I’m, Like, Totally the Perfect Candidate?

This post is by Michelle Joseph, founder PeopleFoundry. She works with Chicago-based growth companies by finding the best people businesses seek. A nine-year recruiting veteran, she and her team are changing the way Chicago forges companies and careers. When she is not busy connecting candidates with the best companies, you can find her running Chicago’s lakefront path or cheering on her home team, the Cincinnati Bengals.

Word choices, social mannerisms and body language speak volumes. In an interview, these behaviors are scrutinized to an even higher degree. As the owner of a Chicago-based recruiting firm, PeopleFoundry, I hear employer feedback informed by candidates’ behaviors constantly. Candidates are not aware of their unconscious social missteps that can implode an interview before it even begins. Most of these behaviors communicate a lack of confidence, but some scream “cocky” from a megaphone, and those are just as damaging to your goal of getting hired.

So observe yourself in advance, make a critique, and prepare to be on your best behavior.

Word choices are important, and our language should be accurate and expedient as well, when appropriate. Filler words such as “like,” “ummmm,” and “you know,” muddle what you are saying. We are surrounded by filler words, and this ubiquity means that all of us are guilty to some extent. But there is a point past which normal use turns into overuse. After this point, filler words fragment what you are saying, distract from your point, and frustrate the person interviewing you. Breaking this habit is challenging, but doing so will only sharpen your communication skills, which are golden in an interview.

We have all heard about the importance of a firm handshake. While this key to succeeding in business seems charmingly quaint today, it brings to attention what our mannerisms say about us. The certitude and confidence conveyed with a well-executed handshake assures people that our jobs will be done competently. The opposite effect happens when you “uptalk.” A topic of much scorn, “uptalking” happens when you end statements with a rise in pitch as if you were asking a question. This unfortunate linguistic trend makes you sound unsure of what you are saying, undercutting the confident foundation you laid with that perfect handshake.

Before you have a chance to open your mouth, your body language starts communicating. Your posture, while standing and sitting, should echo the attributes you will bring to the team. It doesn’t take finely-honed detective skills to extrapolate how a person who slumps into their chair during an interview will go about their day once on the job. Also, do not forget to smile; our physical behaviors are contagious, and people would much rather be surrounded by upbeat coworkers than people who embody 9–5 drudgery. Besides, people are much more receptive to input coming from a place of positivity, so you will be more effective, too.

Take the time to probe your personal habits in these areas and make sure that you are able to turn off the less desirable ones for an interview. All of your means of communication will speak to how well you will do on the job, so it is worth the time to consider how you communicate inside and outside of the work place. Only positives will result from improving your speech, posture, and self-awareness.

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