Body Language in a job interview is still what leaves the first impression. The first impression is so powerful that it’s really hard to unwind and go backwards so you need to get it right the first time around.
This week, I got a call from a bright young man. He had several degrees (2 Master’s – political science and communications) and had about 5 years of working experience in communications for the EU. He was a bit concerned as he had gone on 3 prior job interviews and he was never selected as the finalist.
He was trying to understand what the problem could be?
I started the interview by asking him a few basic questions about himself. The famous question, “Can you tell me a bit about yourself?”
We ask this question in the opening of a job interview for the following reasons:
- To break the ice,
- The interviewer wants to make a first impression of how you communicate;
- The interviewer wants to see how nervous/or not you are and how confident you come across;
- The interviewer wants to see if you have done a similar job and is relevant for this job.
We want to see if you understand the reason why you are here, do you understand well the job for which you are applying for and interviewing right now?
The candidate replied, “I am nationality Belgian and Swiss and worked in Sweden, Belgium, Ukraine, France and England. I worked 5 years in the communication department and have 2 Master’s Degrees.” He looked down and occasionally looked up at me. He wasn’t smiling. He seemed unhappy. And, he repeated what we could easily read in his CV. The purpose of the interview is to show added value. It’s to go beyond your CV.
Who wants to hire a person that is unhappy? All CEO’s know that the happier the staff is, the more productive they are too.
I gave some feedback to the bright young candidate. I asked him to explain to me in detail what his job was about for the last 3 years? Then, this interesting content came out of his mouth, “I actually had to research and compare about 400 different media channels for 28 countries in the EU. There was a lot of analysis to do and in the end, I had to submit a report with summary conclusions of the image that the EU has in different media today.” Now, this was more interesting.
But, what was wrong still? He still was looking down and didn’t show enthusiasm for what he was saying. I asked him, “Why do you have such a negative attitude when you describe your current role?” He replied, “Because I can’t stand communications. I don’t want to work in this field anymore; I want to be a policy analyst.” So then, we set up an appointment to show how his core skill set and competencies could be transferred to the area of policy development and analysis.
The moral to the story is that what you feel is what we feel. What you express and how you express it, is what we see. So, look into the eyes of your interviewer, smile, and thank them for inviting you and give a detailed concrete response. Giving an example is even better.
Even though you may have disliked a part of your job, you still need to discuss it in a job interview with some energy and enthusiasm, showing that you learned something, you showed commitment and did it well.
And don’t forget the famous trick of mirroring your interviewer in terms of your tone of voice, speed of your voice, your gestures and energy level, because the theory goes like this, “people like people who are like themselves.”