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Body language and other soft skills during interviews

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Body language and other soft skills during interviews

Postby Todd Graham » Thu May 18, 2006 9:20 am

I have a question for you all. I've been interviewing for a number of positions of late. Also, for some, I've done well on the telephone interview, but when it came to meeting face to face, I've struck out. This has happened consistently enough that I'm wondering if I'm missing something in my demeanor that's sabotaging myself. After all, if they've seen my resume and like the way I come across on the phone, there has to be something I'm missing in the face-to-face interaction. Is there something I'm missing here? Maybe I'm carrying myself wrong.
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Body language and other soft skills during interviews

Postby Emil Chuck » Thu May 18, 2006 9:42 am

Todd,
On the bright side, you are getting to the face-to-face interview stage, and that's actually a positive. Hopefully one of these will turn in your favor.

Do you know for sure it's your body language? It's hard to dissect this problem without a videotape, so I'm interested in your response to this question: what do you observe about your interviewer's non-verbal communication that suggests yours might not be "ideal"?

Maybe other interviewers can comment on this, but I think that the non-verbal and appearance aspects of interviews only seal the deal, not really guarantee raising a candidate from "consideration" to "must have." Plenty of people can egregiously blow the interview on those aspects, but I don't know if anyone didn't get the job just because their suit was of an unacceptable shade of gray.
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Body language and other soft skills during interviews

Postby Joey » Thu May 18, 2006 9:46 am

There are a variety of reasons why you may not be getting the coveted job offer. If you think it's due to your body language or demeanor, then perhaps you should ask your mentors/colleagues to stage a mock interview with you. Perhaps, they could offer suggestions or can pinpoint things that put them off. Just an idea...
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Body language and other soft skills during interviews

Postby James D » Thu May 18, 2006 10:05 am

I tend to have the opposite problem: I come across poorly on the phone (awful voice) but face-to-face I've been successful on several recent occasions.

Obviously, advice will be difficult because observation of your behavior, body language, and general demeanor isn't possible via forum. I prescribe general principles that I've read about, have had verified by a career counselor, and seem to work for me in practice.

(1) This will sound terribly obvious, but are you nervous? Nobody likes a nervous or stiff person. You will signal "something here is wrong", even if nothing specific is, and the interviewer’s unease will follow.

(2) The second principle I employ is mimicry. Like likes like. So I actually will subtly mimic the interviewer’s body language, vocal tones and pace, etc. I've found this creates a certain synergy and comfort that lubricates interview process, as a whole. Use this technique reasonably because you can seriously disturb another person and annihilate your job prospect if you copy his or her actions exactly. I'll tread into somewhat controversial waters by saying this technique works better with someone of your own gender. Anyway, I think vocal and body language and positioning synergy used in moderation and with good judgment facilitates the face-to-face interaction.

(3) Perhaps my most valuable nugget: seek measurement. Have other colleagues (who don't know you too well and who are honest) stage a mock interview and evaluate you ruthlessly. Perhaps the career center at Queens College or Rutgers University could arrange this.

I hope this helps or at least inspires some ideas of you own.

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Body language and other soft skills during interviews

Postby Todd Graham » Thu May 18, 2006 11:11 am

To James D.:Hmm...I could give the mock interviewing thing a shot. I was planning on doing this, because of all the interviews I've had. After all, the saying goes, insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. But nerves aren't the issue. In fact, I tend to feel more comfortable communicating in a formal setting than in an informal one.

To Emil: The one thing I pick up off of my interviews is a sense of coolness, like they're going through the motions and saying what they have to say. I don't get the impression that they're ready to roll out the welcome mat so to speak. In addition, I have my suspicions about other things (that I'll write you about off-board Emil). The reason I suspect that it is body language is because the crucial difference between a face-to-face interview and a phone interview is the presence of the human being in front of you. It's just a factor to consider.
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Body language and other soft skills during interviews

Postby Dave Jensen » Thu May 18, 2006 11:42 am

Hi Todd,

I've had many situations like this over the years with candidates who interview great on the phone, and then when I have them in front of one of my client companies, something goes wrong.

While it is many different issues that are at the root of this, the single biggest factor in the majority of them is eye contact. People who sit and take notes, people who have nervous "every now and again" eye contact, or people who just look away . . . you may not even realize you are doing it, but this is generally what's behind comments like "We just didn't feel comfortable with your candidate," or "There's something about this guy I don't like." Yes, the lack of simple eye contact can really screw up an interview.

Dave
"Failure is a bruise -- not a tattoo." -- Jon Sinclair
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Body language and other soft skills during interviews

Postby Melanie » Thu May 18, 2006 12:25 pm

Todd,

Depending on what level you are, you may want to work on your job talk. That's something that distinguishes PhDs during the in person interview-and may not have to do with your interviewing one-on-one skills.

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Body language and other soft skills during interviews

Postby P.C. » Thu May 18, 2006 4:28 pm

Here is cheap solution: practice, practice , practice. Practice those job interviews, with others, dress up in your interview pretty clothing and perform the roles of interviewer and interviewee. You can find a job searching partner, or you can find a job coach who will be happy to bill you 100 dollars an hour.
On top of that you can video record the performances.. If you can stand the pain, it will pay off in the end in much better role playing and interviewing performance.
(Paraphrasing recommendations I received from several self help groups for the unemployed experienced worker).
"I have never let my schooling interfere with my education" - Mark Twain
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Body language and other soft skills during interviews

Postby John Fetzer » Thu May 18, 2006 4:43 pm

Body language is one aspect which others cover, since it was raised. Another area is the casual speaking style. Nervousness is just one thing to avoid. Arrogance is a big turn-off, too, especially since the interviewee is seen as green and the interviewers think of themselves as experiences. Coming across as an all-knowing academic in an industrial setting gets hackles because indystrial scientists do think they do interesting and valuable work.

Speak in a normal tone, like you do in conversations with friends. Avoid a lot of slang and jargon unless you are sure the listener understands and accepts it as OK in the interview (her or his speaking style is the clue).

Mild self-depricating humor can be useful to give both a humble impression and one of a sense of humor.

At lunch or dinner, etiqette and table manners do get noticed! Being impolite or uncouth really irks some interviewers.

John
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Body language and other soft skills during interviews

Postby Todd Graham » Thu May 18, 2006 10:20 pm

For everyone's info, I'm a BS/MS level scientist. I made the dangerous mistake of assuming everyone read my profile, especially on a board heavily weighted to the PhD types. I apologize for not making that clear.

To John: I don't know how to sound casual in a way that would still be appropriate for a professional setting. If I talked to employers the way I normally talk to my friends, that would be pouring gasoline on the fire. I do agree with your assessment though. Sometimes I sound like a newscaster to myself...which isn't necessary a good thing.

Thanks for the suggestions everyone! I truly appreciate the help.
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