Let’s face it, you can have a stellar CV and a list of achievements as long as your arm, but if the interviewers don’t warm to you as a person, they will be unlikely to take things any further. What do you think they are, masochists?
Now, I’m sure that you are a lovely person. You know it, and your mum knows it, but unless you are able to project that “inner you” in the most pressurised of settings, other people may well get the wrong idea. Giving one words answers is a result of pressure, but it doesn’t endear you to people. Shuffling and fidgeting is a result of pressure, but it puts people off engaging with you. Looking all serious and not smiling much is easy to do when you are thinking hard about how to answer, but people will imagine that you are like that all the time.
Hard as it is to do, you have to put being “likeable” at the top of your priority list.
Do you know what, the content of your interview doesn’t even have to be that great if the person opposite you are bought into who you are. You smile at them, you say a few things which resonate with what they think, you find a few things in common, and a rapport appears that will remain in the memory long after your answers have faded.
If a senior manager asks them a week later what they thought of you, their first answer will be: “I liked them, ” and then they might struggle to remember the details. If they didn’t like you so much as a person, they wouldn't be able to generalise in a positive way, and they definitely won’t remember any details about your answers. We have this on/off switch in our heads that tries to erase all of our less than pleasant experiences. Who wants to have those in their heads anyway?
Coming across as being likeable isn’t about being overly smarmy. If people feel that you are being false in your nicety, then that will be even more negative. So much has been written on the subject that I won’t repeat here, but for an interview, there is one key consideration. For someone to like you, they have to feel a connection with you. If you can do all you can to make that connection as early as possible in the interview and then build on that foundation, you will have every chance of them going away thinking: “Well, he was a good guy.”
That first moment you meet is crucial for setting the tone. A warm smile, a friendly but firm handshake and a sense that you are delighted to be with them are a good start. Then you have to put them at ease by letting them know that they are in control of events – listen more than you talk in the first couple of minutes. Keep your first answers more brief to give them time to steer the conversation in their desired direction. Make sure that your views are true to what you think, don’t pander to their opinion, but be respectful of it.
Imagine that they are a friend of a friend that you meet in a social setting. How would you behave with them? Behave in a similar way, and you have every chance of them liking you.