Interview Clues, Part 1: Smile, breathe, be positive


In the Interview Clues series, Employment Solutions staff interview Michele Hazell, Human Resources and Operations Manager with over fifteen years’ experience across the private, non-profit, and government sectors.

Question: In addition to looking at technical skills, employers evaluate attitude and assess soft skills during interviews. From your experience, what are some of the signals or responses an interviewer looks for to gauge attitude?

Interview CluesMichele Hazell: Body language is one of the most important things in an interview. People often don’t realize the value of a smile. If I am interviewing for a customer service position, and the applicant doesn’t smile in the interview, I’m not going to consider them for the job. A big part of any role is being able to interact well with people, to smile and be friendly. I have interviewed people who have nailed all of the questions, but I still had that gut feeling that they weren’t quite the right fit, and it usually had to do with body language. A person’s body language will tell you a lot about them. You want to demonstrate warmth and confidence with your body language: smile, make eye contact, offer a firm handshake, relax your shoulders.

Body language is nonverbal language communicated through facial expressions, gestures, body movements, and tone of voice.

Although interviews can be nerve-wracking, many people underestimate the value of breathing. Breathing helps to release a lot of the anxiety and nervousness; it helps you to stay relaxed. Listen to the question and don’t feel you have to respond right away. If you blurt out responses, it contributes to a nervous body language; or you might miss things, which could make it seem like you’re not listening. Employers are looking at that in the interview. It’s not only about the questions, but also about your listening skills and ability to respond calmly and effectively. Remember to keep breathing; take time to listen and to put your thoughts together before you respond.

Take a deep breath. “Deep breathing allows you to calm your nervous system and choose a more thoughtful and productive response.” – Julie Hanks, LCSW

Be positive. Keep your personal issues out of the interview. If you’re talking about previous employers or coworkers, even if your experience wasn’t great, don’t go into the details. Don’t bad-mouth previous employers. If you speak negatively about former employers in an interview, the interviewer will likely think that that is indicative of your attitude in the workplace. Negativity is a red flag. Also remember that difficult situations are never one-sided. Whether you take responsibility or blame others will be apparent in your attitude. The workplace is a professional environment. Keep your responses professional and positive.

Focus on the positive. “Approach the entire interview process with a positive attitude. Put the power of a positive attitude to work for you during your next interview.” – Dan Simmons

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