Interviewers are trained to evaluate your behaviours, not the person, but even the most highly skilled interviewer is only human and likely not to be completely objective all the time. So here are a few tricks to turning that to your advantage.
Research suggests that as hard as they try, it’s difficult to break down what an interviewee says and does into smaller components and not form a general impression. That’s why making a good impression is so important. But how do you do that?
- Interviewers get bored. They’ve been interviewing all day, and its getting hard to differentiate you from the last guy/ gal in a suit with an earnest attitude and bland way of describing their actions. Try to stand out. The best way is to be relaxed enough to inject some humour on occasion, provide answers which show your vulnerability as well as how great you are, the confidence to take your time and ask questions back if you aren’t sure what they are getting at. Make your answers interesting and true to life- think ‘engaging story’ more than ‘dry text book example’.
- Be careful what you are drawing attention to. You may think the interviewers are listening intently but in fact they may be very distracted by the way you say ‘y’know’ at the end of every sentence; the way you keep clicking your pen; how you sniff instead of using a tissue. Ask a friend if you aren’t sure if you have any annoying quirks which may be rattling your interviewer!
- We’re all influenced by what we expect to see. So if you walk into an interview visibly nervous, the panel will expect you to lack confidence in your answers.
- We draw conclusions based on what we see, not necessarily fairly. If you didn’t quite get round to ironing your shirt this morning, your interviewers may take this as evidence that you are lazy/ uncommitted/ undisciplined- depending on their own mindset. It probably won’t occur to them that your iron broke.
- Interviewers may slip up and seek to confirm opinions they have already formed. If you don’t agree with something don’t feel obliged to concur; this is your chance to make your own position clear and be assessed accurately.
- Interviewers will be taking notes but it will also be easiest for them to recall what you said at the beginning and end of the interview. Make sure they are good’uns.
- Like it or not, stereotyping is alive and well. You can insert your own examples, but here are a few: If you have dreadlocks you may have to go out of your way to prove you are responsible and high achieving. If you are a woman you may have to highlight your assertiveness and willingness to make tough choices. Etc.
- People like people best who are most like themselves. That’s why mirroring body language is a great way to build rapport. If you have interviewers who are quite formal, you may do well to reflect that. Likewise, if they have open body language and smile a lot, you’d do well to do the same.