If I asked you to imagine the perfect job interview, what would that be like? For me, that would involve arriving at the location at least five minutes early having managed to not break the heel off my shoe, ladder my tights or throw coffee all over myself.
I’d remember the name of the person I was due to see rather that looking blank, and from the moment they said hello I’d have a great rapport with them. There’d be a perfect fit between my ideals and the company’s, and every answer that I gave would resonate with the interviewer, making them more and more certain that I’m the right person for the job.
Like athletes who visualise a race or match, it’s good practice to mentally rehearse your interview. Unfortunately, in reality there’s no way you can control how well someone else responds to you, and no way you can influence whether they see you as a great fit for their company’s values or not… or is there? As it turns out, there is.
You might have heard of mirroring in terms of body language. We instinctively mirror each other’s body language as a way of bonding and conveying that we understand each other. Certain actions are contagious; if you smile a person is more likely to smile at you in response, and we’ve all caught a yawn from a tired friend or colleague. It seems as though the reason for this is that the easiest way to understand the way another person is feeling, is to try their expression on for ourselves.
Where mirroring really comes in handy, in terms of interviews, is that you can use it to create a sense of kinship with the person who is interviewing you, by carefully mirroring their expressions and body language.
Mirroring works when it seems natural. You don’t want to give the impression you’re doing a comedy routine, so get some practice at mirroring before you try it out on a potential employer. The trick is that you don’t need to mirror exactly what the other person is doing (which is just as well if your interviewer is twirling his finely waxed hipster moustache) – all you need to do is perform an action that is similar. If your interviewer brushes their cheek, wait 20-30 seconds and do something similar; perhaps you tuck a strand of hair behind your ear.
It’s worth noting that you only want to mirror the positive body language that you see in others. If you’ve said something that’s caused offence to your interviewer and they’re flaring their nostrils or furrowing their brows, don’t copy that; it will only inflame the situation. It’s also worth keeping in mind that you will begin to experience the emotions associated with any body language you fake, so if your interviewer is naturally nervous and you ape their mannerisms you could damage your own confidence.
It’s not just body language that you want to reflect, it’s also language choices. It’s standard practice now to do a bit of research about the company you want to work for, but pay particular attention to the language used on their website.
What are the company’s values? Is there any way that you can reflect those values in how you answer questions? Prepare a few responses with these ideas in mind; but don’t parrot back what you’re read, that will just sound cheesy and artificial. Try to find a way to show you live the values, give examples or paraphrase. It’s not about showing that you’ve read the website, it’s about helping them imagine you as a part of the team.
I’ve mentioned it a few times already, but this really isn’t a technique you can use without preparation and rehearsal. Interviews are stressful times, and you need to make sure that you don’t get so busy thinking about mirroring body language and slipping in key phrases that you haven’t heard the question you’ve just been asked. Being present in the moment, in the interview, is vital, so these skills need to be second nature.
So, find a willing friend who will play the role of interviewer, let them know what you’ve found out about the company from your research and then -lights, camera, action!- it’s time to test it out. If you can’t find a friend willing to help you out then use a friendly mirror, and talk to yourself (it might be worth closing the curtains before you do this!)
Landing your dream job is serious business and it’s well worth investing some time before you go to give you the best chance of success. Perhaps the most important choice of all, though, is the role that you choose to apply for. Pick a job that you will be genuinely good at, for a company that you’d love to work for and you’ll naturally be in sync with anyone you meet.
Image Credit: Gustavo Spindula