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Interviewing with Impact

Posted By on October 23, 2010

Getting ready for an important interview and wondering what you can do to put your best foot forward, pills rather than put your foot in your mouth? Read on for some practical pointers on how to sail through your next interview.

Creating a confident, competent impression from the minute you walk through the door right down to the moment you leave the room can be tricky. However, it is within your ability to master the art and skill of successful interviews with a bit of focused preparation. The secret to being the best match for the job—giving you a distinct advantage over other candidates—lies in your finesse at depicting a confident attitude, which translates into a calm, professional demeanour.

This article will look at how to maximise your impact and get the best outcome in any interview situation. Included here are some practical techniques that you can master, enabling you to communicate in a way that lets your true personality shine through. By sharpening your personal skills and adopting a more professional approach, you will have the advantage needed for a successful interview so that you get the job you want right now.

Confident and positive first impressions

Let’s face it, interviews are not something that we do every day. We may only have five interviews in a lifetime, and, like public speaking, our lack of practice can make these occasions feel uncomfortable and unnatural. We’ve all experienced strange contortions of our facial muscles or awkward, overexaggerated hand and arm movements, which under more relaxed situations would not occur (for example, nervously tapping a foot, biting a lip, or even hunching our shoulders in an attempt to shrink in size—in the hope of disappearing like a turtle into its shell). There’s no harm, therefore, in having a few ideas on how to make the most of a challenging situation. Below are some steps that you can take so that you come across as your absolute best.

The handshake

When you shake hands, the last thing it should be is memorable—if it is, then there’s something wrong. The most memorable aspects of your handshake should simply be good eye contact, a tall posture, and a genuine smile. Practise a grip that doesn’t linger excessively, isn’t too limp, and isn’t overbearing (no knuckle breakers).

What to wear

It seems too obvious to even mention, but check that you’re well groomed and your clothing is clean, tidy, and appropriate for the occasion. And if you stand out from the crowd, ask yourself if it could be for all the wrong reasons (a garish tie, cheap jewellery, nightclub outfit). In a survey of NHS consultants (Sullivan K, personal communication, Seven things I wish I’d known before becoming a consultant, 2009), most respondents recommended that good candidates “dress professionally—neat, tidy, and conventional.” A dark blue suit with a white shirt and black shoes is always the safest option.

Eye contact

Engage your listeners by establishing good eye contact with everyone on the interview panel. Rather than staring, eyes fixated on just one person, remember to acknowledge everyone, moving your eyes around the table and spending at least six seconds with each person.

Posture

An open, relaxed posture not only affects how confident you feel, but also how confident others perceive you to be. If your body is acting confidently, your mind will become more confident too. Try it now: sit up straight, shoulders dropped, allowing your chest to open by bringing your shoulder blades together slightly. Look ahead and up a bit—and smile. Feeling more poised and confident already?

Facial expressions

Smiling, not only at the start of the interview, but at appropriate times during the interview and on leaving the room, is a surefire way to build rapport with your interviewers. Make a habit of relaxing your facial muscles and breaking into a gentle, pleasant smile that’s appropriate for the situation. Who knows, by focusing on smiling, you might actually find that you are enjoying the interview. Your smile is one of the most powerful tools you possess. Use it to establish a positive connection. But beware of the subtle difference between a fake smile and an authentic one. The latter, known as the “Duchenne smile,” requires the muscles located at the corners of the mouth and encircling the eyes.

Body language

Consider what your body language is indicating about you—spend some time sitting in front of a mirror when practising your answers, ensuring that your body is conveying the same message as your words. When what you are saying in words isn’t congruent with what your face and body are saying, the listener will believe the non-verbal communication—pictures always speak louder than words. And our bodies never lie.

Building a strong rapport

Members of the interview panel are looking to appoint a candidate whom they believe is the best fit for the job. People generally like people who are like them. Their perception of you will be based not only on what you say, but also what your face, posture, tone of voice, and gestures are saying—the non-verbal cues that influence how we are perceived. Some research suggests that up to 93% of the impression we make is based on non-verbal factors. The unconscious signals that you transmit can considerably affect the extent to which the interviewer believes that you are a great match for the job.

Find common ground

As you’re getting to know someone, an important component of building rapport is having something in common with that person. Look out for similar research interests, colleagues, or places you’ve worked. Your aim is to put them at ease and make it easy for them to enjoy meeting you.

Match and mirror

If you watch two good friends talking, you will probably notice how they copy each other’s gestures, facial expressions, and body language. This matching and mirroring is all happening at a subconscious level. As they match and mirror each other, they each perceive the other to be like them and this creates a deep, unconscious rapport. As a result, the degree of trust, comfort, and respect between them builds. The conscious mind follows what the subconscious mind does. If the other person’s subconscious mind trusts you, then his or her conscious mind will trust you too.

If you want to create a strong connection with another person, try matching and mirroring their actions and see what happens to the way you communicate and how comfortable you feel. Matching is doing what the other person is doing, but simply in reverse; if a person crosses their left leg, you cross your left leg. Mirroring is being the mirror image of the other person—when they tilt their head to the left, you tilt yours to the right.

Active listening

All too often we’re so busy thinking about what we want to say next that we fail to concentrate on what the other person is saying. If you want to communicate effectively you must listen actively and be present at all times. Send the other person some reassuring signals that you really do value what they’re saying. Nod, use “ums” and “ahs” at the appropriate points, and let your facial expressions reveal your thoughts rather than interrupting the person in mid-sentence.

Copy talking

Studies have shown that a mere 7% of what is communicated is transmitted through the words themselves. A whopping 38% comes through the individual characteristics of the voice—the tone, tempo, volume, and timbre. You can match the tonality and phrasing, the pitch, the speed, volume, and tempo of the other person. Also, consider the words that your interviewers use—are they formal or casual? Do they use short sentences or long ones? Do they talk in jargon and acronyms? Pick up on their approach and integrate it into your own delivery.

Be careful to avoid mimicry when matching voice and words (don’t do an impression of their pronunciation and dialect) and make sure you always use it in helping you to build rapport with a sincere intention. Combine this with matching the interviewer’s body language and the level of rapport will grow faster. In no time you will be locked into strong rapport because although the words are working on the person’s conscious mind, the physiology is working on the unconscious mind and the brain receives the message loud and clear—“you’re like me”.

Good luck with your interviews!

To read the full article as appeared in the British Medical Journal go to:

careers.bmj.com/careers/advice/view-article.html?id=20001425

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