Imagine the scenario: In an interview two candidates, both say, I’m the right person for the job because I have good people skills. But imagine one candidate mumbling the words in a lifeless fashion, avoiding eye contact, and fidgeting nervously, while a second candidate says the words in a dynamic fashion, smiling and looking eye-to-eye at the interviewers. Who do you think the interviewers are going to give the job to?
Your body language and tone of voice have important roles to play in convincing the interviewers that you’re the best candidate. In this chapter, I talk about ways to make sure that you grab the attention of the interviewers.
Creating the Right Impact In Interview
You probably won’t be surprised when I tell you that interviewers are looking to recruit motivated and enthusiastic
people. But you may be surprised to discover that most of your interpersonal impact comes across not in what you say, but how you say it.
Research claims that up to 55 per cent of our communication effectiveness is determined by our body language, comprising of our gestures, movements, and facial expressions.
Making Eye Contact
Eye contact is critical in interviews. Failing to look the interviewers in the eye conveys an impression of nervousness –
or that you are embellishing on the truth. Assuming that you don’t want to be perceived as anxious or a fraudster, you must develop the skill of making solid eye contact.
However, good eye contact doesn’t mean staring at the interviewers throughout your conversation with them. In fact, two rules govern eye contact:
Look when the interviewers talk: Aim to look at an interviewer for at least 90 per cent of the time when he or she is asking questions or otherwise speaking.
Look away for part of the time when you talk: Looking away is okay for a portion of the time when speaking. For example, a lot of candidates tend to look away for a few seconds when they are trying to recall an example. Making more than 90 per cent eye contact when you are speaking will probably freak the interviewers out! Aim to look at them for around a half to two-thirds of the time when you are speaking.
Using Your Body Language
You can tell a huge amount about what goes on inside a person’s head by how they use their body language. For example, playing with a ring or repeatedly touching your hair is often interpreted as a sign of nervousness. A slouched posture or drumming fingers on a table can be construed as a lack of interest. Follow these tips to project the right kind of image:
Stand and sit up straight: Lengthen your body and hold your spine erect. Maintain a straight posture during an interview. Don’t let tiredness or nerves allow your shoulders to hunch forwards.
Stop any fidgeting: Don’t give away any hint of nerves by moving around in a restless fashion. Keep your hands clasped lightly in your lap or rest them gently on the table.
Use your hands to emphasize key points: Hand gestures can make people seem more sincere or credible. So use your hands occasionally to underscore key points to make yourself visually more engaging – for example, by turning your palms up and spreading your fingers to indicate sincerity or counting points off on your fingers.
Avoid crossing your arms: Some interviewers read crossing your arms as being a sign of defensiveness. So don’t do it. However, contrary to popular opinion, you can cross your legs – so long as you don’t cross your arms across your chest as well.
Keep your legs still: Avoid crossing or uncrossing your legs or tapping your feet. Such fidgeting can be unnerving.
Creating Warmth by Smiling
Don’t tell anyone, but here’s a little secret: Interviewers often hire the candidate that they like the most rather than picking the most skilled and experienced person for the job. All interviewers are subconsciously affected by factors such as warmth, rapport, and smiling.
Now, too much smiling makes you come across as a manic Cheshire cat. Following these hints generates an impression of warmth and likeability rather than an unhinged personality:
Smile as you greet the interviewers: First impressions really count. So make sure that you are positively beaming when you first meet the interviewers. Project the impression that you are incredibly pleased to be at the interview.
Smile when you talk about your strengths or achievements: Smiling would be incongruous when talking about difficult situations at work. But if talking about positive aspects of yourself and your working life, try to add a smile at some point.
Smile when you leave the room: When you say your goodbyes and thank the interviewers for their time, give them another broad smile to show that you enjoyed meeting them.
Using Intonation and Inflection
Interviewers can spend a couple of days at a time interviewing. And they can feel really bored when all candidates seem to be saying pretty much the same thing. To make the interviewers sit up and take notice of what you’re saying, focus on your tone of voice.
Follow these guidelines to come across as an interesting and enthusiastic – but also calm and confident – candidate:
Introduce inflection into your speech: Actors sometimes talk of using ‘light and shade’ in a voice. Occasionally
raise the tone of your voice or speed up the pace to convey excitement or passion about a topic. Deepen your
voice or slow down a little to transmit seriousness.
Emphasize key words: Say key words and phrases a little louder to make them stand out. This tactic is the auditory
equivalent of typing important words in a bold typeface.
Articulate your words carefully: If in any doubt as to whether you pronounce your words clearly enough, ask a variety of colleagues for their opinion. Don’t ask friends, as they are too used to your way of speaking to give you objective feedback.
Think about leaving pauses between sentences: Remember that full stops appear at the end of sentences.
Make sure not to let your sentences all run together.
Building Your Confidence
A lot of candidates find interviews nerve-wracking. Many of them are otherwise calm, cool, and collected individuals, but find that something about interviews just sets them off and makes them feel edgy and unable to present themselves at their best.
Feeling nervous at interviews can create a vicious cycle. You feel nervous, which makes you perform badly at interviews. But the fact that you perform badly at interviews understandably makes you feel nervous. For advice on feeling more confident, consult Romilla Ready and Kate Burton’s Neuro-linguistic Programming For Dummies, and Kate Burton and Brinley Platt’s Building Confidence For Dummies (both published by Wiley).
Getting Off to a Great Start
You may have heard people say that most interviewers make up their minds within the first five to ten minutes of an interview. And, in many cases, it’s true – a lot of interviewers judge candidates on what they say and do within those initial few minutes.
So make sure that you put in a commanding performance:
- Offer a solid handshake.
- Demonstrate your enthusiasm.
- Make a positive comment.
- Be prepared for some chitchat.
- Wait until the interviewers indicate for you to sit.
Concentrate on making a great impression in those first few minutes and the interviewers may well warm to you and make the rest of the interview that much more enjoyable. But keep your guard up at all times – listen carefully to every question, never interrupt the interviewers, and think before you speak! INTERVIEW
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