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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
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.
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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 person.
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.
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
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?
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?