Now how are you going to act? The Interview.

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.

 

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Emotional Salary

One of the biggest issues that I have come across quite regularly is the how companies, especially larger companies, have a lack of understanding in the emotional need of their staff.

When people start to look for a new job what are the things they look for?  Does the job match their own skill set?  What is the salary like, what benefits are included such as pension, healthcare and holiday entitlement.  But how many people investigate what sort of emotional salary and considerations a company pays.

Emotional salary can cover a number of things.  What support structure is in place to manage stress, sickness and absence?  Is that structure supportive or punitive? How accommodating are the company to the fact of day to day home life issues that occur.  How to they support the work life balance.  Do they allow staff to be themselves and display elements of individuality, or are they expected to conform to an established norm?

The morale of staff should always be one of the highest considerations for any company.  Happy staff are productive staff!  We all know this, especially in financially difficult times, when tough decisions have to be made.  The only way to make these changes successfully is to engage the staff and get them on board to help with the changes that have to happen.

People are naturally resistant to change, but the more unhappy someone is the more resistant they become.  A huge change for a business needs all the staff behind it for it to work.  Remember that the staff are the business.

Disgruntled staff become consistently resistant to change.  They raise their issues and get brushed off by unfeeling management.  There was a quote, and forgive me I don’t know the origin of it, that states “people don’t leave jobs, they leave managers”; never a truer word said.   Staff need to understand the reason why things are happening to them and being told “because this is how we are now doing it”, suddenly morale drops further.

This is the downward spiral.  Once faith in management has been lost, it becomes almost impossible to get it back.

The first thing that you can guarantee on is that when the job market improves there will be a mass exodus leaving your severely understaffed.  You will have to restart recruitment, training and with no experience staff that will take time and money.  Would it not be better to spend some money and time in the difficult times to keep your staff happy and build that loyalty; or is it better to spend significantly more money replacing the staff that have lost faith.

Keep your staff happy, invest in the way they feel, invest in their happiness and freedom of expression and you will end up with a more productive, faithful workforce.  Spend the time and money to make them happy and they will repay you by working harder and smarter.

Remember though that this should be a consistent approach, just throwing money at a problem will not make it go away.  People talk, and being labelled as an employer that doesn’t care may damage your chances of further recruitment of quality staff.   There are very small things that can be done to make the place a happier place to be.  Allow casual wear, make your office comfortable with places to go that are away from the workstations.  Consider your staff with morale boosting events.  Buying doughnuts may be a nice sweet treat, but does that cater for everyone?  How about fruit instead.  Have it on hand all the time they provide energy, essential vitamins and are a nice treat.

Some companies cater out their team building to outside agencies.  There is nothing wrong with this in itself, but who knows your staff better than you?  Who knows your team dynamic and where development is needed?

Outside agencies can give you ideas, support and the tools to do it, but team building should be something a company should be doing for itself.  Getting someone else to do it for you just builds another barrier between the managers and the staff.

Take responsibility for the emotional wellbeing of staff and they will take care of the overall well being of your company.

 

The Fear

Fear is one of the base seven emotions and as such is shared and demonstrated in the same way by practically every person on the planet.  I say practically as there are some rare medical conditions that result in a person being completely fearless.  I will discuss this at a later point.

Fear is an essential part of our emotional make up.  It is there to engage us into action when something threatens our well-being as a form of self preservation and to warn others there is something that could be considered a threat.  Surely this is a good thing?  But fear is associated with the Flight, Fight or Freeze response and can have consequences of its own.  Not to mention the issues that can be raised by prolonged exposure to fearful situations, the most common of which is stress.

Stress itself is not an emotion in its own right, rather it is an emotional state that can have a number of emotions associated to it.  Lots of people cite that stress is bad.  This is not strictly true.  Some stress can be quite positive, driving us forward, and given motivation to our actions.  Extended stress without respite however, this can be problematic.

Imagine someone applying for a job.  It is the sort of job that they always wanted, they would really enjoy doing it.  It is for a company they would fight tooth and nail to get in to.  Stress has already begun.   As the date for interview gets closer the stress increases.  Is this fear?  Not really.  If we look at the idea of an emotion they are usually of rapid onset and of short duration.  Perhaps what is being felt in the build up to interview is better described as apprehension.  An emotional state that falls under the fear family.

Fear is about self-preservation.  It’s origins are in the Limbic system of the brain, responsible for the hard coded emotional responses.  This part of the brain can start a physical reaction before the cognitive side of our brain, the Neo-Cortex even gets involved.  There is no reason to fear, it is an automatic reaction to a perceived threat: surging adrenaline, increasing heart and respiration rate sending blood rushing to the limbs ready to fight or flee from danger.

Notice also that I say “perceived threat”.  There doesn’t actually have to be a threat only something that appears to be a threat.  Mistaking a shadow in a darkened house for a prowler is a perceived threat, once the cognitive part of our brain gets involved and re-assesses the situation it may then be confirmed as no longer a threat.

Stress can be a very damaging situation if it is not handled correctly.  There are situations where we have no control over the stress we may receive.  This is possibly the worse kind of stress.  Lack of control or the ability to change the situation can increase the stress this causes the stress to escalate.

Eventually stress reaches the breaking point.  The body and mind can’t take any more.  Once this point has been reached it is very difficult to turn around.  Thinking about the situation can bring on panic attacks.  Essentially, the body goes into a full fear response.  The body is reacting to a perceived threat of more stress than it can handle, that is contrary to its well-being.

Once an emotional script has been written it is very difficult, sometimes impossible to change that script and an alternative has to be created by the use of supportive therapy.

Understanding the reasons for fear can give us an insight into the reactions that some people have.  Fear can be one of the most difficult emotions to handle and control because of its very nature as a preserver of life.