A person famous within Catholic education once explained to me that people didn’t fully comprehend the extent to which an employer looked at the ‘full package’ when making an appointment. She was referring to matters such as dress, presentation, verbal communication skills, body language; and how the person connects with people.
These aspects are integral to the overall appointment but too often are overlooked by a person when they do a post-mortem after an unsuccessful job application.
This issue is compounded by the fact that some of these areas can be too sensitive to raise when a friend or colleague asks for advice when they keep missing out on roles. Even close friends and mentors tend to skirt around some issues. The end result is that a person can be blinded to a factor that is severely limiting them and no-one has had the courage to alert them to the shortfall.
So who will tell you if one of the following factors is repeatedly sandbagging your job search?
Your dress sense
Do you dress in a professionally appropriate way? Is your clothing outdated? Too revealing? Too casual? Too formal? Have you taken time to observe the dress sense of people now holding a position such as you seek?
I’ve seen people present themselves to an interview panel, for a senior role, and they could easily have been on their way to a BBQ. That old saying that ‘you never get a second chance to make a good first impression’ is so true. Much as you might not want to hear this, I’ve seen interview panels quickly switch off an interviewee who presents in a professionally inappropriate way.
Your physical presence: do you tend to wear too much perfume or after shave? Untidy, disheveled appearance? Hair unkempt? I recall one panel where the person was obviously a very heavy smoker and he joined us smelling like a smoke factory. No-one made comment and it was not mentioned in the panel review, however……. Should not matter I hear some say – “as long as you can do the job”.
I tend to agree that a person arriving to interview with long hair all over the place should not be disadvantaged (perhaps because in my case, jealousy is at play) but it does matter.
Have you ever noticed the impact created when someone slouches in a chair? Again perhaps it shouldn’t matter, but how would you react to an interviewee who joined the interview then: slouched sideways in the chair to be almost facing the side door; had one leg hooked up over the other; looked away from everyone at the table; and rested his chin in his cupped hand – which also muffled his speech! I’m not making this up….and this was for a leadership role.
How is your eye contact? Do you easily become distracted and lose eye contact with others? Too focused on one spot? I recall one interview where the seemingly strongest applicant spent half the interview looking to the ceiling and the other half at only one of the 5 panel members. How much rapport do you think he developed with the panel? Often the panel members might not be able to articulate why they didn’t connect with an applicant, however they’ll have a sense that the person is not a match to the leadership profile they are seeking.
What about your handshake – do you have either the ‘dead fish’ or the ‘knuckle crusher’? Mark Latham has much to answer for as the crusher still seems popular. If you’re smiling as you read this, then the message might well be for you! This is so important that when I’ve taken school students through a ‘job ready’ workshop, I get them to practice the handshake.
Word usage and pronounciation
Are you guilty of using ‘ah’ or ‘um’ repeatedly? People tend not to notice this of themselves. Do you have quirks you’re not even aware of; or specific phrases repeated ad nauseam? One executive was surprised to learn that she started every second or third sentence with “For me….” before providing the answer to our question. How is your sentence structure & grammar? At least we seem to moved past people using “at the end of the day….” for every second sentence.
Should it matter if someone pronounces ‘going’ and ‘showing’ as ‘goin’ and ‘showin’? It certainly does create an impression but who will tell you that it might not be a positive one?
Why not use a smartphone to record yourself the next time you’re addressing a group. You could well be surprised at what you hear. If you don’t record yourself, who would broach sensitive areas such as your speech?
Do you talk too much? Do you talk too quickly with a machine-gun delivery? Are you too loud or slow in the delivery? Too monotone? Just recently an applicant said during the panel interview “I know I talk too much….people often tell me I rabbit on” then, amazingly did just that – and talked herself into then out of the job. One Seinfeld episode featured a ‘quiet talker’ – could this also be you? Who would tell you?
Nerves can displayed in many ways. Some people can giggle or have a nervous laugh. Others might fiddle and fidget. I’ve seen people go rigid and their conversation lacks any warmth and expression. Everyone expects an interviewee to show some nerves, but how are your nerves manifested? My dad gave me some great advice many years ago. He said the best thing to do when nervous is to simply SMILE. He explained that when a person smiles, instead of appearing nervous, they look excited. Which leads us to:
The best way to show your warmth and personality is to smile. You’ll likely now chuckle when I suggest you practice it! Yes, just like the handshake, this can be practiced…. All you need is your face and a mirror. There have been countless times when I’ve seen a person leave an interview and the panel has commented about a person being too serious and lacking any warmth or personality. A smile can help here.
PLEASE PLEASE understand these comments are focused upon you ‘tricking up’ your interview. These critical aspects should be practiced and adopted in your everyday life. The interview is then a true reflection of you, not a staged rehearsal. For example, if eye contact is an issue for you, practice and practice in all situations and let this flow through to an interview. I’m not for one minute suggesting that you become diligent with eye contact during an interview, but not worry at any other time.
Select a role model for yourself. This should be someone who is in a position you aspire to reach; and who you can regularly observe. Then make it a research project to learn how they operate. This is not to suggest you slavishly copy them, but notice how does she engages with people; or how does he dress.