Timing, body language, eye contact key to acing your interview | Warren Bongard

Timing, body language, eye contact key to acing your interview | Warren Bongard

23 January, 2018

I am often asked what the appropriate protocols are after you’ve interviewed for a new position. While my career focuses on the lawyer market, one would be hard-pressed to argue that these tips don’t apply across the board. Believe it or not, the post interview begins around minute five of the first interview. Why? Judgments are made in the first five minutes of most interviews, so before discussing minute six, it makes sense to address the first five minutes.

Never be late. In fact, your first impression, even prior to the commencement of the interview, will be your punctuality (and hopefully not your lack thereof). Be late for an interview, and it’s likely game over, before it even starts.

Second, best be waiting for your interview in reception standing, and not sitting. I’m no expert on body language, but approaching your interviewer at the same physical level will help get your meeting started on the right foot. Getting up from a sitting position is not only awkward when you are about to shake hands, but it creates an immediate weakness.

Third, make and maintain strong eye contact. No need to be weird about it, just maintain focus as best as possible. Your engagement will be obvious and it will enable you to listen better. On that note, listen. If you find yourself talking for the entire first five minutes, you are not giving yourself a chance to listen to the interviewer and learning critical aspects for a successful interview, such as speed of speech, volume of voice and any pieces of key information about the interviewer that can be used later to prove your hearing is indeed intact.

Assuming you’ve met all of the above, you should be well placed to succeed, assuming of course you are the right person for the job. The interview is going well, and there is a natural flow to the conversation. Regardless of how comfortable you’ve become, do not, under any circumstances let down your guard. HR executives are well trained to make you feel comfortable to the point where you feel less inhibited, thus more inclined to speak as though you are with your friends at the bar or out for lunch. It is around this point in the interview where one off-colour remark can sink you. Stay professional and on point the entire time.

While conversing, remembering not to interrupt the interviewer is critical. Listen throughout and to every detail. Answer questions posed to you directly without going into long winded answers, and avoid using anecdotes to make a point unless you are asked for examples. Nothing is more frustrating than listening to a long story after asking a specific question, and by the end of the story the answer remains a mystery. Surprisingly, this happens often.

Being conscious of the time is important, especially if you feel your best qualities have not been discussed in relation to the position for which you are meeting and you’ve already been there an hour.

In a nutshell, the first portion of the interview should be the interviewer explaining what they seek and their culture. Being armed with as much of this information as possible at the outset and after the first 10 minutes will certainly enable you to stay on point and respond to skills and culture needs of the company.

Asking the interviewer what they saw in your resumé that inspired them to meet you if you are asked if you have any questions toward the end is always effective. This question ensures you are more aware of the role, and can help you identify your strengths then and there, before leaving and regretting you failed to do it.

Finally, there is always the question of the “thank you” note. While it always appropriate to send a note, a few points are worth mentioning here. First, be sure you were given the e-mail address of the interviewer. If not, it may be more appropriate to send a note through your recruiter, if there was one involved. If not, consider if it is appropriate. Second, keep the note short. So many people are tempted to write a novel on why they feel they are perfect for the job. Avoid this at all costs. Beyond seeming desperate, it risks having typos and it assumes your interviewer has the time or patience to read it. Keep it to two or three lines maximum. Avoid typos, grammatical errors and of course emojis. Thank them for their time, reiterate your interest — and that’s it.

Warren Bongard established his own legal search firm in 1996 before he co-founded ZSA Legal Recruitment in 1997. As president and co-founder, Bongard manages lawyer recruitment operations and focuses his practice on partner-level hires and special in-house assignments. Warren is passionate about his family and when time permits, lowering his handicap in golf. The author can be reached at wbongard@zsa.ca.


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