You never know what they’re thinking

By Siobhan O’Malley, Career Coach, Sli Nua Careers

Siobhan O’Malley, Career Coach, Ballinrobe (tel 094 95 42965)

A story was relayed to me by a colleague who had, and still has, a close friendship with a highly-successful businessman. It concerned the manner in which this businessman would form opinions on the suitability of candidates during interviews.

These candidates would be applying for senior executive positions within this man’s organisation and would be paid the extravagant salaries. The stakes were high. A candidate would have had several rounds of interviews and screenings before getting to the point of sitting down in front of the ‘main man’ himself.

The candidate would be ushered into the business man’s office and asked to sit in one of two chairs. One of the chairs was deliberately wonky and practically impossible to sit steadily on. If the candidate chose this chair, realised his or her predicament, stood up and chose the other chair, this would be deemed as an obvious example of confidence and viewed favourably by the businessman.

Alternatively, a candidate who stayed in the chair and wobbled their way through the interview would be deemed as potentially weak and lacking in self-belief.

Phase two of this quirky interview process involved lunch. Again the candidate was unaware of the manner in which his or her actions were being interpreted. This was relayed to me as being the ‘soup test’. The businessman would observe the candidate when the soup arrived. If he or she were to use salt or pepper without tasting the soup first, this was deemed as being impetuous and could mean the candidate was the type of person who would rush to judgement.

You never know what they’re thinkingThese assessment examples may seem extreme and unfair but the businessman in question would justify his actions on a number of levels. Firstly, the candidate had already gone through a rigorous interview process and this was now more of a personality analysis approach, albeit one without any scientific grounding. Secondly, the businessman was offering a massive salary and felt justified in his actions on that basis.

Believe it or not, we can all take something from this story.

Job interviews don’t just start and end with you answering questions. Interviewers look at other criteria as well. Ultimately, it’s a people-driven dynamic.

If you make a personal connection with the interviewer it can help a lot. Think about your body language during the interview.

Do you look relaxed when sitting at interview? Do you present well? Do you exude confidence in your own ability?

Do you smile and make eye contact? Do you shake their hands when you walk into the room? Do you thank them for inviting you for interview?

Do you sell yourself enough? Do you demonstrate that you are passionate about wanting the job?

All these small elements count in the overall assessment that someone else makes on your interview performance. You’re on trial from the moment you enter the building to the moment you walk, cycle or drive out the gate. Preparing along these lines will help your chances of success.

The interview environment is a funny place at the best of times. We can all help ourselves if we continue to think about our overall presentation.

It’s not just about questions. Avoid wobbly chairs, taste your soup first and the best of luck.

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Siobhan O’Malley is a Career Coach with Sli Nua Careers, who have offices in Galway, Dublin, Limerick, Athlone, Sligo and Mayo, plus a full online service. Their services include CV preparation, interview training, personal statements and application forms.