“There are four ways, and only four ways, in which we have contact with the world. We are evaluated and classified by these four contacts: 
  1. What we do,  
  2. How we look, 
  3. What we say, 
  4. How we say it.”

 -Dale Carnegie

Dale Carnegie was the master of human nature and establishing a good rapport with others, especially with those he wanted to influence.  He wrote the iconic social skills book How to Win Friends and Influence People first published in 1937, selling over 15 million copies and still hugely relevant today.  His quote about how people innately “size up” each other is valuable information for anyone trying to make a good impression.  Of course, establishing a good rapport with a potential employer is the primary goal in any job interview, so Mr. Carnegie’s social skills advice are golden nuggets for job searchers. 

Let’s apply Mr. Carnegie’s social intuition and logic to the job interview setting.  Here an employer, evaluating a potential eployee, organizes his/her critique around the interviewee’s ability to connect with him/her in four ways,  through 1) What the interviewee has done, 2) How the interviewee looks  3)What the interviewee says and 4) How the interviewee says it.   

Mr. Carnegie believed that success is less about one’s professional knowledge (i.e., What we do) and more about one’s social skills and “the ability to express ideas, to assume leadership and to arouse enthusiasm among people.”  (How we look, What we say and How we say it)  Of Mr. Carnegie’s four contacts with the world, the first, What we do, can be presented in a well-written and thoughtful resume.   Mr. Carnegie’s other three connections happen right in the job interview.  How we look, What we say and How we say it can either make or break an interview. 

And what is the most critical part of the job interview?  The first few seconds, as asserted by Malcolm Gladwell in his book, Blink.  Mr. Gladwell maintains that you only have a few short moments to make that perfect first impression, so heavy preparation and lots of physical practice and role playing are keys to creating a good rapport in a successful job interview.  It’s ironic that although
interviews are such important events in our lives, most people don’t spend enough time honing their social skills for them.  There is a lot written about interview preparation by researching the company, industry and employees, but preparing one’s social skills requires just as much preparation.

Let’s set the stage.  You’ve arrived at your interview and the interviewer walks up to greet you.  What do you do?  Mr. Gladwell would suggest acting as if s/he is a good, well-respected friend.  When you first meet your interviewer act friendly. That sounds obvious, but many interviewees in those first moments can present themselves as nervous, subordinate or even patronizing. Put yourself in the interviewer’s shoes and as Carnegie says, “arouse in the other person an eager want."  Make them want to be your friend.  I know what you’re thinking.  Easy for you to say.  The interviewer is not my friend, S/HE IS A POTENTIAL EMPLOYER and holds my future in their hands.  Elevating the interviewer into an omnipotent god-like image only makes you feel smaller and less in control.    Try to pretend you are meeting with a well-respected friend who really wants to see you.  Imagine the interviewer as someone with whom you already feel comfortable.  Imagine him or her as someone you already know and with whom you can relate in a professional way. Think of them as an ordinary, kind person, someone’s father or sister, uncle or nerdy cousin.  Being able to relate to the interviewer on an equal and respectful level allows you to feel more relaxed and confident. 

In other words, understand the context of the interview in a mutually beneficial perspective.  Sure, the interviewer has a job that you need but, you also have something that the interviewer needs. S/he needs to fill the job posting. An unfilled job requisition costs the company money.  The interviewer agreed to give you their valuable time because they were pleased and impressed with your potential and they are hopeful that you could make their job easier.  Fully realizing that the job interview is mutually important to both participants can put you the interviewee more at ease and confident in how you look, what you say and how you say it

In those first moments, stand tall, say hello to the interviewer in an upbeat and confident way, say his/her name and give a good, firm handshake (One tip I recently heard if you are one of us with sweaty palms, is to dust a little bit of powder on your hands that morning. Not too much, though. Be attentive and practice active listening skills.  Be aware of listening more than speaking in order to show respect and gain social cues from your interviewer.  These actions may all sound obvious, but in an emotion-packed interview situation, they can be forgotten.  Practicing and making these skills second nature is imperative.  If you do tend to get anxious during interviews, a career counselor colleague advises to consider carrying a little token in your pocket that could relax you when you hold it.  He refers to it as a sort of "blankie" to calm you down and make you less anxious.

Gerard Egan, author of the career counselling textbook, The Skilled Helper suggests important active listening and interviewing skills with the letters S-O-L-E-R.  Here are Mr. Egan’s interviewing tips:

S:   Smile and Sit Squarely so you are turned directly toward your interviewer.

O:   Adopt an Open body posture and positive attitude as a sign you are receptive to what your interviewer is saying.  An open posture is a good indicator to the interviewer of your emotional state and confidence level. 

L:   Lean slightly toward your interviewer.  This posture shows you are fully engaged, interested and open to listening.  Be sure not to get too close. (That would just be weird!) When you are in the interview, sit slightly on the edge of your seat and lean forward.  It’s just a subtle movement, but it can show a lot about you, your interest and your energy. 

 E:   Eye contact is critical to convey genuineness, confidence and an interest in what your interviewer is saying.  Be  first to look directly in your interviewer’s eyes.  You can practice this beforehand by looking in your own eyes in the mirror or when you are talking with someone.  Make it a point of observing the eye color and shape of everyone you meet.

 R:    Be Relaxed Be aware of how your body posture is communicating who you are.  If you tend to fidget, practice being  aware of your fidgeting and make a sustained concentrated effort to control it.  Fidgeting is very distracting to both you and your interviewer and can leave him or her uncertain about your emotional state.  A career counselor colleague advises to consider carrying a little token in your pocket that could relax you when you hold it.  He refers to it as a sort of "blankie" to calm you down and make you less anxious. 

As in many things in life, continuous practice is essential.  Role playing using the  S-O-L-E-R social skills will make them second nature and genuine in an interview.  Enlist help from friends; ask teachers, peers, anyone to help you roleplay.  Use your video camera, webcam or a mirror if no one’s available.  Especially in those fleeting first moments of the job interview, using well-prepared S-O-L-E-R social skills can create a confident, respectful, and positive first  impression.

This initial impression will hopefully become a lasting and influential impression on the interviewer.