Interviews : Good Communication & Making The Right Impression
We've all watched 'The Apprentice' or 'Dragon's Den' and had a laugh at some poor bloke trying to sell himself. But if it was yours-truly being interviewed; would you give yourself the job?
We size people up more on how they look and say things than on what they actually say (see What To Wear). So instead of sitting up till three in the morning learning all your words parrot fashion, check that you're sending out the right non-verbal messages in the interview room.
It all starts the evening before. A night on the lash might seem like good distraction therapy, but a thumping head and a dash to the loo won't do you any favours with your prospective boss. Even a few beers can still linger on the breath, and highly spiced curries have a way of oozing through the pores for at least 24 hours. Much better to get an early night, and be fresh and clear headed in the morning.
Set off in good time. Unless you're being interviewed for a job in the next street, you can't guarantee that you won't come across travel hold-ups. It's a real struggle to create the right vibe if you rush in 15 minutes late cursing the traffic or mumbling about the state of public transport.
Arriving early gives you time to use the restroom, so you can have a final check that your hair and clothes look good, and no bits of breakfast are still stuck between your teeth. Time for a bit of small talk with the receptionist helps you relax and gets you familiar with the place, (but think of the interview starting as soon as you enter the building - the friendly receptionist could be the boss's daughter!)
A bit of calm reflection for a few minutes is no bad thing. Remind yourself what a star you are (visions of Rocky or Lara Croft may be a little excessive, but breathe deeply and feel confident that you'll be great.)
The fun starts when you enter the interview room, so be ready to make a good first impression right away. Look your interviewer/s in the eye and smile warmly. Be ready with a friendly greeting, "It's good to meet you...", and offer your hand to shake. You'll score points immediately by getting this right - a wet fish, limp handshake is a real turn-off, but a bone crushing vice-like grip is equally dire (and especially painful for females wearing rings.) Both indicate a poor self-image, so instead hold the hand firmly, but not too tightly, in a vertical position.
Even at informal interviews, always wait to be offered a seat before sitting down. Sit comfortably in an upright position and you'll look confident and attentive. Slouching or slumping back in your chair gives off signals that you really can't be bothered. Things usually kick off with a bit of small talk - maybe about your journey, or finding the place. This isn't the time to go off on one if you had a few challenges getting there; keep the chat light and positive whilst you familiarise yourself with the whole set up.
When interviewers ask questions (see Typical Interview Questions) they're not just waiting to hear what you say, but watching how you respond and handle yourself. If the words coming out of your mouth say yes, but your body language says no, guess what they're thinking? Without getting paranoid about every twitch and scratch, following the guidelines below might just have you bagging the job instead of packing your bags!
Leave It Out!
Don't cross your arms in front of your chest. Unless it's so cold you're just trying to keep body and soul together, this is a very defensive posture. If you must cross your legs, point the top leg towards the recruiter.
We all know that kids mess with their face, cover their mouth or play with their hair when they tell their mum porkies. Adolescents look down and mumble or give one word answers. But awkward adults do exactly the same, maybe fiddling with jewelry as well. You don't need to be a rocket scientist to work out that these traits should be avoided at all costs in the interview room.
Don't get flustered if you're asked a difficult question. Sometimes there are no right or wrong answers, but the interviewer just throws in a curved ball to see how you cope. It's more important to show you can think on your feet than come out with stock answers. They're looking primarily for your skills, but companies want to employ relatable people, so a bit of humour doesn't go amiss.
The middle of an interview is not the best time to get a call from your mate, so always switch your mobile off before you go in. (If you think you might forget, set the alarm to go off fifteen minutes before your appointment time - to remind yourself to turn it off.)
Interrupting and/or correcting your interviewer never helps the conversation to flow. Listen carefully to what they're saying before you jump in at the deep end, and respond at steady pace, not a high pitched sprint.
Don't be tempted to rock in your seat. You're not in your mum's arms now, and your would-be boss won't appreciate it if you break the back legs off his chair.
Bring It On!
Smile frequently. We're not suggesting a manic, Cheshire cat, "I'm your best mate" gush, but let your interviewer see there's a friendly, relatable human being sitting in your seat.
Keep good eye contact, and include everyone if there's a panel. This doesn't mean scary staring with hardly a blink, but 3 - 5 seconds in one position, maybe a slight movement, then back to the eyes again (or nose if you just can't handle the eyeballing all the time.) Always look at the other person as you finish your sentence.
Be calm and keep your hands in your lap. Not only will this stop you from fiddling with jewellery or parts of your anatomy, but it will also avoid any wild, extravagant hand gestures that might inappropriately seem a good idea at the time.
It's important to be yourself (at least, the most relatable version of yourself!) but a handy little rapport- building tip is to gently mirror the recruiter's posture and movements. Don't over-do this though, or you'll look like you're auditioning for a boy band routine.
...The most important fact at interview is that you've committed to obtaining good skills and qualifications, and you have a lot to offer. Picking up a few of these tips will help you get that message across, and might just be the difference between you and the next guy or girl.
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