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With your qualifications and perhaps the help of a friend, you have
secured your opportunity to sell yourself. Your ability to connect
with the interviewer can cinch the job. Making a good impression
on your interviewer requires more than dressing sharply, polishing
your shoes and being polite. From the moment you come in sight of
the interviewer, you begin the elusive process of connecting.
Studies show that people tend to remember events better when they
are linked with an emotional impression. Whether the feelings associated
with an event are positive or negative, emotional connections make
the event salient, helping us remember things more clearly. Making
a memorable impression on the interviewer depends on your ability
to connect with the interviewer.
It helps if your personalities click and you both love to rock climb,
or if you discover you both share the same alma mater and deeply
admire Alan Greenspan. It helps if you have something in common.
With some practice, you need not rely on external or circumstantial
points of mutual reference in order to establish a good rapport
with the interviewer. At a minimum, you can expect that the interviewer
wants you to understand and appreciate what she is saying-her goals
and concerns, position, expectations and needs.
You can generate good vibes and emotions when you actively listen
to the interviewer. This does not mean that you need to ask her
about her childhood or her greatest fears. Your interviewer does
not need you as a confidant. She just needs to feel like you are
an attentive and engaged interviewee. So, when you find yourself
facing your interviewer across a table (after you have made certain
no stray particles blemish your otherwise radiant smile), you can
be certain she wants to be listened to and respected.
The active listening skills you can employ to connect with your
interviewer are not unique, but are seldom used. (Think of the last
time someone gave you his undivided, empathetic attention for an
hour!) In some ways these skills are an art - but don't worry, you
can develop the ability with some practice.
Use empathetic body language.
Both your words and your behavior will affect
whether you establish a connection with the interviewer. When you
meet the potential employer or human resources officer, you will
want to show that you are confident, trusting, open, attentive,
and eager, but restrained.
All of this can be communicated in a handshake. Make sure that your
hand is about perpendicular to the floor. If you extend your hand
with your palm facing down, you indicate that you need to be in
control-something that can be off-putting in an interview scenario.
If you extend your hand with your palm facing up, you can appear
overly docile. Try extending your hand with your palm relatively
flat, so that you offer to make full contact with the other person's
hand. If you cup your hand, you indicate that you mistrust the other
Likewise, your posture throughout the interview indicates whether
you are open and attentive, or somehow withdrawn from the interviewer.
Leaning back shows boredom or sometimes insolence. It is better
to sit up straight and lean forward just slightly, facing the interviewer
directly. Crossing your arms in front of you may indicate that you
are somehow defensive, whether from insecurity or mistrust. Try
to keep your arms open, even if your legs are crossed.
Eye contact is crucial. Look the person in the eye when you are
speaking and listening. To avoid giving the interviewer the impression
that you are boring through him with your transfixed gaze, take
breaks and look away to the right or left.
Mirror the interviewer.
People feel comfortable when you do the same
things that they do, provided your imitations are not obvious. If
the interviewer is smiling, smile. If the interviewer furrows her
brow at a certain point, do the same. But if the interviewer smokes,
don't light up. Mirroring works not only for behaviors, but also
verbal statements. If you briefly say what you hear when someone
else says it, you show that you are connected. Again, this engaged
listening tool should be used with discretion. Too much can be awkward.
Example: The interviewer says: Our company
has doubled in personnel and tripled in revenue over the last
five years. The interviewee: Tripled in revenue. The interviewer:
In order to meet the constraints of the current economy, we
are refocusing our business practices. We have had to reduce
the workforce in some departments without reducing our client
load. While this means that we expect our employees to work
more efficiently, we also intend to equip them for this efficiency
by providing more thorough training and clearer direction. The
interviewee: Employee efficiency is important.
Ask well-placed, clarifying questions.
If you do not fully understand something that
the interviewer asks or says, it is best to clarify. Doing so signals
to the interviewer that you are invested in what he or she is saying.
These questions can be tricky, however. If you ask questions that
seek clarification on issues that are tangential to the thrust of
the interviewer's communication, they derail the person's train
of thought and cause people to become defensive or withdrawn. The
interviewer will be convinced that you are not paying attention
if you seek information that has just been given to you. Before
interrupting the interviewer to clarify a point, make sure that
you are listening attentively. Follow the train of thought of the
speaker. Then pose a question.
Example: I'm sorry, I don't think that I
fully understand the reporting structure for this position.
Would I have one or two supervisors?
Ask open-ended questions.
Open-ended questions allow the interviewer to
respond as he or she desires and also demonstrate that you are open
to what the interviewer says. The responses might challenge your
assumptions, so they mitigate miscommunication. They also allow
you subtly to steer the interview in a way that allows you to learn
the things you wish about the company and job. The information you
gather from these questions will assist you in evaluating the company.
Example: What are the greatest challenges
that the person filling this position will likely encounter?