Stressing The Little Things

By Stephen Knoll

Stephen Knoll-150When preparing for a job interview, it’s easy to get caught up in trying to nail down your interviewing skills. Shoring up your resume and practicing your answers ahead of time are great strategies and will certainly help you, but there are smaller things that need to be taken care of as well.

Interpersonal communication is a bigger factor than many interviewees realize. It is important to remember that almost everything you do in an interview is being reviewed and judged by the interviewer. “Non-verbal cues definitely play into my impression of a candidate’s overall communication skills,” says Karl Hughes, director of technology at Packback, which specializes in e-textbook rentals. Handshakes, eye contact, verbal responses, facial expressions, body language, manners, etiquette — all of these little things are pieces of yourself that you need to be aware of when interviewing.

Body language is very important, since no one wants to hire a person who is visibly disinterested. That means no slouching or other lazy positions. However, having a perfect, upright posture isn’t always necessary either; it depends on the situation and type of interview. The best advice is to take a relaxed, but attentive posture. You can lean against a desk, or rest your forearms against a table and face your interviewer. Leaning forward makes you appear more eager and interested. Depending on the interviewing environment, you need to strike a balance between appearing relaxed and attentive while not seeming too rigid.

The same rules apply for your facial expressions. If an interviewer provides you with a situation or tough question and you look distressed or look down, your negative response reflects poorly on you. It’s never wise to look down or away from an interviewer because eye contact is so important. Even if you don’t know how to answer right away, it’s important to appear confident, and maintaining eye contact is an easy way to do that.

Beyond facial expressions, it’s also good to note how expressive you are with hands. Many people ‘talk with their hands’ and there’s nothing wrong with that so long as it’s not over-the-top. While over-exaggerated or flailing motions are unlikely to help in an interview, mild or subtle hand motions won’t hurt. Just make sure to research who you’re interviewing with and where you’re interviewing, especially for international jobs, since different cultures have different standards on hand gestures.

Besides non-verbal cues, it is equally important how you interact with others during the interview process. Whether it is the receptionist or the CEO, basic manners will go a long way. Sometimes these small interactions in the waiting room can be used as mini tests by employers to see how you treat others as well as interact with them. No one likes a rude person and employers are less likely to hire someone others view as being rude or abrasive.

“Any new hire has to come into our team and be able to communicate with the rest of our engineers as well as our non-technical people, so I pay attention to the person’s ability to look me in the eye, be honest when they don’t know the answer to a question, and seem like they’re listening,” Hughes says. These small interactions may seem insignificant in whether or not you will be hired, but it’s important to remember that everything you do is always being judged by others, especially when applying for a job.


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