It's a mistake to think an interviewer is going to be able to look through your exterior to see the exceptionally wonderful person you are inside. As painful as it may be, you have to exercise certain behaviors to be successful in interviewing.
It is a common mistake of the job seeker to believe that interviewers possess some kind of clairvoyance. They think that they really don't have to go out of their way to present a certain image because an interviewer is going to just magically pick up on their sterling qualities. But the cold, hard reality is you do have to put forth an effort and present some behaviors that your interviewer will respond to. Here's what to avoid:
- Bad non-verbal cues. I know it's a cliché, but a firm handshake and good eye contact really make a good impression. Now, of course, you can make an exception on the handshake if you have a physical condition that prevents it. Otherwise, do try to give it your best. I can't explain the psychology behind it, but people tend to equate a limp handshake with weakness. And, unless weakness is a job prerequisite, you're out of luck. I know I will hear from lots of people who'll say they're so shy they can't make eye contact. I understand that, but, right or wrong, be prepared for an interviewer to take that as a sign that you won't be able to stand up for yourself at work, and judge you accordingly. If I had a nickel for every time my mother told me to sit up straight, I'd be living on my own island right now, doing absolutely nothing. But let me tell you, there's something to this "sit up straight" stuff. As a manager, if I'm interviewing someone who is slumped down in the chair, I'm going to assume disinterest in the job. My assumption may not be correct, but it's the one I'll make.
- Talking too much or not enough. It is perhaps this aspect of an interview that would benefit most from a high emotional intelligence (the ability to read unspoken cues from other people). Watch the interviewer's eyes. If you're coasting into minute #20 in your answer to one question, and the interviewer is starting to fidget or yawn, wind it up. On the other hand, if the interviewer pauses after you answer a question, then that may mean he was expecting more.
- Not asking questions. I always hated the part where an interviewer asks if I have any questions. Sometimes you can't possibly know enough just from an interview to be able to form any questions. Sometimes the interviewer has been so thorough in his descriptions of the job and company that there doesn't seem to be any more to ask. The best questions to ask are those that pertain directly to something the interviewer has said during the interview. It shows you've been listening.
Toni Bowers is the former Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.