Preparing for Your Next Interview - A brief study in sociology

Going into a one on one interview has a tremendous amount of pressure associated with it. Not only, in most situations, will it warrant you a job, but it can also be incredibly intimidating. In this months' article I have tried to outline the interview process and give some heartfelt advice based on a lot of interview experience, but also a small passion for the study of sociology.

Sociology is the study of life and the people in it. For example, there are certain people who enjoy sitting on a bench in a busy mall and “watch the world go by” as most of them will say. What they are actually doing is studying sociology. By sitting in that fixed environment and watching others react and interact, they are building a keen ability to detect personality traits by watching the body language, speech patterns, and facial expressions of the other person. This skill plays a vital role in how well people communicate with not only people they know well, but how well they communicate with complete strangers. And let's face it, in an interview situation, being able to communicate comfortably with the interviewer can make even a not so good interview seem great.

Part1: Getting into the interview: More often than not a secretary will greet you and ask you to be seated before your interviewer is ready. Take this valuable time to practice your social skills on the secretary. Be respectful to her, thank her, and quietly be seated. In the occasional chance she says you can go on in, thank her, and make your way to the door. Even if the door is half-open and you know you are expected, give a polite knock. By respecting the interviewer's space and boundaries, you are indicating that you are aware of this person's status within that particular company. At this point, usually the interviewer will get up, extend a hand for a courteous greeting and gesture for you to be seated. Be sure you have a firm handshake and look your interviewer in the eye as you greet him or her and smile. If he or she does not extend a hand, take the initiative and extend yours, you will look more professional and courteous. As you are seated, thank them for their time.

Part 2: Showing all the right signs: Have you ever sat in front of a full length mirror and practiced conversing? If you have, you probably took note of certain aspects of body language. Body language is something everyone does, usually unaware of how that can effect the mood of the other conversant. For an interview, it is best if your body language conveys interest, respect, and a spirit of professionalism. Sit facing the other person as best as you can. Display an open posture by avoiding crossing your arms and legs. If you are a lady, always cross your ankles beneath your chair, if you are a man, set your feet firmly on the floor and let your knees relax out a bit. Sit up straight and look them in the eye. You can also cock your head so that one ear is tilted towards the other person to signify you are listening closely, and be sure to nod and smile your affirmation when a phrase is completed. Try to avoid loud looking hand gestures during conversation, instead choosing to fold them neatly in your lap which usually signifies humility and a willingness to listen.

Part 3: Speak appropriately: In the French language, there are different forms of saying the word “you”. One for a person you are familiar with, and one for someone you are not. While we do not have this luxury in the English language, you can still use the same principals when addressing and meeting someone new. Always use their official title, whether it be Mr., Mrs., Dr., so on and so forth. In conversation you can also refer to a man as “sir”, however women sometimes might take offense to the word “m'am”, especially if they are in their thirties. Use your best judgment, and if anything the use of the word might illicit a smile or a chance for an ice-breaking comment, such as “I'm not quite old enough to be a m'am yet, so please just call me Ms. Smith.” I would not advise using the word “Ms.” as many women slightly younger would like to come across as being older. Plus this word can be especially annoying to a married woman, young or old. If you're not sure how to address your interviewer, there is never anything wrong with asking what he or she would prefer. Not only will you be positive you won't offend them while in conversation, but you have signified that you respect them enough to not wish to offend them or make them uncomfortable.

Part 4: Take your Sociology skills out for a spin: The all important “ice-breaker” in conversation is that one single moment where you have turned the tables from mere strangers to the realization that you and the other person will be able to get along together. It makes the conversation switch from awkward and stilted, to one that is more flowing and relaxed. If you can make your interviewer relax, you'll be surprised at how fast him or her will in turn make you relax. And that can have a long lasting impression on someone. People like to be put at ease, especially in a stressful work environment. Learning to do this, however takes practice and a keen study of sociology. Just as you are displaying certain body language and speech patterns to your interviewer to make a good impression, so are they dropping unknowing hints into their personality and life by the way they communicate with you. If you are perceptive enough, you will be able to decipher the best way to communicate with this person. For example, you can tell if they are insecure, stressed, relaxed, worried, impressed with you, happy, frustrated, and the list goes on. If you practice and hone this skill enough, you will be able to alter your own communication style to best suit the needs of the other person, which will in turn set them at ease with you and make for a fantastic interview.

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