”The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said.” –Peter F. Drucker
I think we have realised by now that a job interview is really a sales pitch; we are selling our competency and ability to the employer so that they understand we are the one that can do the job.
So maybe we need to look at what actually sells a product. When you go looking for a new ‘whatever’; you already know what you want it to do and how you want it to do it. In the Interview, that is the job criteria. And everyone that goes into the interview will be focused on showing how well they fit that criteria; their CV will be explicit about their qualification and their experience – just like that product information on the box of your ‘whatever’.
When you have found one that fits closest to what you want, and is within your budget – what is it that closes the deal for you, so to speak? I bet you will choose the one that you like the look of … won’t you?
So too our interviewers, who needs to select the applicant closest to the company’s needs, will also be influenced by the way they perceive the applicant; and will probably (all other things being equal) chose the one ‘they like the look of’.
In which case we need to ensure that we look the part externally, which means dress appropriately – but we also need to be aware of how our Non-verbal communication can work for us, or more importantly work against us.
Peter Drucker understood that we can be subconsciously influenced not by what was said, but the non-verbal communication that goes with it. Mehrabian’s experiments have shown that we are emotionally influenced by the body language of others. We can believe or disbelieve not just because of what was said, but the way in which it was said. And remember, when we choose something to buy, the final decision rests on which looks better to us – and that is an emotional decision.
We usually make our choices emotionally, and justify them rationally.
This is important for us when we are facing an interview; we need to act in a way which will indicate that we are confident, competent and credible. It’s down to our non-verbal behaviour to convince our listeners that we are the one they like best.
So what can we do, to create that emotional willingness to believe in us? First smile right from the start; show that you are happy to be here; give the panel a big smile and recognise each member with a nod if there are no formal introductions.
Take your seat and ensure you are comfortable. Don’t perch on the edge of the chair clasping your paperwork in shaking hands; Sit firmly in the chair with your files or folders on your knees and your hands loosely clasped resting in your lap. (This allows to you look confident, have your paperwork immediately to hand, and appear in control)
Now, lean ever so slightly forward – even the smallest inclination forward is interpreted as being receptive, while a slight suggestion of leaning backwards is sensed as being a withdrawal. Think of your own reaction to someone leaning towards you as opposed to one leaning away.
Eye contact is really important, as we give credibility to those that can look us in the eye; however we do need to understand that a basilisk stare can be unnerving to anyone. So we need to temper that open, confident eye contact with some subtle disengagement. A slight turn of the head either left or right to look over the shoulder will be enough, before re-engaging in direct eye contact.
If you are facing a panel, then you need to engage with each one of them independently. Do not focus all your attention on the person seated in the centre. In many an astute interview, the main decision maker will often be seated elsewhere – so include each one of the panel members in your responses.
And finally– what not to do! Do not fidget! If you have taken up the posture suggested with your hands loosely clasped on your lap, you will usually find that the nervous twitches can be controlled. However you do need to take care that you do not start to fidget in your seat. Distracting non-verbal behaviour can be irritating to your listeners, who will find themselves watching you playing with your rings or your watches. And once they have taken their attention away from your answers you have lost the ability to convince them you are the one!
Strong supportive non-verbal communication is a great way to ensure that you will be one of the applicants that your interviewers will ‘like the look of’ – hopefully it will be the edge that brings the decision down in your favour.
Michele @ Trischel