How to make an interviewer like you

And why that’s key to winning the job

It seems unfair to think that you can lose out on a job simply because the interviewer didn’t like you, yet this is totally understandable.

When we meet people and make a judgement about them within the first few seconds of meeting, we in effect ‘turn people into an embodiment of the few facts we know about them’.

I read that recently in an article looking at the science behind making a good first impression when we meet people for the first time. It intrigued me because in a job interview situation this is essentially what those interviewing do all the time.

It is in effect the goal of the interview because although the employer is looking for someone who will spend more than just a few seconds working in the job being advertised, there are time constraints for selecting the most suitable candidate. What little information is available has to be reduced to little more than a collection of facts about that person.

Good grades and experience aren’t all you need to get a good job

The funny thing about interviews is that much of what is taught to graduates about preparing for them focuses on getting good grades and getting experience.

Good grades is a good thing but on their own they are simply academic, lifeless and cold. But interviews are occasions where humans come together and where you will be assessed largely on your human qualities rather than the cold facts that represent you on paper.

You need to be liked and your academic qualifications, as helpful as they are, cannot help you here. Experience helps but even that won’t help you if you lack personality. The qualities that are going to help you come across as human and likeable are qualities that you have to display through personality and presentation skills.

Is it unfair that you’ve got to be ‘liked’ to get a job?

Many times when I speak to a graduate about the importance of being liked by the interviewer they seem somewhat surprised. I think I know why. Deep down inside we each hold the view that interview selections are based on merit – the merit of our academic prowess and our experience. But likeability is a merit too. If you walk into the interview room with an aloof expression, speak with a bored tone and then leave with a limp handshake you aren’t going to warm the interviewer towards you. If you were being selected for the position by a machine (which may be far more objective than a human) you just might get the job. But given that you are being interviewed by a human who is him or herself subjected to psychological influences then you need to demonstrate that you are the kind of person someone might like to work with.

We also react surprised to the idea that someone needs to like us to give us a job because we think this is unfair. It seems unethical that someone could be turned down for a job simply because the interviewer didn’t like them, especially when we consider that not everyone has that outgoing type of personality that we naturally warm toward within seconds. Some people take time warm to because they are shy or introspective.

How to make an interviewer like you

The bottom line is that you can’t avoid what the writer of the aforementioned article calls the ‘weird science of first impressions’ as these are governed by chemical responses in our brain as a result of the things we see and hear.

What we can do is take some cue from this to make it work in our favour: if an interviewer’s brain responds to what he/she sees in order to help them decide whether or not to give you a job then you can fool that brain into working in your favour. Here’s how to make an interviewer like you:

Be enthusiastic – try to show that you are interested in the job and the topic of conversation. Listen to what is being said and find connections and points that really interest you.

Body language – when you are enthusiastic and interested you will sit upright and be expressive with your body and hands when you speak.

Smile – this is a part of your body language and will make people warm to you. Smile when entering and leaving the interview. Smile when answering questions.

Eye contact – it is important to look into the eyes of the person interviewing you, especially when they are speaking. It shows that you are attentive and listening.

Things in common – find points of common interest between yourself and the interviewer or company you are applying to. You can do this simply by doing your research and preparing ahead of the interview.

Tone of voice – I think this is a very important point. Some people have naturally low or deep voices but even people with low voices manage to raise it a pitch or two higher when they are excited about something. A low slow voice sounds like you’re bored and will only send the interview to sleep.

The 1 thing NOT to do if your mind goes blank during an interview

Do you worry your mind will go blank during an interview? What do you do when your mind suddenly goes blank during the middle of answering interview questions?

We’ve all been there – in the middle of speaking, you lose your train of thought, information at the tip of your tongue vanishes from your brain and your mind is completely blank.

You are not alone.

It has even happened to famous actors – remember the tongue-tied Sally Field during her 2007 Emmys acceptance speech?

While this may be no big deal when chatting with friends, it can feel like a catastrophe when it happens during a job interview.

Here’s what you should not do if your mind goes blank during an interview

The one thing you should not do if your mind suddenly goes blank during an interview is to sit there with an equally blank expression on your face!

The very best way to assuage these fears is to review a set of strategies that you can employ when and if the dreaded blank mind strikes you during an interview or other important speaking engagement.

So what can you do if you find yourself in this dreaded situation?

