This is the story of Mercedes, a skilled former chief editor for a specialized trade magazine. Mercedes moved to the northeast to accommodate her husband’s career as a surgeon. Mercedes had a great value proposition, 15 years’ experience in her industry and was anxious to get back to work.
After seven long months and five job interviews for quality positions in her industry, she only got as far as the first interview—5 times.
Clearly there was something going awry because—all things being equal—she was more qualified than her peers. Feedback from hiring decision-makers was vague. “Not the right fit for their teams, not enough experience in x” and a host of nebulous reasons that were not helpful.
Mercedes decided it was time to invest in interview coaching. This was not a typical mock interview but a staged real-time interview recorded for future viewing (similar to a focus group).
What she discovered was startling.
Mercedes was articulate, intelligent, and thoughtful in her answers to carefully crafted questions designed to uncover her technical competence. She passed with flying colours in every answer.
The mock interview was recorded and the review told a compelling story. Mercedes did not look at the Assistant Editor during the job interview. When the Assistant asked her a question, Mercedes directed her answer to the General Manager. She had no idea.
Mercedes did not realize her body language was having a negative impact on her ability to establish rapport with the interviewers. Not only did the Assistant Editor notice this dreadful faux pas, but so did the General Manager.
We did not know with 100% certainty that this was the issue, but as Mercedes began to reflect on previous interviews, she could see herself speaking with the more senior person each time. Mercedes believed that she needed to ensure the General Manager knew she could do the job. She was so focused on her answers, she did not realize that she was shutting out both interviewers with her lack of direct eye contact. Lack of eye contact sends a message, whether or not that message is intentional. See this excellent article on how your lack of eye contact may be perceived by others [http://goo.gl/Ht67ac].
Don’t let Mercedes’ experience be your own. Understand that appropriate body language can influence the offer, even if you are certain that you are the ideal candidate for the role. At the most basic level, people want to hire people who they know, like and trust in spite of technical competence.
For more information on this phenomenon, see Amy Cuddy’s transformational video on body language [http://goo.gl/Fv8bMq] and follow this simple advice:
- Understand that all eyes are on you. The receptionist, the security officer, the executive assistant, and the hiring authority. You’re on stage. You will be watched. Speak with everyone along the way. This may appear overly simple; however, it is powerful. You will establish gut-level trust with people if you are warm, authentic and sincere. Trust builds connection with others.
- Understand that non-decision makers (receptionists, etc.) often wield tremendous influence in organizations. Positional power is not always the strongest power. The receptionist may be the spouse of the decision-maker. Do not make assumptions about whom you are speaking with. You have seven seconds to make that impression [http://goo.gl/92QM4K]. Ensure yours is positive.
- Understand that hiring managers will not always give you honest feedback on your performance after the interview is over. Ask for it—however, know that you may not receive the feedback you desperately need to correct your performance. Employers do not want to assume liability for perceived defamation of character for candidates who may not like what they hear.
Recognize that the hiring decision is not based 100% on the job requirements or your credentials, but on a combination of the human connection you make with the interviewer and what you bring to the table.
Strengthen your personal power by examining how your first impressions are received by others and win the job offer for your dream job today.