With the Princeton University students away and summer in full swing, the café is slowing down. Yet as slow as it was on Monday, my awesome co-worker and I made fantastic tips. We used the slower-paced environment to take extra, extra care of each customer. Lots of smiling. Lots of eye contact. Lots of enthusiasm in our voices.
I know that earning great tips had very little to do with saying all the right things such as “What would you like today?” and “Would you like anything else?” and “Have a good day.” People who work in customer service say those exact words all of the time but don’t necessarily mean it. It’s always obvious because their body language doesn’t match their words. They may not even make the effort to look you in the eye. Those are the people who don’t make great tips. And those are behaviors – poor eye contact and incongruence
between body language and verbal communication – that can keep you from getting a job.
Imagine if you were interviewing people and you had some interviewees that hardly smiled, sat with their arms folded across their chests, and often didn’t make eye contact. Would this make a good impression on you?
Now turn the scenario around. You are the one being interviewed. You are nervous, so you don’t smile when you meet the hiring manager. When asked why you want to work at Bob’s Awesome Place to Work, you say something like, “I’m a good fit for this company and I’d like to work here,” all while you sit demurely in your chair.
You know that you are sincere and really want to work at Bob’s Awesome Place to Work. The problem is, the hiring manager has no idea what you are like and is put off by your demeanor.
The bottom line for interviewing is that you need to give an excellent performance. With the U.S. unemployment rate at 8.2 percent, you can’t afford to blow an interview because of stage fright. Back in 2009, Penelope Trunk wrote an article in which she says that one of the biggest mistakes you can make when going to an interview is thinking that you’ll give a good interview because you’re the perfect match for the job. She’s right.
This past week, I had the opportunity to do a mock interview with Alex Freund, who has worked in management positions at several Fortune 500 companies such as Honeywell and Tyco International. Alex now is a career coach specializing helping his clients become better interviewees. He says that by the time you go for the interview the interviewer already knows that you are qualified to do the job, so the job of the interviewee is to demonstrate first-rate interview skills.
Freund records each client’s mock interview and goes over it with and without the sound. The questions he asked me were:
Tell me about yourself?
What frustrates you?
What do you love?
What did I learn? I learned that I’m a strong interviewer, but could get even better. The second question, “What frustrates you?” threw me off. You could see it in my body language and facial expression; I went from sitting upright in my chair and looking directly into the camera to shrinking my shoulders and looking away from the camera.
I did “recover nicely,” as Alex put it, coming up with a succinct, clear answer. Yet I see an opportunity to do even better.
There’s a free online resource called Glassdoor where you can find examples of actual interview questions companies ask their interviewees. It is a fantastic resource. You may even consider hiring a career coach to help you. I highly recommend Alex Freund to anyone who lives in the Princeton Area. Not only is he knowledgeable, but he is a genuinely nice person who really helps his clients identify and improve their weaknesses. (I’ve seen him in action in a workshop he gives at Princeton Public Library.)
Whatever you do, practice as if you have to give the performance of a lifetime.