learned how to be assertive. You worked on the exercises, during the interview you not only answered but also argued and your body language underlined what you said. But there is one very important issue that we haven't addressed yet: Mistakes you should avoid when showing assertiveness. Yes, this is also part of the equation and one that is not talked about enough. But don't worry, I'm here to help you!

Do not be too aggressive

A common mistake made by people who want to be assertive is to turn aggressive. Assertiveness is not about shouting over or interrupting others. It's about expressing your opinion in a respectful way and also respecting the thoughts of others. Remember, it's about building understanding and agreement, not winning a debate. Make yourself heard, but don't walk all over others. This will not make you popular and may even hurt you in your job search!

It is important that you learn how to stand your ground without hurting others. You should learn how to say "no" in a calm and firm way without offending or insulting others. Always remember that the point of a conversation is to find a common denominator, not to pick a winner.

Do not forget to listen

Another mistake many make when being assertive is that they forget to listen. It's not enough to just speak your mind and hope that others will accept it. You must also be willing to listen to the other side and respect their point of view. Assertiveness does not mean that you are always right. It means that you are willing to stand up for what you believe, but also to accept that others may have a different point of view.

It is therefore important that you listen well and also respond to what the other person is saying. Show that you respect what they have to say and try to find a common denominator. If you do this, you will not only be perceived as assertive, but also as a respectful and empathetic communicator.

Always remember, assertiveness doesn't mean that you're always teasing or always in the right. It means standing up for what you believe is right while respecting others' points of view. Mistakes can happen, but the most important thing is to learn from them and constantly work on yourself. Stay patient with yourself and remember: Rome was not built in a day!

How to improve your communication skills

Communication skills are one of the most important factors for assertiveness in an interview. No matter how good your ideas, your arguments or your expertise are, if you can't communicate them effectively, you'll have a hard time asserting yourself. So let's look at how you can improve your communication skills.

Active listening as a communication tool

Surprisingly, one of the key components of good communication skills is listening, or more specifically, active listening.
Active listening means not only hearing what someone says, but also paying attention to nonverbal cues that often say more than the words. It can help you understand what the other person is really thinking and feeling. With active listening, you can show your counterpart that you respect their views. In short, it can help build relationships and trust. And it can strengthen your position.

Communicate clearly and precisely

Simply talking is not enough. You have to make sure that what you say is actually understood.
For effective communication, you should make clear and precise statements. Blurry or unclear expressions can lead to misunderstandings. It is also important that you articulate your thoughts thoroughly. Try to avoid rambling descriptions or superfluous words. Short and concise statements are often more effective. Think about your thoughts before the interview or even talk to yourself. This can help you structure your thoughts and find the right words.

Show empathy and respect

Effective communication also involves showing empathy and respect for the other person. If you try to assert yourself and your ideas by running over other people or belittling their opinions, you are unlikely to succeed. Therefore, show appreciation and recognition for the other person's atmosphere and point of view. Try to see things from their point of view. This will help you find better arguments and also sharpen your social intelligence.

Use nonverbal communication

What you say is often perceived less than how you say it. Body language, gestures, facial expressions and your tone of voice often have a stronger influence on communication than what you actually say.
Therefore, make sure that your posture is open, maintain eye contact and use a friendly, but not aggressive tone of voice. This can also help you to convey your message better and to be better received by your counterpart.

Express and accept criticism constructively

No one is perfect and we all make mistakes, even when dealing with communication. No matter whether it's about formulating or accepting criticism: Formulate criticism in such a way that it contributes to improvement and is not perceived as a personal attack. In this way, you keep the communication channels open and promote the willingness to cooperate. This will also increase your assertiveness.

Improving your communication skills is an ongoing process. But the more you practice and refine your skills, the more you will be able to assert yourself in conversation. Good luck with that!

Your role of self-confidence in demonstrating assertiveness

You've already thought about how to show assertiveness, but now you're going to explore a pretty cool road. This is all about your self-confidence. You see, without self-confidence, it's really hard to show assertiveness. It's all about being confident in your abilities and your worth. Rest assured, this will propel you forward, whether at work or in your personal life. It's a key component to the success of any interview. Come on, let's dive deeper.

Connection between self-confidence and assertiveness

The connection - it's really strong. You're probably asking yourself "How?". Well, as a confident person, you feel that your opinion matters and has value. So, if you believe your thoughts and ideas are important, you'll be less worried about expressing them and advocating for them.

Confident people can usually articulate their opinions respectfully, whether they are unpopular or uncomfortable. They are also less afraid of confrontation or criticism. That's why they often end up in leadership positions: They are unwilling to compromise on their values and ideas. In short, they have the courage to say what they think, and that is pure assertiveness!

How you build and radiate self-confidence

You're probably thinking "That sounds cool, but how can I become more confident?". Good question! Here are a few tips for you:

First, appreciate yourself. Find out what you're good at and what makes you unique. And remind yourself of that when you face challenges. Your strengths and successes are your self-confidence fuel, use them!

Second, accept mistakes and failures. They are not the end of the world, but opportunities to learn and grow. Always remember that no human being is perfect, and that's okay.

Third, set realistic goals and work on them. It is very satisfying to achieve goals, and this can greatly boost your self-confidence.

Fourth, surround yourself with positive people. They can help you improve your self-image and motivate you to realize your worth.

If you want to build confidence and master any job interview, start with these tips. It takes time and practice, but they make a huge difference. Let's go, you're going to rock this!

Effects of assertiveness on your interview score

The assertiveness you show in the interview can have a massive impact on the outcome. Assertiveness is the eye-catcher, as it shows that you are able to persuade and act in difficult situations, respectfully meeting existing objections with conviction. Most employers value this skill highly and see it as evidence of strong leadership potential. Therefore, it is absolutely necessary to demonstrate this ability during the interview.

Positive influence of assertiveness

Showing your assertiveness during the interview can have an overwhelmingly positive effect. It gives the interviewers the feeling that you are a person who is able to make decisions and follow through. In addition, it shows that you have the courage to stand up for your beliefs, even when they go against the grain. The ability to stand firm in tough times is a valuable trait and employers love candidates who show such strength.

Assertiveness not only brings respect, but also inspires confidence. If you can show that you are always capable of taking action and making decisions, it gives employers confidence that you will continue to act responsibly in the future.

Possible negative effects of assertiveness.

However, there is also a flip side to the coin. Excessive assertiveness can sometimes be perceived as aggressive or bossy. The key here is to find the right balance. You need to show your assertiveness without appearing overbearing.

Another challenge is that assertiveness, when exercised without regard for the feelings and opinions of others, can be interpreted as a lack of teamwork skills. You must be able to persuade others without appearing disrespectful or insensitive.

In summary, it is important to be assertive during the interview. It can influence your interview and help you to be perceived as a suitable candidate. However, you should remember that it is important to exercise assertiveness with respect and consideration for the feelings and opinions of others. Also, always be aware of the possible negative effects of exercising assertiveness excessively or inappropriately. However, with the proper balance and respect, assertiveness can be a powerful tool in your interview toolbox.

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About the Author: Sven Emmrich

Sven Emmrich avatar
Sven is a business graduate, DEKRA-certified coach and passionate entrepreneur. As CEO of Karrierehelden, he has been writing for many years on all career topics such as job applications and job changes, money and salary negotiations, leadership skills and management issues, psychology and personality development, communication and conflict management, self-confidence and entrepreneurship, and the line between work and private life with work-life balance... or much more work-life integration. Sven has coached over 1,000 academics, professionals and executives with his team and is happy to help you too.
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