One of the key questions in the mind of the interviewer will almost certainly be ‘Will this person fit in?’ Therefore, if you are perceived as being a good fit with the prevailing corporate style and culture you will be strengthening your case. Here again, what you wear can have a disproportionate effect on the interviewers perception. So, you might be wondering how you can predict what to wear in order to fit in.
It is actually remarkably easy to get information about the prevailing corporate style. If they have a website, visit this and see if there any pictures of people at work (but do be aware that some organizations use library pictures for this).
Alternatively, try getting hold of a copy of the annual reports. Another useful tactic can be to visit the site at the start, middle or end of the working day and observing the prevailing dress code of the staff as they come and go; before assembling a smart version of this for yourself; ahead of the interview.
Recognizing Physiological Responses
When you attend an interview, you are likely to notice one or more of the following:
· Firstly, your temperature is likely to increase and you may notice that you have sweaty palms, that you feel slightly flushed and maybe even clammy.
· Secondly, adrenaline may be pumped into your system and this may make you feel shaky.
· Thirdly, your respiration rate is liable to increase and this may make you feel stressed and panicky.
· Finally, nervous energy may cause you to consume body sugar with the result that your mouth starts to feel dried out.
These effects - increased temperature, shakiness, panic, stress and a dry mouth can interact to make you feel extremely nervous, uncomfortable and tongue tied.
However, research has shown that they are not necessarily signs of fear but may indicate that you are gearing up to perform. Many entertainers, public speakers and competitive sports people report the same four symptoms immediately prior to performing - often before giving the best performance of their lives. In the context of an important interview that is precisely what you should be aiming to do.
Therefore, recognizing the symptoms for what they are shouldn’t panic you, as they may well enable you to perform better on the day.
The subconscious mind works on past experiences, hopes and fears.
· In being apprehensive ahead of an interview it is easy for your sub-conscious to focus on negative outcomes and thereby magnify your concerns. If you concentrate on your own nervousness then you will be drawing this to the attention of the interviewer and the impact of your message will be weakened. If you become aware that the interviewer is observing your nervous state this can serve to heighten your self-consciousness.
· Before the interview, you should try to visualize an enthusiastic interviewer; who is reacting positively to your responses. Picture yourself delivering a clear and interesting presentation; admit to yourself that you may be nervous but that you are going to use this in a positive way.
· Remember that the interviewer is not your adversary and they are not attending the interview in order to pull you apart. Their interest lies in what you might say and show them. If you keep your responses focused on the message and try to relax then they will be able to concentrate on taking your message on board.
Overcoming Negative Thoughts
You may be convinced that they have formed an unfavourable first impression of you. Ignore this thought.
· Professional interviewers and other managers are increasingly trained to overcome their initial reactions and to apply more scientific interview techniques. Even if you have stumbled and made a weak first impression you can turn their opinion round, so keep working hard at making the right impression throughout the remainder of the interview.
· The first impression is important; but always approach the interview in a holistic manner, you are a winner and you are there to win!
Aspects of Body Language
Body language is a very important part of any communication. It will be analyzed by the interviewer; even if they are unaware of this at the conscious level. A brilliantly prepared interview delivered in an interesting voice will fall well short of the mark if accompanied by negative, intrusive or hostile body language.
There are three main aspects of body language that you should consider: what to do with your eyes, what your facial expressions indicate and the positioning and movement of your torso and limbs.
In any intimate communication there is a natural tendency to mirror the pose and position of the person you are talking to, and this behaviour tends to result in a more relaxed and agreeable atmosphere. You can help to put the interviewer at ease by being aware of this and making a positive but subtle effort to mirror their body language.
The concept of mirroring is based on the well-known human trait of like attracting like. People generally like people that appear to be similar to them. Therefore, by observing the interviewers body language and reflecting this back at them they are likely to feel more at ease and friendly towards you.
An individual’s facial expression, tone of voice, body posture and movement often convey a world of detail about what they are thinking and feeling and how they are reacting to what you are saying. The effective use and interpretation of body language communication will help you to identify subtle aspects of the interviewer’s attitudes and reactions. This understanding and interpretation of body language is a key component of intelligent listening.
As most interviews are held with both parties seated it is important to convey a positive message in the way you sit. In particular, this comes down to the placement of your arms and legs.
· With the upper limbs the guideline is that the less a person moves their hands and arms, the more powerful they are. This supports the view that they are used to people listening to them and they therefore do not have to resort to gesticulation to get their point across.
· The technical term for this is Low Peripheral Movement, or LPM. When being interviewed, maintain LPM and you will make a more impressive impact with your interviewer.
· Try to keep your hands lower than your elbows; rest them on the arms of the chair, your thighs or even make a low steeple with the fingers of both hands.
How to Sit at Interview
The everyday seating position, with legs crossed high-up is not suitable for the interview setting because in this intimate context it actually conveys a defensive attitude.
Your legs need to convey confidence and there are two key positions that can communicate this - the low cross or athletic position.
· The athletic position is where one leg is brought under your chair so that only the toe of that shoe is in contact with the floor. The other leg is firmly planted on the floor, parallel with the direction of the chair, with the entire sole of that shoe on the floor. This is a powerful position, conveying a readiness for action.
· The athletic position is often not suited to female clothing and here the low cross position, where the legs are kept together and crossed at the ankles is often the best option.
Effective Eye Contact
The face should reach the correct target zone for positive eye contact. Think about where else you might be tempted to look at someone’s face during a conversation; which area of the face do you think would cause the most discomfort to the person being looked at? Looking at someone’s face anywhere outside of the triangular target zone is likely to cause some degree of embarrassment. However, the no-go zones shown are both associated with strong adverse reactions.
You should target Zone A the intimate zone and by moving just a fraction below the base of the target triangle you will enter it. When this happens people typically react by feeling that the other person is staring at them, or that the observer looks shifty.
Zone B is a dominant zone and by looking at the forehead of another person you are likely to invoke a reaction that you appear to be arrogant, that you are staring straight through them or more commonly that you are talking down at them.
As well as understanding how to make positive eye contact it is also important to ensure that you do maintain this form of communication even if the interview does not appear to be going as well as you had hoped. If this is the case you will need all of the help you can muster to get the interview back on track and maintaining the correct amount of positive eye contact may help to do this.
Eye contact with the interviewer is an essential part of the interview process. Without it they will feel remote from you and are unlikely to relate to one another, or what you are saying in a meaningful way. Not many people realize how important eye contact is, or how sensitive people are to it.
Eye contact should be a positive form of body language communication, but if it is not used correctly it can easily become negative.
Instigating Eye Contact
Understanding where to look to make positive eye contact is only part of the story. You also need to know how and when to use this non-verbal communication. The amount of eye contact you make should differ fundamentally depending on whether you are in the role of speaker or listener.
It is in the role of listener that you should instigate more eye contact and hold it for longer periods of time. It supports your role as an attentive listener, whereas overusing eye contact when speaking may appear a demand for the interviewer to pay attention. As a speaker holding eye contact initially for 5 to 10 seconds and after that using it in an intermittent way is ideal. This way you do not appear to be lecturing or hectoring and the listener does not feel that they are being challenged to a staring contest.
It is normal for the listener to maintain eye contact for longer than the speaker who will typically break off and then revisit this form of contact as they are speaking. Eye contact when used positively can be a very effective form of non-verbal communication. However, excessive or inappropriate eye contact will prevent you establishing a good relationship with your interviewer.