Studies have shown that up to 65% of the information we communicate is through gestures, facial expressions, posture and tone of voice, whereas only 35% is passed on by what we actually say. While it may be relatively easy to hide exaggerated physical gestures during a short interview it is much more difficult to master our body language and be able to use it to our advantage.
Interview – The first impression.
A first impression, according to researchers, is generally made within the initial 4 to 6 seconds of a first meeting. Therefore the way in which you enter a room and present yourself is of the utmost importance. You should step confidently into the room and offer a firm handshake, not too strong as this could imply that you are overly forceful and domineering but more importantly not too weak as this can be taken as a sign of inferiority and vulnerability. It is also important that your handshake should not be too wet. Although you may be nervous, an excessively damp handshake can be unpleasant and gives the impression that you are extremely anxious and uneasy. It is also of great importance to remember to maintain eye contact with the person you are greeting.
How our posture can reveal our attitude?
During an interview you should attempt to adopt a comfortable yet focused attitude. Rotating slightly in your chair or tapping your foot may give the impression that you are bored or trying to hide the truth, whereas sitting to far forward on the edge of your chair can indicate uncertainty. Furthermore, leaning to far back in your chair or putting your hands behind your back shows overconfidence and arrogance. An ideal position is to lean slightly forwards in the direction of the interviewer, this implies that you are focused and interested.
How employers evaluate our soft skills?
During an interview there are many ways in which our social skills can be evaluated. One of the most common methods used is to ask what are called “behavioural questions”. In this instance you will be asked about a situation from your past in which you had to work under pressure or solve a particularly difficult problem. From your description of this situation and how you reacted, the employer is able to draw conclusions about how you are likely to behave in the future.
Another method often used is the “situational test”. This involves the employer presenting the candidate with a hypothetical situation to which they must react. Situational tests offer the interviewer the opportunity to evaluate how a candidate can think under pressure and use their previous experience to resolve a variety of challenges. In addition, by simply observing a candidate, an employer can build a reasonable impression of their soft skills, especially, manners, ability to cope with stress and persuasive abilities. This is why, an interview will often be conducted by two people, who can therefore independently evaluate each candidate and then confer and compare results after the interview.
How to be assertive effectively?
In an interview it is often difficult to gauge how assertive you should be. Being able to achieve the right balance is a valuable skill. One situation in which it is necessary to be assertive and in which you will be assessed is when asked about your job expectations. Employers ask about your job expectations not only to discover what you expect from them, but also to assess your ability to explain and justify your views as part of a balanced discussion. You should not be reluctant to discuss your expectations, agreeing to conditions which you are unsatisfied with will only lead to problems in the future.
It’s not always easy to be assertive, especially towards a prospective employer when you’re trying to make a good impression. However using assertiveness effectively and respectfully is an invaluable skill which can be developed through training. The key is to distinguish between assertive, aggressive and submissive behaviour. Those who take an aggressive approach often perceive a situation as a battle which can be won or lost. They tend to disregard the opinions of others and forcibly express their own views. A submissive candidate will show excessive respect for the opinions of others at the expense of their own views and requirements. Being assertive involves incorporating the positive aspects of both approaches. Being able to express and defend our own views whilst also respecting and accepting the opinions of others. During an interview it is not necessary to be overly assertive, when required it can be advantageous to make concessions. Also, do not rush into answering a question, it is better to take a moment to think about your answer than to rush and give an unsatisfactory response. There are many training courses available which can help develop assertiveness.
Good questions to ask an employer.
The majority of questions asked by an interviewer relate to the experience and skills of the potential employee. But when the roles are reversed and the candidate has an opportunity to question the interviewer, it presents a chance to show how competent and organised you are. A good system to employ is to group your questions according to subject. It is advisable to start by enquiring specifically about the position to which you have applied, including, responsibilities, working conditions and expectations. Although much of this information will have been offered by the employer during the interview it is good practice to ask for more detail. Additionally, use the occasion to ask about development opportunities such as company training, and the possibility of promotion. It is also good to ask about any current or planned company activities. What are the targets for the next two years? Or are there any plans for expansion of the business?
An interview is not only an evaluation of candidates suitability. It also provides an opportunity to get a better understanding of your chosen business. By asking relevant questions during an interview, a candidate can gain valuable information relevant to their future career.