Harvard Business Review just completed a study that explores if chit chat before the formal interview influences the interview itself. In other words, how you communicate from the time you walk in the room until the first interview question will influence how you do on the interview.
This study uncovered a couple things that really stood out to me when I started thinking of all the interviews I have conducted over the years. A couple of the highlights (the sample group was video recorded with 163 interviews):
- First impressions did have an effect on interviewers.
- The first few interview questions asked, the job seeker who had a good small talk rapport scored higher. As the interview wears on, this goes away.
- Job related answers to interview questions eventually was the most important thing in rating candidates.
Interesting. And very true.
You can read the HBR article to understand how they performed this study. I find it fascinating because after hundreds of interviews I’ve conducted, I realized how much credit I give to those who I can connect to immediately; especially if it is just a normal conversation, as if we’ve known each other for years.
One thing all employers are looking for are people that fit into the company’s vibe and have the skill sets to perform the job. This varies for different industries, but the way you present yourself from the first second of walking in the door goes a long way in determining whether you get hired.
The good news is you have total control.
Many job seekers prepare for the interview by googling the typical interview questions, like “what is your greatest weakness” and try to memorize what they may say. This study to me is loud and clear; you can’t answer that question if you are bad at the initial small talk. In the interviewer’s mind, you will be way behind and if you stumble during the formal interview, you may have dug too big of a hole.
Those who initially approach me in a sincere, friendly, enthusiastic and upbeat manner allows me to start the formal interview hoping (and praying) they have the skill set to properly perform the job. Those initial meetings that go bad, I have to hope that you really warm up socially during the interview. Experience tells me if this doesn’t happen in the first few questions, mentally I most likely begin to think that you are not a fit.
For your information, these are some of the bad initial rapport experiences I’ve had before the formal interview:
- Dead fish handshake.
- No eye contact.
- No smile.
- MY BIGGEST PET PEEVE - Answering rapport building questions with one word answers. Example questions are, “How was the traffic this morning?”, “Did you have any problems finding this location”, or “How was your weekend?” These questions are your license to talk and show your personality! Don’t tell me the traffic was “fine”! Tell me that you were very excited to meet with me and you left much earlier than you had to knowing that the freeway can bottle up at any time in this city. Anyone who jokes and says, “And I only had to stop once to rescue a turtle crossing the road” will most likely be a finalist if they have the skill sets!