Monday, February 2, 2009

Is Your Knuckle-Cracking Killing Your Job Chances?

I've spent a lot of time lately interviewing people who no longer have jobs. One thing I hear over and over is that they really need to feel they're doing something positive every day. Whether it's writing a blog, teaching themselves a new skill, or making phone calls to network with former colleagues, they manage to keep their sanity by keeping busy and not giving in to panic or despair.

I'm impressed by how many of them want to turn this time in their lives into a self-improvement exercise, focusing on ways they can make themselves more appealing to employers.

As part of that effort, I want to focus on an issue that will not only help the unemployed present themselves to potential employers in a better light, but also aid them once they get a job.

The first thing needed is a video camera. The second is Jay Leno. (If Jay Leno isn't available, a friend or family member will do.)

If you're game for this exercise, the first thing you do is put on clothes that you would wear to an important interview. This gives you a chance to make sure your clothes are not only appropriate and look professional, but comfortable enough you're able to think of more than how you're about to choke in a too-tight collar.

Ask your friend to come up with a list of standard interview questions, but make sure you tell them to add some "zingers" to catch you unprepared. ("Is this your photo on Facebook where you appear to be using a beer bong?")

Now, begin your "interview" with the camera pointed directly at you. The interview should be at least 15 minutes long, with your entire body visible to the camera.

When you're done, get a paper and pen and review your video. Mark down any mannerism you do more than one time, such as fiddling with your hair, clicking a pen, licking your lips, slouching, picking at your face, biting your nails, chewing your lips, playing with your clothing, cracking your knuckles, jiggling your legs, crossing your arms or avoiding eye contact.

Next, listen to your voice. Try and determine if you're talking too loudly or softly, and whether you're easily understood. Do you interrupt the interviewer, use profanity or use "slang" words? Do you say "like" or "you know" too much? (This is a big pet peeve of many interviewers, as in "I, like, was head of my department. I, like, you know, did most of the work.")

If you're not sure what may constitute a bad or annoying habit, consider the things other people may have pointed out to you in the past. For example, if you've ever been told you talk too softly, then you need to work at projecting your voice. Or, if you've ever been told you have poor grammar, dress like a slob, have an annoying habit of jingling change in your pocket, then you've got a place to start looking for improvement.

Further, you can always ask someone who doesn't know you well to review your video, perhaps a neighbor or someone you respect from your industry. Do they notice any habits that are distracting? (Don't put them on the spot by asking for "bad" habits -- they may not want to hurt your feelings.)

You may think that you speak just fine, that you don't have any mannerisms that need correcting. But in this tough job market, you want to stand out because of your qualifications, not because you're the woman who kept flipping her hair over her shoulder or the guy who couldn't stop fiddling with his tie.

It's important to build rapport quickly with an interviewer because you're given only a limited amount of time. While our family members may think it's endearing that we say "for intensive purposes" instead of "for all intents and purposes," an interviewer or business contact is just going to think you're not too bright. Or, while a friend is willing to overlook your habit of constantly petting your beard as if it's a beloved pet, it is just distracting and annoying to people who don't know you well.

No one is perfect. Everyone has bad habits, personal tics and mannerisms that are unique to them. I'm not suggesting you become a robot with no personality. What I am saying is that anything that gets in the way of establishing a better rapport with an interviewer is something that you can improve -- and that's a habit that will serve you well in your career.

What are some ways we can break bad habits that may adversely impact rapport with others?

Lijit Search


Dan Erwin said...

Having used video for years in coaching speakers, I'd be the first to scream amen to what you're saying.

I'd add a couple other things to the list. Emotional tone is important. Does the interviewee sound/feel like a person of confidence and integrity that I'd like to work with? And posture. Does he/she sit or stand up straight without hunched shoulders--look us warmly in the eyes.

There's little better than getting two or three friends to look at the video. Take their input, adjust and do some more practicing. Then get those friends back for another situation to check your growth.

Anita said...

Great suggestions! These are all ideas that can be easily implemented with a little practice, and provide a really big payoff.

David Benjamin said...

I'm so glad you write the blogs you do. Your information provides great value to anyone willing to follow your suggestions.

I received my first video resume from a candidate six months ago. It put in perspective the possibilites for the success of this platform. It's a great activity for anyone serious about their career.

We all want to be viewed in a certain light, but often times our real communication skills are seen through rose colored glasses. Most people have certain habits that need improvement, video helps magnify those areas.

Have some respected friends, collegues, and others critique from a totally objective point of view. We can all get something.

Anita said...

Part of the problem, I believe, is that our little mannerisms become big problems when we're in a stressful situation, such as an interview. So, if you can be aware of them before you are put to the test, then it's one less thing to worry about! As always, thanks for adding your comments. They are much appreciated.

Bonnie said...

Great tips! Also, for people who don't have (or want to buy or borrow) a video camera, they can still practice in front of their friends and get valuable feedback. Not as good as seeing/hearing for themselves via video, but still helpful.

Anita said...

That would certainly work, as long as you make sure you include the friends/family who are known to be brutally honest ("Yes, you do look fat in those pants.") Thanks for adding.

Paige said...

Great advice! It is so easy to get caught up in using words such as "like" and "you know"...big pet peeves of mine. No, I don't know, why don't you tell me!!!

Working with others who can offer you good and constructive feedback is a wonderful resource for young people to consider.

And, YES...please clean up your Facebook, MySpace accounts. I hear of hiring managers and employers looking on the sites all the time when hiring. It is so important. As

Anita said...

You bring up a good point -- you may never even get an interview if you don't have a good online reputation. So, not only clean up your sites, but ask friends and family to remove anything that casts you in a negative or questioning light.
Thanks for your input.