Making an Impact at Interview
According to Richard Maun, business coach and author of Job Hunting 3.0 People make up 90% of their mind in the first 90 seconds. “That time includes you walking into the room, shaking hands and taking a seat, so watch your body language and remember to smile and make eye contact. You want to come across as likeable, thoughtful and assertive, but not arrogant.”
So how to create this impact from the minute you walk through the door – it can be tricky.
- Confident and positive first impressions
Start with the basics. We’ve discussed before that you still want to be ‘you’, but you want to be the ‘you’ that wants a job with ‘them’. In that sense you need to look like a) you are serious about wanting the job, and b) you’ll fit into the team. You may have a ‘crazy out of work personality’ but that’s not what they’re paying for. Universities are still today fairly conservative places, so check that you’re well groomed and your clothing is clean, tidy, and appropriate for the occasion. And if you stand out from the crowd, ask yourself if it could be for all the wrong reasons (the Simpsons tie or the neon pink nightclub outfit – yes I’ve seen both at interview). Most Head of Departments in Universities and HR teams still recommended that good candidates “dress professionally—neat, tidy, and conventional.” A darkish suit is always the safest option.
2. Building a strong rapport
Start with everyone! Be nice from the moment you walk. It is very common, even in University appointments, for the panel to ask everyone who has met the candidates their opinion. From the reception staff and so on. As Maun says, “People buy people,” so you need to smile and engage with everyone you meet – not over the top, but in an open friendly way. “A candidate might know all the technical stuff but if they’re not warm and don’t make eye contact or smile, they won’t sell. You have to think of the times when you’ve really wanted people to like you, and remember how you behaved.” Says Maun.
3. Giving off the right signals
Interviewers are looking to appoint a candidate whom they believe is the best fit for the job. Their perception of you will be based not only on what you say, but also what your face, posture, tone of voice, and gestures are saying—the non-verbal cues that influence how we are perceived. Some research suggests that most of the impression we make is based on non-verbal factors. Ink about it. Imagine interviewing a candidate who looked down at their shoes throughout the interview, compared to one that smiled, looked up and spoke with confidence. Even if they said exactly the same thing – you would develop a preference on how they came across. The chances are that you would choose the candidate that interacted with you more – body language-wise. The unconscious signals that you transmit can considerably affect the extent to which the interviewer believes that you are a great match for the job.
4. Active listening
Very often at interview candidates fail to hear the question asked and then shoot off with a pre-prepared answer to what they were planning to say. Whilst it is important to get across what you want to, you will have to ‘bend’ it towards the question asked. All too often we’re so busy thinking about what we want to say next that we fail to concentrate on what the other person is saying. If you want to communicate effectively you must listen actively and be present at all times. Send the other person some reassuring signals that you really do value what they’re saying.
5. Tone of voice
Studies have shown that a great deal of how we judge people comes through the individual characteristics of the voice—the tone, tempo, volume, and timbre, as well as the content of delivery. Again you might want to recall presentations you’ve attended that you know the content was god, but the style of delivery of presentation meant that you started to switch off. The problem is that when we are nervous or under pressure our voices change. If you know this happens to you, you will need to do some voice practising out-loud before. It does help!