Job Interview “Tells” Some Employers Use Against You

Recently a Director-level business manager complained to me that he just learned he was knocked out of the hiring process with a major retailer because he wasn’t “animated” enough in his job interview. Being a poker player, he asked me what other job interview “tells” he may be missing. nahls

Having conducted thousands of job interviews myself, and been involved with tens-of-thousands more, as a recruit manager dealing simultaneously with multiple national employer clients with ongoing appetites to hire at all levels, the consensus from those involved is that, generally speaking, in the first two minutes after an initial meeting with a job applicant, the applicant transmits several lasting impressions to the job interviewer. Impressions that go to the heart of how appropriate a job applicant may be for filling the job at hand. Remembering that the interviewer is often the person who decides whom gets moved forward, or hired, job candidates could strive to make those first-impressions workplace related positive memories. Or at least be able to recognize what you may be saying wordlessly through your “tells.”

Unfortunately, for most of us, in a job interview, many tend to project a faux-passive demeanor, a hyper-cooperative attitude; one that is at times attentive, maybe a little nervous, or mildly apprehensive, possibly even tinged with a bit of anxiety, for some. Those attributes leak through any positive persona we present at a job interview, and catch attention of the job interviewer. In that way, one or more less-than-positive personal habit or behavior, ones we’d rather not share openly, are sometimes revealed to the job interviewer. Messipoker

Such “tells” are easy to identify, which is why so many seasoned job interviewers look for them. Some of those behaviors are presented below. Recognize them for what they are – potential deal killers – work to edit such habits from your employment interview repertoire. Not because I suggest it, but because job interviewers and hiring-agents of various flavors notice them, and not always in a good way.

To be clear, I’m not speaking of obvious and stupid and outrageous behavior, like showing up to a interview drunk, or high on a drug – legal or not; or wearing inappropriately revealing or too-casual clothing; or being argumentative or in a foul or unkind frame of mind, or chewing gum, highlighting a tattoo or piercing, or tapping fingers or feet or pens, or in need of a bath or a toothbrush. No, those behaviors are easy to recognize. I speak here of more subtle “tells,” as a poker-player might call them.

And how high are the stakes for you in your job search?

For instance, one of the top “tells” that job interviewers look for is a lack of genuine common politeness or good manners. Or worse, feigned, or faked sincerity of politeness or good manners. Hiring agents wonder how sincere could be the motives of a person who would fake politeness.

Next is the “head in hand” pose; whether awaiting the job interview to start, or in the employment interview itself, to do so suggests a message of boredom or fatigue when you rest or touch your head to your hand to relax your neck muscles or try to seem inquisitive or thoughtful. Job interviewers often look for that behavior and take it as a sign that you are less interested in the job than you lead them to believe. Or that your mind is elsewhere. Don’t leave the job interviewer with those impressions. Maintain an attentive mind and posture throughout the job interview.

The third most common “tell” is lack of engagement with the interviewer; usually accompanied by near-zero eye-to-eye contact, and shy handshake, and possibly a short self-introduction, delivered with little to no smile or much enthusiasm – remember, this usually happens in the first two-minutes of meeting, so most applicants are distracted by the process at hand, that’s when “tells” leak through into a public domain. preferablepups

As simple as this may sound, if you believe you may be performing this two-minute “tell,” try taking a few opportunities to introduce yourself to several random people prior to a job interview, like your mailman, or a café manager, or neighbor. Just look them in the eye, hold out your hand and smile as you introduce yourself. Don’t laugh at this suggestion. It is an easy and valuable, and proven, way for job candidates at all levels to upgrade job interview skills; from CFOs to entry-level retail hires, I’ve seen this technique used successfully.


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