Paper: How not to stuff up your job interview

There is much talk about whether a person who looks up and to the left is lying. Actually, that’s not what the principles say. The principles say that a person who looks up and to the left is constructing an answer. Whether that answer is true or false is not indicated. A person who looks up and right is using the rational part of his brain to recall facts in order to recite them. The person looking up and to the left is searching his brain to gather data which will be analysed and built into a reply.

However, universally (almost) raising both eyebrows means “that’s unacceptable,” raising one means “that’s questionable” and frowning means “did you really say that?” A lifting of the chin means “Really? Maybe you should expand on that” and a shrug and a slump in the chair pretty much means it’s all over bar the platitudes.

If the interviewer sits forward, that’s either engagement or challenge. You can’t decide in isolation: a strident voice means challenge, a warmer voice means engagement.

Silence is a weapon. Interviewers like to know if you can handle it. So handle it.

Without being arrogant or aggressive, keep eye contact but not staring him down.

But don’t fidget or look around the room. And don’t break the silence. Look at the other panellists and it’s likely one of them will think that it’s a silly game and speak.

If the silence goes on for more than a couple of seconds – and even such a short period will seem like a lifetime in an interview – then you can break it if you are careful. You could ask “is there anything else I can help you with?”

A word about corrections: if you give a response and afterwards realise it was wrong, incomplete or unclear, ask to return to the question and your response. Do not delay.. it will prey on your mind and distract from your performance as the interview progresses. Explain why you want to go back: for example, you might say “I’m sorry but I need to return to the answer I gave about x.. I think I could have explained it better. I should have said….”

Remember.. if you were writing a report, you have the chance to edit. There is no reason why you should not edit previous responses in an interview so long as you do it properly. It demonstrates honesty, clarity of thinking and the ability to perform under pressure.

Associated with that point is that you should not jump in with an answer until you have decided what that answer should be and how to best communicate it. Adrenaline will make you think much faster than you think you are thinking and even a fraction of a second will seem a long time to you: it won’t seem long at all to the interviewer.