In some ways, attending an interview is like a first date: two potentially interested parties meeting for the first time to see if there is a spark, a connection which warrants further exploration!
Arguably, an interview is more like speed-dating – more likely to be conducted under pressure in a limited time frame rather than over a lingering 3 course meal. Like mobile phones and Facebook (!), speed dating didn’t exist when I was young, free and single so I have limited experience of this phenomena however I know of one marriage at least which has resulted from it.
When it comes to interviewing, you have a very short amount of time to win over your audience. It is no cliché to say that first impressions count (we have written about this here
Getting things off to a positive start is crucial – some people may make their minds up about you instantly and so the rest of the interview will either be spent reinforcing their positive first impression or doing everything you can to turn them around!
But how do you know how it’s going? What indicators should you be looking for to ascertain whether you are being engaging?
We all know the classic negative body language indicator of folded arms. Likewise, crossed legs, sitting back in their chair, fidgeting, looking around the room or checking the time may all be a sign that your interviewer is losing interest.
Positive indicators are: leaning towards you, ‘open’ body language (arms and shoulders relaxed), taking notes. From the first handshake, your interviewer’s body will be giving you clues about their level of engagement.
Don’t be alarmed if you pick up on some of these negative indicators early on in the interview – it may not be about you. They may have just finished a meeting or a discussion with their boss, they may be thinking about a deadline they have to meet later in the day. Your job is to get their attention and make them glad they spent an hour with you!
Put simply, if someone likes you, they look you in the eye. To clarify, a continuous hard stare may be an indicator that they are unimpressed however, if your interviewer looks you in the eye regularly and it feels naturally part of the conversation, then chances are they are engaged with what you are saying.
There is an art to listening well. You have to show someone that you are listening and when someone is engaged with what you are saying, they will do this subconsciously. Nodding, responding to what you are saying with facial expressions or an encouraging “hmm” and reflecting your words are useful indicators. When someone is actively listening you will feel that you are being heard.
A smile is often faked but if this is the case, it will be glaringly obvious. A genuine smile however will make you feel encouraged and will help you relax. If your interviewer is smiling, they will be enjoying the interview and hopefully thinking ‘great, I have found someone I would like to work with’!
Call this rapport or chemistry – it is almost impossible to define but we all recognise it when we experience it with someone. In an interview situation, this may be something as simple as using the same phrases/language or laughing at the same thing. It is usually more obvious when discussing your interests outside work when there is more chance of finding shared experiences. If your interviewer opens up about their own personal life – talking about their family for instance, this is a good indicator that rapport has been established.
Closing the deal
We have all been interviewed by someone with a poker face who is impossible to read. I have taken feedback from candidates so many times when they say that their interviewer ‘gave nothing away’ and this is a proven technique for some interviewers. However, you will often find that if it has gone very well, the interviewer will not be able to help themselves! They may give some definitive feedback or make it clear that you will be invited back for the next stage. In some cases, they will get so carried away that they will make an offer there and then – be wary if this happens and, while being suitably grateful and pleased, suggest that you need to discuss with your family and will give them an answer asap.
Chances are, your gut reaction will let you know whether it has gone well however, take heed – I know of one candidate many years ago who was so pleased with how their interview went, they hugged the interviewer on their way out! Probably wise to keep Public Displays of Affection out of the interview process...