You want that job – there’s a lot of competition – you’re qualified and experienced – how do you make sure the hiring manager knows that? There aren’t any tricks, and preparation is the name of the game, but once the interview has started, there are certain communication tools to bring with you, along with your resume, of course.
What’s the Time? At the outset of your interview, ask about how long the person interviewing you has set aside for this exchange. This will give you an indication of how much time you have to make the case that you’re the best candidate for this position. If you find out that you have thirty minutes, you’ll know not to spend fifteen of them answering the very first question. If the conversation is going really well, sometimes the interview will continue past the originally set time. Mention it briefly and lightly, showing consideration for the person and their time, and proceed by enthusiastically engaging in the dialogue.
Listen with Your Eyes. When you’re asked a question, make eye contact with the interviewer. When they share information about the position, the office culture, the challenges, background details and future goals – convey connection with the interviewer by looking up at them and not down at your resume. Instead of scanning your notes or taking notes, listen fully and whole-heartedly. Listen to understand before you begin to respond, which will allow you to establish the foundation for rapport and common ground.
Use Listener Relevance Links. The interview is not really about you, it’s about your ability to serve them. Adapt your message to the audience by relating your credentials, skills, experience and expertise to what matters most to the people hiring you and to the roles and responsibilities you’d be undertaking. This is why doing your homework before the interview is crucial, and why listening to the questions asked and information shared will make your answers on point.
Match Communication Styles. You want to strike a balance between being authentic and also reflecting the tone and rhythm, approach and manner of your interviewer. People connect on an unconscious level with people they feel “get me,” or are “just like me.” That’s often how trust is created, and we want to trust the people we hire or recommend for hiring, since so much, including our reputation, is on the line. So if the person interviewing you is quiet and subdued, and you’re generally an ebullient and dynamic individual, you may want to tone it down just a few notches so you’re not overwhelming them and creating an awkward, disconnected situation; unconsciously, they might determine you’re just “not the right fit” for the job.
There are tons of tips and techniques on this topic of interviewing, but I’d argue that two communication tools will allow you to ace the interview, all else being equal.
1. Nonverbal Communication: What emotion do you want to convey? What picture do you want to paint? What feeling do you want the interviewer to have about you during the interview and to walk away with as they head off to make their decision/recommendation? Your facial expression (eye contact, smiling, nodding), body language (posture, attire, hand gestures) and vocal quality (tone, volume, rate, pauses) will make all the difference and should be practiced and prepared just as much, if not more, than your verbal responses.
2. Connected Listening: It’s very rare to listen in an undistracted way, without interrupting to complete another person’s question or jump in with a related response. Listen carefully to what your interviewer says when it’s their turn to speak, and wait until they utter their last syllable and word before talking. Cultivate curiosity and pay attention to not just what they say, but to how they say it. What are some of the unstated needs that you can uncover when you listen this closely, and not just to your own internal dialogue of thoughts, ideas, opinions and questions? Listening in this manner will have your interviewer feel that they’ve been heard, that the interview exhibited a sense of mutual respect and that you’re a thoughtful and attentive person.
Lee Broekman is a communication coach and trainer. Her company Organic Communication, brings interactive, never boring, always edifying presentations and programs — focused on communication, collaboration and innovation — to your firm or organization.