One of the most common questions that anyone in non-verbal communications gets asked is “How should I act at an interview?”
My response is usually that you shouldn’t be acting at all. Though I appreciate this is not what they were really getting at. Though it is something that is worth bearing in mind.
When you go for an interview you would expect that the person interviewing you would be honest with you, answer your questions truthfully and give you a real understanding of what the new job role would be about “warts and all”. Would it not be fair to extend them the same courtesy? When someone is looking for a person to fill a role they need to make sure they are getting the right person for the job. If someone decided to fib on their application or at interview, you would not have been honest with your prospect employer, but most certainly you would not have been honest with yourself. You may even end up accepted into a role that you are just not suited for and out of your depth.
It is obvious that the real question should be, “How do I give the best impression of myself at interview?” That is a different story. Here are some hints and tips, by no means an exhaustive list but food for thought.
- Everyone gets nervous at an interview. When there is a risk involved anxiety is heightened, and in applying for a job you have a risk element to it. Fail to impress and you will go away with out the job, you will have missed out on a chance at personal gain. Try and look at thinks objectively. If you are not successful at interview you are in no worse position that you are at the moment. I am not suggesting you are completely blasé about things but accept things for what they are don’t focus on the ifs and buts.
- Offer you hand to the interviewer on first meeting them and greet them by name if at all possible. Make sure you have had an opportunity to dry your hands before meeting. Sweaty palms are not pleasant and watching someone rub their hands on their clothes to dry them is a sure give away of nerves.
- Wait until you are invited to sit before doing so. Sit with a good posture, but not too rigid and face the interviewer directly. Turning to the side is a defensive posture and can make you seem closed. If you are feeling nervous you can subtly adjust your posture to the side, this should help you feel more comfortable but take care not to over-extend this.
- Try not to fidget. This makes you look very nervous or like a five-year old in need of the toilet. Focus on your body in a way that does not detract from what you are doing in the interview. Fold your hands loosely with your fingers laced together in your lap with your thumbs pressed together. This is a good neutral posture and should give you a focus, it will also reduce the chance of excessive manipulators being shown. Be warned though, leaning forward and putting your hands on the desk is a territorial display.
- Regulate your breathing. When we are emotionally aroused our respiration rate tends to increase. This can become very obvious when you are speaking, making your conversation stilted and even slightly asthmatic. If you are prone to this behaviour, pause and take a slow breath before starting to speak. Take care not to over emphasise this pause though. I saw a very bad example of this behaviour during the recent interviews with a certain Media Mogul. Over extend the pauses and you come off as either disinterested or clueless.
- Taking a more relaxed posture can help reduce some of the tension, this is fine to do as the interview progresses, but remember to stay attentive. Being upright and rigid can come across as very tense. If the chair has arms lean one elbow on the arm and drop the shoulder slightly. This will give you a much more relaxed look and will also make you feel more relaxed with it.
- Don’t be afraid of using illustrators, but don’t fabricate them. Remember a genuine illustrator has a tempo that matches the speech and underlines or emphasises phrases in the speech. Let them flow naturally but don’t let them get out of control.
Remember, most interviewers will be expecting you to be nervous anyway, so a little trepidation is fine, as long as you are not a gibbering pile of nerves and sinew. Also consider that these are very general guidelines and should be suitable for most situations. However, a sales role may expect you to be far more aggressive in your attitude and posture, and confident in your delivery.
Also consider that even if you don’t get past this interview it is a chance to learn and practice, and always thank your interviewer for their time and part with a handshake.