Using Personal Style to win over Interviewers

Subject: Using Personal Style to win over Interviewers
From: "James Barrow" <vrfour -at- verizon -dot- net>
To: <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 06 Feb 2007 06:22:48 -0800

Psychologist Albert Mehrabian estimated that 93% of all communication is
non-verbal. So while many people worry about saying the right thing in
interviews, what wins interviewers over is more often not what someone said,
but their overall presentation. Personal style and non-verbal communication
are especially important for people who might be perceived as being at a
disadvantage in interviewing situations, such as older people who have been
in the workforce for a while. It's especially important for older job
candidates to come across as energized, bright and excited in order to
counter the misconception that only younger candidates are motivated and
eager to learn.

Examples of People with Great Personal Style

Staying with this theme of older workers, it might help to get a visual in
your mind about a particular style that you'd do well to imitate. The
following celebrities are all older Americans, but they would come across
great in interviews because of their attitudes and personal style: Donald
Sutherland; Lauren Hutton; Martin Sheen; Colin Powell and Jimmy Carter. We
sort of came up with these names from a random brainstorming session so it's
by no means a complete list. But hopefully you'll find at least one of
these examples inspiring and educational.

All these people are dapper, stylish dressers. In an interview situation,
it's important to come in looking well put-together. Dressing well
demonstrates personal discipline and attention to details. It can also
demonstrate that you're knowledgeable about current fashion, aware of
tradition and social ritual, etc. How you look is the first impression you
make in an interview. These people all have deep moral convictions, keep
themselves healthy and in good shape, and have a positive outlook on life.
They are also tactful, have a good sense of humor, are very bright, and
demonstrate enthusiasm and energy but in an understated way. They are also
very smart and knowledgeable about current issues. When they talk about
something, they usually know it inside and out, and come across as very
professional and astute.

Contrast these people with some other examples: the men in the classic movie
from 1993, "Grumpy Old Men," especially the lead character Max played by
Walter Matthau. These characters came across as tired, disconnected from
the current times, and lacking style. Or even worse, Jerry Stiller's
character as George Castanza's dad on Seinfeld, who was always grumpy and
seemed worn out by life. These characters would do terribly in interviews
because they'd confirm interviewers' fears about older candidates.

Researcher Warren Lamb has studied non-verbal communication and believes
someone who tends to straighten their posture during a handshake to be a
"presenter," and someone who is good at selling themselves or the company
they represent. He also found people who tend to lean forward during an
interview to be an "operator," or someone with lots of energy who isn't
afraid to get their hands dirty. This doesn't need to be dramatic; but
leaning back in your chair during an interview could give the interviewer a
sense that you're not interested, or that you don't have a lot of energy.

So while there is research to back up that certain elements of personal
style do communicate positive messages, it seems that it's more a matter of
someone's overall philosophy that make up their style. If you're excited
about your own personal development, coming across well, being really good
at what you do, but also being humble about it, you'll make a great
impression on anyone you talk to, including interviewers.

- Jim


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