Body language and personal appearance represent one side of the equation to building rapport and trust during an interview. The other, equally important side, is how you behave and express yourself during an interview.
One of the worst things you can do at an interview is argue with the interviewer. Even a very polite argument should never be considered. Arguing will more than likely convince the interviewer that you are argumentative by nature, which is not a trait that excites employers. This is a point some interviewees forget—especially when they’re convinced they’re in the right or the interviewer says something that is evidently wrong. Also, some interviewers (usually inexperienced ones) tend to downplay some of the things interviewees say and add their own information or even make corrections (or what they believe to be corrections). Encountering this type of interviewer can be a very frustrating experience. It is at times such as these that your smile can turn into a grimace and the rest of your body can look like it is ready to launch into battle. However, the effective interviewee will maintain discipline and continue to smile, nod happily and utter little gems like, ‘Yes, that’s right,’ and ‘I couldn’t agree more’.
You may be thinking, ‘I would never want to work for an interviewer who is so disagreeable, so why should I be so agreeable?’ Whilst this is not an unreasonable thought, there are good reasons to ignore it:
- The interviewer may not be the employer or your direct supervisor.
- Bad interviewers do not necessarily make bad employers.
- The interviewer may be inexperienced, nervous or having a bad day. Always do your very best at an interview, no matter how objectionable you may find the interviewer. The whole idea of attending an interview is to be offered a job. It’s up to you on whether you accept the offer or not later on.
It is tempting to exaggerate past achievements—after all, interviews are all about making a good impression. The problem with inflating past achievements is that you can easily lose your all-important credibility, or be caught out later because you’ve said something different. Embellishments can easily be seen through by experienced interviewers, who will probably not tell you that they think you’re gilding the lily, but instead will discount you for the job. This can be a disaster if the interviewer is working for an important employment recruitment firm which handles a large percentage of the jobs you’re applying for. It can also be a disaster if you’ve succeeded in winning the job and fail to live up to the hype you were responsible for starting. It is best to stick to reality.
There is no point in attending an interview if you’re going to sit there and highlight many of your flaws and defects. Here are some examples of negative statements that send interviewers ducking for cover:
- ‘I would have been able to finish the project had I not been clashing with my teammates.’ (You may have been working with the teammates from hell, but the interviewer is likely to question your team player abilities.)
- ‘I love working in call centres, but sometimes customer inquiries drive me batty.’ (A good call center operator can deal with all types of customer inquiries, including the stupid ones.)
- ‘I generally enjoy managing people except when they start complaining about their work. I don’t like whingers.’ (Most people complain about work from time to time—the job of a good manager is to listen and help, not think of staff as whingers.)
- ‘I don’t like things changing all the time. Just when you learn one thing you need to unlearn it and learn something different. There’s too much instability in some workplaces.’ (Unless you’re applying for a rare job where things always remain the same, this answer—given today’s rapid rate of change—could easily enter the hall of fame for bad answers.)
- ‘I don’t like pressure.’ (Avoid this one unless you’re applying for a fantasy job you’ve created in your head.)
Negative statements frighten interviewers a great deal—remember, they’re a conservative bunch. Being critical about your past performances is tantamount to giving interviewers a reason for not hiring you. Also, negative statements—because they scare interviewers—tend to invite follow-up questions, which is the very last thing you want happening at an interview. The whole idea is to say things that will invite positive questions—that is, questions that allow you to talk about all your strengths and wonderful achievements.
Pointing out negatives
Some people think that pointing out negatives is a way of demonstrating their honesty to the interviewer. Unfortunately for them, the interviewer will only be thinking of ways of terminating the interview. Other than things that will have a direct bearing upon the job (such as a problem back in a job which requires heavy lifting), it is no one’s business what your foibles may be. What you may perceive as a weakness about yourself may not be regarded as one by others. At the end of the day, interviews are about making the