June 16, 2019

Interviews: 55% of influence comes from non-verbal signals


Once you have done your interview preparation, you need to think about how to come across on the day. This blog will provide some pointers to think about.

Particularly if you haven’t had much recent experience of being interviewed, then you may feel nervous. Don’t worry; it’s unlikely to show anything like as much as you think. The other candidates are probably nervous too- so the field is level. And the more you prepare, the less anxious you will be and the more likely you will allow your true self to shine through.

Even if you are told “it’s just an informal chat” – it never is. It might be an informal interview but it is still an interview. Approach every meeting with that mind-set. You are being assessed.

First impressions are formed very quickly and can count for a lot. Untrained interviewers can allow these to colour everything that follows. You will meet inexpert interviewers much of the time. The image you portray through appearance is very important so make sure that it is appropriate and do ‘walk the talk’. The way you stand, walk and act needs to reflect confidence, energy, and enthusiasm. And of course, be friendly to everyone you meet.

Research has shown that 55% of influence comes from non-verbal signals and 38% from tone of voice and manner of delivery. So it’s by no means just what you say, it’s how you say it. Don’t be too terse in your replies, but do aim to be relevant and concise. They can always say “tell me more about…”

Remember an interview should be a dialogue (i.e. ‘inter’-view), not just you returning every serve from the base line. Show an interest in the role and issues by questioning. You can occasionally add questions to your answers too to add a natural flavour to the dialogue (I have quite a bit of experience in XYZ, how important is that to this role?)

Also remember to keep up good eye contact. When speaking this is about 70% of the time. More when listening.

Do listen attentively. It can give you valuable clues about what the interviewer is interested in, and it will be noticed. Listening is not the same as waiting till it’s your turn to speak again. You show listening skills by attentive behaviour, referring back to what the other person said earlier, building on their remarks, and being able to question in a way that refers to what they have said.

Building rapport is very important. We hire people we like, not just people who can do the job. It helps rapport if you “mirror” the other person’s way of speaking, gestures and so on. This doesn’t mean doing an impersonation of the interviewer. It means for instance if they are quite concise or fast paced so should you be. If they are relaxed or conversely, animated, so should you be.

Have a number of questions to ask. You are still being judged, so the questions need to be well-considered. Usually questions about key priorities and early deliverables will get the interviewer talking and will display the required interest in the job. Leave questions about pay and the like until as late in the process as possible.

Finally, make a good departing impression. People remember beginnings and ends. Finish with a short but strong statement of confidence and enthusiasm. Use your own words, not mine, but the message is “thanks for the meeting which I have enjoyed; more keen than ever on the role; sure I have a lot to contribute, especially in (developing external relationships or whatever)”.

Send a short, prompt follow up note with a similar message. Few people bother nowadays and it can only help, plus get them thinking about you for a couple of minutes more.

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