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.