By Jack J. Kelly
We seem to be stuck in a loop of perpetual arguing and fighting over politics particularly perpetrated and inflamed by the mass media. I would humbly like to offer a different message. Rather than worry about North Korea, Russia, and the climate (which admittedly are important), I would prefer to be forward looking, positive, constructive and help you achieve your career goals and also improve your corporate life. We will be running a series of articles designed to help you succeed in spite of all the negativity and noise.
Today, on a nice sunny Friday, at the end of a shortened work week (which results in more work and stress for the remaining four days), we have a lighthearted installment of our series.
How to Quickly Connect with your Interviewers – Even if you a Self-Centered Narcissistic Jerk
Before I start, my readers are intelligent, personable, charismatic, good looking, possess a high level of emotional intelligence, and have superb interpersonal skills. My title is for everyone else.
An essential part of interviewing is creating a connection and bond with the interviewers. Unfortunately, some people are socially inept, awkward and consequently find it challenging to break the ice and establish an easy and free flowing rapport with the people that they have just met with. It is extremely uncomfortable for many to turn on the charm, especially if you are introverted or cursed with a lousy personality. You may also be in a profession that does not reward people for their shmoozability so you never develop this particular skill set. Computer software coders and engineers, for example, are better served working alone writing programs without all the annoying human distractions disturbing them. Tax accountants are not retained for their joke telling skills.
We all know people who can enter a room full of strangers and leave with everyone loving them. These fortunate types of people are naturally blessed with the gift of gab – and I mean this as a compliment – while others work hard on becoming engaging and entertaining as an athlete practices on improving his three point shot or batting stance. Now, if you put the natural gift with work habits you get even better results. For the rest of us, we have to work on the meager talents we were born with.
So, for the vast majority of us, here are some tips on how to build deeper connections with anyone you interview with.
Actually pay attention to the person that you are speaking with
Let’s be honest, how often do you engage in a conversation with someone and cannot wait for them to finish their inane thoughts so you could offer your own pearls of wisdom? Answer, almost always.
This may seem crazy but in your next interview actually try listening to people when they talk. I mean really listening not just the humoring them kind of listening. It may be hard at first since you are used to so many people spouting nonsense, and having to shut out the noise, however give it a try.
Here are some tips to paying attention. Put the phone down, don’t look around the room, stop thinking about what you will have for lunch or did you leave the car’s lights on. Look them in the eyes – not like a psycho nut – just the right amount of eye contact that demonstrates you are human and not some reptilian monster. I have a couple of tricks for those who are freaked out about the eye contact thing If you wear glasses take the them off and it will not be an issue since you will only see fuzzy images and not their eyes, or just look at the bridge of the interviewer’s nose, it appears like you are looking into their eyes but you are not.
Use the interviewer’s name in the conversation. Not in an every sentence way but sprinkled throughout the conversation. It helps you avoid the holy shit I forgot the interviewer’s name panic, and it makes the interviewer feel more comfortable. It’s kind of eerie how people like it when you use their name.
My doctor has a chart where she writes down personal information about me and my family over the course of our yearly examinations. Every visit she says “Jack, how are today? Jack, how are the kids? Jack, isn’t your son going to college soon?”, and on and on. It’s so obvious that someone in medical school told her to do this to help improve her bedside manner and create a friendly environment. In reality she is executing this strategy poorly which reinforces my impression that she is not human but a heartless doctor. It doesn’t help when she is literally reading the file in front of me. Remember, you want to be more natural and organic and not robotic.
Nod your head occasionally (not like a bobble head) when the interviewer talks so they see a physical cue that you are listening. Repeat back what they say to you. Not everything. Once in a while, and not verbatim, reiterate a main point that they raised. You will be amazed at how happy the person will be that you actually heard them and truly listened.
I have found out through years of recruiting that your family, friends and loved ones really don’t listen to you that much. They may love you but usually are pretty bored over your long-winded work anecdotes even if they seemed hilarious at the office. They especially glaze over when you recount the corporate jargon laden world-is-coming-to-an-end drama over an obscure matter that no one except your immediate coworkers, and even then, they don’t really care either.
First impressions count. Dress appropriately for the job you are interviewing for. Actually, dress slightly better than the job you are applying for. Cater your clothes to the specific type of organization. If you are at a top conservative investment bank your attire will be different then an interview with a technology start-up.
Mirror the interviewer’s speech patterns. If you are a fast-talking New York City person interviewing with a more laconic southerner, slow down the pace a little. Don’t be too obvious or you’ll come across as rude. No folding arms, frowning, scowling, mean looks or giving an I don’t believe you eyebrow raised face.
Also, ask open ended questions. I recommend open ended because you want to avoid one word answers which gets uncomfortable quickly. Ask the type of question that they have to elaborate. For instance, “what made you decide to join xyz company”? It doesn’t have to be brain surgery just a little tweak to get the person talking and thinking that you are interested in them.
Try to find common ground. Do some homework before the interview to find out where they went to college and how their sports teams rank. Maybe find out where they live or grew-up.
Have an interesting story about yourself to draw a connection.
You want to show how you can make the interviewer’s life easier. Find out where her problems lie and speak to that. Don’t come across as what can you do for me guy. That approach only works if you are one of the precious few that possess a rare in-demand skill. Even then it is easy to annoy and piss off the interviewer if you have that I’m a brilliant jerk vibe.
To summarize, listen to the interviewers talk about their boring stuff, nod appropriately, use their name in a sentence, mirror their actions, repeat back some of their major points, maintain non-creepy eye contact, dress appropriately, find out about the interviewer before you meet to have some common ground, and they will absolutely love you even if you are inwardly a complete self-centered ego maniac.
Have a great weekend!