First impressions are everything, especially when they are interview first impressions.
In his book Blink, author Malcolm Gladwell tells a fascinating story about University students evaluating a number of new professors. The first group of students reviewed a batch of new teachers over an entire semester. They were then asked to rank them against a number of criteria.
Then the researchers created a very brief 20 second video of the same teachers in action and showed these to another group of students. Despite the much shorter review time, the students gave the profs the same evaluations.
Finally they took only 2 seconds of that same class video, this time without sound, and again asked students to rate the professors’ abilities. To everyone’s surprise, the results in all three surveys were nearly identical. And incidentally, highly accurate.
Somehow that extra semester of exposure to a good or bad teacher didn’t really add anything new. The judgment of the students was pretty much set in the first 2 seconds.
If you are a prospective candidate, heading into a job interview, what does this tell you about your chances? What do you need to do in those first 2 seconds that will help your interview first impressions and clinch the role?
Over several millions of years, humans have evolved a very sophisticated survival skill; something that comes into play every time we walk into an interview room or bump into a member of a competing tribe on a jungle path.
It turns out we can identify a stranger as friend or enemy with a high degree of accuracy in a matter of seconds.
How do we do this? It’s a subconscious ability most of us are not even aware of having. But scientists tell us we are very good at rating trust and congruency in others.
Building trust with a stranger is based on a number of important cues, most of them tied into body language. A genuine smile is at the top of the list because most humans can subconsciously detect fake smiles with very high fidelity. And an artificial smile will ring alarm bells.
Other body language cues? Do you stand proud and open or are you closed and reluctant? Do you maintain eye contact?
Take a look in the mirror before that next important interview. Take a deep breath and relax. Try to imagine what a prospective employer might be seeing in you: Empathy? Trust? Honesty? If you have those qualities, make sure they shine.
Congruency is a measurement of how well all the signals we are broadcasting match. Your attitude, your facial expressions, your dress; they should all be telling the same story.
Finally, remember this isn’t just about you. Interviewers can be nervous too. Thinking about things from their perspective might help you to build rapport better and see things from their side of the table. Which will probably make you like them more.
Which will go a long way to generating that winning and completely authentic smile that wins a lot more interviews than you might imagine.
By: Russ Smith