Here are 4 strategies to help if your mind goes blank during an interview:

  1. Silence can be golden – When you are in the middle of a brain gap, the seconds can feel like hours and you can become positive that everyone around you is scrutinising your silence. In reality, long pauses can actually be used to make your words more effective and can give you a few precious moments to collect your thoughts. Try practising in front of a friend and forcing yourself to pause for longer than you think feels comfortable. You may find that a strategic series of pauses can emphasise your points and drive home the message that you are thoughtful, well-spoken and level-headed. Use it in your favour.
  2. Be honest and ask for help – There is nothing wrong in saying that your mind has gone blank. If you find yourself struggling to remember what you were saying, try gently asking for help from your interviewer. Something along the lines of, “I’m afraid I got so caught up in what I was talking about that I seem to have lost my place. Where was I?” Your listener should have no problem prompting you to help you get back to your original point.
  3. Don’t be afraid of notes – Depending on the position for which you are interviewing, a small notebook that enables to you take notes during the meeting can make you seem like a smart candidate who plans ahead. Your small notebook will enable you to make brief notes as you go, or to bring in a general outline of what you plan to talk about. If during the interview you feel you want to digress in order to illustrate a point, you can jot down the original point you want to return to for when you need it, or vice versa.
  4. Say something – anything! Finally, and perhaps the most importantly – say something! If you remain silent with a panicked expression on your face, your anxiety and your interviewer’s trepidation will grow and grow. While you may feel a bit off-topic or rambling, saying anything relevant to your topic can kick start your brain back into high gear and get your interview back on track.

Why does your mind go blank during an interview?

two ladies in an interview setting. image for what to do if your mind goes blank in interviews.

Unless you have a medical issue, the cause of your blank mind is likely to be due to you becoming distracted. You have more than one thing on your mind and you are likely trying to remember them all at once.

During an interview scenario, the added stress of wanting to come across well to others can make us forget what we want to say because we’re juggling so many points.

Worrying over your interview increases the risk of your mind going blank.

The cruel irony is that the more you worry about coming up blank during an interview, the more likely it is to happen.

Chartered psychologist Bev Stone did some work on people who experience blank minds while presenting and says that it is better to be ‘distracted in that you’re not that bothered whether you win or lose’.

This is easier said than done during an interview when you want the job really badly but you will find that you will relax physically and mentally and therefore perform far better.

How to avoid brain freeze in an interview

As with all things in life, preparation is key.

We mentioned above, your mind goes blank during interviews because you become distracted.

An interview question that you did not prepare for gets thrown your way and your mind instantly starts racing through different potential answers triggering some interview anxiety followed by your mind going completely blank.

The truth is, most people do not put enough time into preparing for their interviews.

Before you attend your interview you:

  1. Must know what your key skills are and how they are transferable to the role that you are applying for.
  2. Should know the job description inside out and be able to outline some of the challenges that you might face in the role.
  3. Should have excellent answers for competency-based questions prepared in the STAR format.

Here at Graduate Coach, we train students and graduates on how to prepare for and excel in interviews. The 3 pointers above are only a few of many tips and techniques that we instil in the people we help. Who then go on to land their dream job after training with us.

Over the years we have helped many people who have suffered from interview anxiety and as a result, they lose confidence.

Many of them come to us reporting: ‘I go blank during interviews’ or that ‘I blanked on an interview question’. Others come to us asking: “why does my mind go blank when asked a question?”

If you can relate to this, get in contact with us today!

You can call us on: +44 (0)207 014 9547, or emails us on:

gethelp@graduatecoach.co.uk and one of our friendly team members will outline how we can help you to overcome your interview anxiety, regain your confidence and ultimately land your dream career!

Some related resources:  

  1. Take the first two modules of our interview course for FREE!

    Get access the course here: https://graduatecoach.co.uk/online-coaching/

    Our Founder, Chris Davies created the ‘Nail That Interview’ course to help students, graduates and career changers to get the job they really want.

  2. To emphasise the importance of preparing for your interview we’d encourage you to watch this video:

In this video, Chris talks about the types of questions we need to be prepared for. He also elaborates more on what to do if you get asked an interview question that causes your brain to freeze.

3. To discover why people fail interviews, we’d encourage you to watch this video:

You can book a FREE 15-minute coaching call with Chris Davies!

Thanks for taking the time to read this blog post! Please do share it with someone who you feel would benefit from it.