Just about every company relies on interviews during the candidate vetting process. Hiring managers and human resources staff do either in-person interviews, phone interviews, or both. Many companies choose to perform a round of phone interviews, then bring in the leading candidates for an in-person interview. What’s the obvious difference between the two interviews? During an in-person interview, you are face-to-face with the interviewers. This means that they are not only listening to your verbal answers, but they are also observing your non-verbal answers. What are your body movements telling the interviewer? What about your expressions? What about voice tone, inflection, etc? The interviewer is “tuning in” to your body language and any other cues that will eventually give them an overall impression of you. While it is easier to prepare verbal answers ahead of the interview, it is much harder to prepare your body language, especially when you are nervous. Interviewers are becoming increasingly savvy in paying attention to your non-verbal cues, as it is much harder to control them. This is why many career coaches and counselors will recommend that you do mock interviews beforehand, so that you can be made aware of your body language during your session.
Have access to a career counselor or coach? Great! If not, you can rehearse with a friend or family member. Here are a few tips to get your started.
- Have a good handshake! Remember that first impressions are made very quickly, and the handshake is often one of the first chances to do so. I nice firm handshake, while looking the person in the eyes is a sign of strength and confidence. It sounds trivial, but it is true!
- Treat everyone with respect. This is especially true when you meet the first person you meet. This is almost always someone in the administrative staff. Often times, this may be the person that fetches the first interviewer. Besides just being nice, this first impression is often relayed to that first interviewer. Also, be sociable and say “hi” to others that you meet in hallways, meeting rooms, etc. This may be your workplace, so be friendly and make a good impression with each person you encounter.
- Voice Tone and Inflection. Without getting too technical, pay attention to how others talk, especially their tone. Notice how pitch and tone may change depending on the nature of the message. Pitch tends to go up at the end of a question, no? These are things that you almost never pay attention to. Unfortunately, many of us become a bit more robotic in our speech, especially if we have prepared answers. Employers want to know about your personality, so don’t squash it too much. There is a good balance between professionalism and personality–the trick is to inject the right balance of both. Voice tone is something that can improve with practice.
- How do you say, “I don’t know?” It is impossible to know it all. Acknowledging that you do not know it all, means that you are asking questions. Questions, hopefully will lead to answers. Employers are looking for problem solvers. Interviewers will almost always ask if you have questions sometime during the interview. This is a great time to hopefully get your questions answered. It shows that you are thinking seriously about the company and the role you are interviewing for. It also shows that you have a curiosity and a thirst to find the answers. But also be strategic in how you ask your questions. Avoid asking questions that have answers that can be easily found with minimal research. Good questions are usually open-ended questions, ones that cannot be answered with a simple “yes” or “no”, or with a quick factual answer.
- Pause for a second or two before you answer. If you are nervous, or have a lot to say, pause for a bit before belting out the answer. A short pause can help you collect and organize your thoughts. It is better to take a short pause and map out your answer than to start, then retract and start over. It can also help you pace your answer. Just don’t pause for too long…
- Work on sitting still. Sitting still conveys to the interviewer that you are confident and comfortable. A twitchy leg, turning in the swivel chair, and biting a lip, are all examples of how people expel nervous energy. You may be nervous, but practice answering questions without making nervous verbal cues. If you have issues keeping your hands from wandering, try sitting down in front of a note pad and pen. Just remember not to fidget with the pen too much. Using your hands to help make your point can also be a good idea. Ever notice how some people “talk” a lot with their hands? This can be effective, as long as it is not a distraction.
- Remember the names of the people interviewing you. Calling people by their names shortly after you have been introduced, helps make that connection a little more personal. The interviewers will remember that. You don’t want to schmooze and go over the top, but subtle little efforts like this one can make a big difference. Do you call someone by their first name? Generally, take their lead. If they introduce themselves using their first name, use it. Calling someone by their first name denotes equality in the relationship. But, if they introduce themselves using their last name…well, your call. But sometimes it might be safer to use their titles or last names (usually in a more conservative environment).