Going for a job interview? Here’s how to have them at “Hello”!
Remember the scene at the end of the film “Jerry Maguire?”
The one where a drunk Jerry expresses his love in a long-winded speech to Dorothy?
Her reply was simply: “You had me at hello.”
Wouldn’t it be great to start an interview like that?
The truth is, having sat in the interviewer’s chair on many occasions, I could usually tell from the way a person walked into the room whether they were going to be successful or not. Their body language often gave it away.
The first challenge for interviewees is that first impressions are formed quickly. The average time is just four seconds, and unfortunately the criteria used can be surprisingly shallow. For example, what you wear, how you stand, your facial expressions or how you move. And to make matters worse, those first impressions tend to be long lasting. So once formed, they are hard to shake off.
So, how do you create a great first impression?
Having awareness of your non-verbal communication style will enable you to modify it according to the circumstances. Practising subtle changes in front of the mirror helps. Asking someone for feedback is another great way.
Creating a connection with the interviewer right at the start is essential.
This can be achieved with a handshake, a smile and with eye contact.
A handshake is the standard form of greeting, and great meaning is inferred from the exchange. Interviewers disclose that to them, a weak handshake conveys a lack of confidence or enthusiasm. On the other hand, using too much force is not appreciated either.
Your handshake should be firm, last a few seconds, and be accompanied by good eye contact.
When people avoid eye contact, it is usually because they are shy, nervous or feel awkward with the situation. Failure to make eye contact may lead your audience to make false assumptions about you. Make sure you lock eyes with the interviewers
The optimal length of time is 3 seconds.
Chocolate versus a smile
One of our most powerful expressions is a smile. Research shows that smiling instantly makes us appear more reliable, sincere, and attractive.
When we smile, our brain’s reward system is stimulated. This leads to an increase in our levels of endorphins, making us feel happier. Triggering this reward system can have the same effect on our happiness as eating chocolate!
So smiling during an interview will make you appear more sincere and attractive to the interviewer. You will also get a feeling of wellbeing and reduce your stress.
One of the main reasons for failing an interview, as cited by interviewers, is poor posture. This is typified by slouching, or sitting with arms crossed.
When we feel threatened, or anxious we tend to become more defensive. We make ourselves smaller and cross our arms or legs in front of us for protection. This makes it harder for people to trust us, as they feel we are hiding something.
On the other hand, a confident mindset tends to result in a more open body language. The shoulders are pulled back, the head held high and the arms will be held open at the waist. This creates the perception that we are open and honest.
Adopting an open body language at interviews will make you appear more confident, and trustworthy.
People will form judgment, based on the way we use our voice. The pitch, and the pace of our voice will signal our level of excitement and confidence. We tend to speak faster when we are nervous or excited. And so pace of voice can betray our state of mind.
Be mindful of the speed of your voice at interviews, and slow it down where necessary.
Whilst the range of our non-verbal communication is large, I hope this short guide has given you an idea of the great impact they can have on others. The secret to success at interviews is to have an awareness of your own communication style. Only then can you learn to modify it, and have your audience at “Hello.”
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