Interviews can be a tricky thing when balancing the right amount of formal and informal conversation. However, every candidate would agree that there is a bit extra sense of accomplishment when you walk away from an interview feeling like you CONNECTED with the interviewer in some way, shape, or form.
Before we start sharing some simple tips that can help you break that barrier to connecting with the interviewer, please note that two of our recommendations will never change.
ALWAYS BE YOURSELF
When we provide some tips to help you throughout the interview process, we want to make sure that you always know that we never recommend not being yourself. “Fake it till you make it” is a disastrous plan when it comes to interviewing because it gets in the way of knowing if you will indeed be happy or a good fit for the company and role.
READ THE ROOM/INTERVIEWER
You never want to force small-talk or conversation, and it is important to read the room. It is usually best to take your cues from the interviewer on what type of interview this will be (formal and to the point vs. more relaxed with room for small talk). This strategy is sometimes tricky because a person’s personality/mood can easily affect the type of interview it will be, which is why you can never go into ANY interview with a hard-lined plan of what to do, say, or answer.
In most interviews, the interviewer will want to get to know you beyond just functional/technical skills and experience. In this case, here are some pointers we want you to remember when trying to build that connection.
1. Balancing Small-Talk
In most interviews, there is usually a natural opportunity initially and in the end for small-talk to occur. However, depending on the interview style, opportunities may come up throughout based on where topics progress. During this time, the best thing you can do is not to fear asking the interviewer(s) questions related to their role or insight into the company. This proactive approach shows that you value their opinion and opens a two-way dialogue for other interview areas.
Small-talk allows both of your personalities to shine and takes a little of the edge off of the interview formality.
So here is where the balance really comes in…
Remember, this is still an interview, and you do not want to push small-talk when the interviewer doesn’t show interest in it or interfere with the productivity of the interview with too much of it. You can still let the natural progression of the discussion and interviewer guide the show and still insert a little small-talk along the way.
2. Two-Way Dialogue
As briefly mentioned in the previous point, engaging in two-way dialogue with the interviewer can make a big difference. This type of exchange is probably the most critical point in allowing an Interview to feel like a conversation. Learning about the interviewer and their experience working with the company can often give you a leg up on the competition. In addition, some of the things that you learn through this two-way dialogue can come in handy when writing your “Thank you” notes afterward.
Remember, just because this is an interview doesn’t mean that you should treat your two-way dialogue differently from your standard “conversation engagement” tips. Things like not interrupting, being a “one-upper,” or showing a lack of engagement would be devastating to the interview. Although, I hope that would go without needing to be said.
A successful interview is similar to a good ping pong volley where each player can respond to the ball when it’s their turn to play.
3. Relax and show some personality!
If your idea of showing some personality means that you have a list of dad-jokes ready to go, please allow me to remind you that you NEED to read the room first.
As a big fan of Dad-jokes, I recognize that 8 out of 9 people usually DO NOT find them funny. However, if that 1 out of 9 is interviewing me… JUST KIDDING… This example is not what I mean by “show some personality.”
Showing personality is not about resorting to corny jokes or even pre-rehearsed topics. It is about not being afraid to laugh, smile, or show appropriate emotion when the occasion calls for it. Often, candidates want to show that they are serious about the job and position, and that seriousness spills over to overshadowing their personality. If you’re going to show you are serious, then demonstrate it through the research you did and the steps you took to rock the interview.