Captivate the Interviewer
Copyright © 2007 AspirationsResume.com
An impressive resume won’t get you a job. It will get you great interviews, but not the position itself because employers hire people, not qualifications. You could be the most accomplished, Nobel Prize winning candidate in the world, but if the hiring manager instinctively responds negatively to your physical presentation, you will not receive a job offer. This is not entirely unfair when you consider the fact that qualifications don’t matter much if you are not a strong personal fit for the company, and more importantly, your future boss.
Most employers will admit that they make their hiring decision within a few minutes of meeting you. Some statistics state that it only takes 20 seconds for an employer to size you up. For better or worse, charisma is king during the job interview.
Make the best possible first impression: It is imperative that you establish a personal connection with the interviewer immediately and make it clear that you are a trustworthy team player who will be a good fit for the department. This is very easy to do during the initial introduction. Simply look directly into the interviewer’s eyes, flash a sincere and natural smile, give a firm and dry handshake, and envision being genuinely pleased to meet this person. You’ll know the connection has been made if your smile is returned in a comfortable, natural manner. To follow proper interviewing etiquette, you should not take a seat until asked.
If you make an amazing first impression, the interviewer will likely forgive even slightly jumbled answers because of a good “gut feeling” about you. Regardless, you need to give the correct non-verbal signs throughout the course of your interview to constantly reaffirm your perceived value to the employer. The following tips will help you control your professional image during the course of the interview:
- Mirror the Interviewer: The key here is to mirror, not imitate. Maintain the same overall tone, posture, and pace in order to more effectively communicate with the interviewer. Don’t duplicate gestures or imitate in a way that could be perceived as mockery, but be sure to follow the interviewer’s lead.
- Maintain Eye Contact: If your eyes wander aimlessly throughout the interview, the hiring manager may assume that you lack interest, confidence, honesty, or even an attention span. You don’t have to stare the interviewer down, but eye contact should be strong, consistent, and natural throughout the interview, no matter who is talking.
- Perfect Your Handshake: Again, your handshake should be firm and dry because a great handshake reflects a strong personality. Ideally, the strength and speed of the handshake should mirror that of the employer’s. There is no absolute “too hard/too soft” rule when it comes to handshakes because the effectiveness of the handshake is defined by the recipient. Get a medium grip on the interviewer’s hand, ensuring that the soft flap of skin between your thumb and forefinger directly touches the same part of the recipient's hand. Then prepare to squeeze with equal strength. Pretend you are the woman in a ballroom dance, and let the interviewer take the lead. Practice with a friend to perfect this technique.
- Posture: Mirroring the interviewer is important here too—if the interviewer‘s feet are up on the desk, you should lean back into your chair in a relaxed manner as well (though you should keep your feet off the furniture). However, if you are in a professional environment, you will want to maintain your poise. You can exude confidence by standing and sitting up straight, keeping your head up, and bringing your shoulders back. If this is not your usual stance, then you need to practice sitting and standing in front of a mirror until it feels and looks perfectly natural, because you need to look comfortable and confident at the same time. Ideally, you should lean slightly forward in your chair, with your shoulders back, to demonstrate interest in the conversation. Don’t cross your arms or legs at the knees, as these are negative non-verbal cues, though crossing your legs at the ankles is perfectly fine. Don’t fold your hands in your lap if there is a desk in front of you or you will look like you are shrinking from behind the desk. In this position be sure to place at least one arm on top of the desk to establish a strong presence. Men should avoid spreading their legs out too far so that they don’t seem arrogant.
- Overcome Insecurity: Keep in mind at all times that you are an amazing asset that any employer would be lucky to have. Don’t be nervous. Just take a deep breath, and remember that the interview is to determine whether or not this job will be a good fit for both the employer and yourself. If the employer doesn’t extend an offer, then this person was not smart enough to work for in the first place. When it comes to confidence, feel free to fake it until you make it. If you wake up the morning of the interview with a giant pimple on the tip of your nose, you will need to stroll into that interview and rock that zit! Pretend in your mind that the pimple was personally designed for you by Gianni Versace himself, and that everyone who sees you will want one just like it. Employ any mind trick necessary to ensure that you put a little pride in your stride.
- Limit Your Gestures: Do not exaggerate your hand gestures or flail your arms about. Using artificial gestures to try to heighten the importance of an issue will merely come off as overly dramatic, the last thing any professional environment needs. Calm your arms down, and make sure all of your gestures are natural and meaningful.
- Avoid Fidgeting: Try not to tap or shake your foot, click your pen, or rock back and forth in your chair as though you need to use the restroom. If you annoy interviewers, or make them dizzy, you won’t get phone calls.
- Articulate Your Thoughts: Speak clearly, and do not mumble. Limit your use of fascinating words such as "uh," “um,” and “like.” If you don’t know what to say, take a few seconds to collect your thoughts and then respond.
- Practice, Practice, Practice: The best way to perfect your presentation during your interview is to practice until it becomes second nature. Practice in front of mirrors, video cameras, and friends. Once you are fully comfortable in these techniques, you can dedicate your focus to the actual interview questions.
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Marie Plett is certified professional resume writer through the Professional Association of Resume Writers (PARW). She founded AspirationsResume.com in 2003 and her advice has been published in the Chicago Tribune and the Miami Herald. http://www.aspirationsresume.com
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