This is an old blog from our old website archive. Original posted in October 2020.
Getting an interview means a company is intrigued enough by your resume to want to meet you. And, since it’ll be the first time they see you as more than just words on a page, it’s paramount you make a genuine connection with them. An interview is your chance to show and tell the company why you’re the best person for the job. And if it comes down to a company deciding between two people who are like-for-like on paper, they will undoubtedly turn to the interview as the basis of their decision; who did we connect with more? Who demonstrated their personality will fit best into our business? Who do we remember more and why? So, how you talk, walk, look and act matter. Here are five ways to create genuine connection in your next interview.
1. Prepare, prepare, prepare
Preparation is everything. Some preparation will seem obvious; the business, the job and some potential questions or topics that might come up. But often people will focus too much on the business and job, and neglect the person they’ll be talking to. What can you find out about the specific person interviewing you? Do you have any mutual connections or common interests? And what’s their history within the company you’re applying to?
Finding out such things will not only allow you to tailor your performance to align with the interviewer, but on a more human level, they’re also simply opportunities to connect and converse. If you can connect with them as well as the business, you have a much better chance of success. Aside from preparing for a real conversation, get a good sleep the night before, eat well, decide what to wear the day before and figure out how you’ll get to the interview in good time.
2. Actions speak louder than words
Nonverbal communication says a lot; it can give a clear message to an interviewer about how you’re feeling, what you think of the position, what you think of the company and your intentions and personality. So, walk into the room with confidence, make sure you shake their hand – initiate this if they don’t – sit straight and don’t slouch, make good, regular eye contact but don’t stare, lean slightly in when they’re talking, use your hands when you speak and don’t cross your arms. Also, don’t forget to smile, even if you’re nervous.
Whilst this list could go on forever, and you don’t want to become preoccupied with your body at the expense of what you’re saying, the idea is to show that you’re a friendly, confident person who wants to be in that interview. For more on nonverbal communication, click here.
3. Actively listen
Amid the nerves, worrying whether your handshake was good enough and trying to remember that fact you read about the interviewer, it can be easy to slip into a state of half-listening. This, however, will be noticed. When replying to a question, be specific; support, question or modify an idea the interviewer posed, use snippets or phrases they used and cite examples or thoughts that directly address the question.
Don’t use vague responses that could be an answer to multiple things. And if you ask the interviewer a question, ask a follow-up question that is based on their answer; make an effort to extend the conversation rather than simply nodding and moving on. Actively listening, responding precisely and asking questions are all ingredients to a real conversation. And to make a genuine connection in an interview, a conversation has to be had.
4. Follow up, say thank you
If you made a connection during the interview, don’t lose it. Within twenty-four hours, send the interviewer an email thanking them for their time and state why you enjoyed the interview. But, be specific. Most candidates will send an email saying thank you, but if you were really listening in the interview, you should be able to remember a few specific points. Reference one of these in your email and explain why that was important to you.
By doing so, you’re reinforcing the connection you made in the interview and showing them you care. And, as an extra idea, consider sending a handwritten note, card or something else physical a few days after that initial follow-up email. Some argue that a personal touch makes a difference.
5. Adapt for video
Video interviews are becoming more common, so it’s vital you adapt so you can still create connection during that all-important interview. First, ensure you have the right equipment and the right space. That means reliable, usable internet and a quiet, well-lit, appropriate environment. Interviewers don’t want to be interrupted by family members or housemates walking behind you, and they don’t want to be straining to see you in a darkened bedroom.
In the world of video interviews, what’s behind you is an extension of you. If there is washing hung up to dry or messy shelves, this will influence how you’re perceived. Equally, choosing a sporting trophy cabinet as your backdrop may seem pretentious. So, choose a neat, neutral background, nothing more is needed.
Then, test your tech before the interview, multiple times. Provide a phone number that the interviewer can reach you on in case of an unavoidable technical error and ensure you’re positioned within the camera frame centrally with enough space to use your hands. All of these ideas help create a clear space so you can have a meaningful conversation and impress.
And whilst it’s not unheard-of people wearing something smart on their top half and something casual on their bottom half for a video interview, don’t do it. If you have to stand up to deal with a distraction or technical issue, all will be revealed.