1. Take a moment to imagine the interviewer’s perspective. It may be that this person is protecting her team from an ‘intruder’ or that this person is desperately looking for a new friend. You’ll be able to better identify the interviewer’s motives as the interview progresses. By understanding the interviewer’s needs, you may be able to present yourself as suiting those needs.
2. Build rapport through mirroring posture. When you see the interviewer take a certain position, copy that position as much as possible several seconds or a minute later. For instance, if the interviewer crosses his ankles, cross your ankles. Use mirror image, as opposed to using the same side of your body. So, if you’re facing the interviewer, and she puts her right hand on the table, and her left in her lap, then you can put your left hand on the table, and your right in your lap after perhaps seven seconds.
You would think that the person being mirrored would feel mocked. In fact, they almost never consciously notice, unless your gestures are overdone, or done immediately. And if they do notice, they feel complimented. You can try this with friends. Next time you are with friends, mirror them, and see what they do. Interestingly, the unconscious reaction is one of comfort, or rapport. The people being mirrored feels that you are like them in some fundamental way.
Another advantage of mirroring is that it puts you a bit on the interviewer’s map. This means you start to feel like the interviewer just a bit, and can better identify with their situation. Rapport works both ways.
3. You can also mirror gestures. This works best if done at least a few seconds after the interviewer’s gestures. Again, you’d be surprised how much this is not noticed, even with big, grand gestures, yet it can make the interviewer feel more comfortable with you. If there is not room to gesture as big as the interviewer, or if you feel that your gesture would be overdone if as big as the interviewer’s, you can make the same movement, but smaller.
Many times gestures point to specific areas relative to the interviewer’s body. The interviewer may be imagining an event in the past as over her shoulder, or a co-worker to her right or something heard is indicated by gesturing near the interviewer’s ears. When you mirror these gestures, indicating the same general position, it makes the interviewer feel ‘understood’, and in the case of a job interview, that’s a good thing!
You get bonus points if you can match a gesture with backtracking.
4. Backtracking is repeating key words or phrases. A recent popular trend called ‘active listening’ teaches that you can indicate that you understand a speaker by using your own words to state back what you heard. This may have a bit of merit, but backtracking works much better. You’re looking for words that stick out in the conversation a bit. They may be pronounced more loudly, slowly, consonants may be emphasized. A few seconds later, you want to incorporate these words or phrases in your conversation verbatim. For instance, you may notice the interviewer has said the word, “crazy” twice and rather loudly. You may not even know exactly what he means by ‘crazy.’ Still, if you use crazy in a sentence, ideally with the same inflection, the interviewer will unconsciously think you understand him perfectly.
5. If practical, ask for a tour. For the interviewer to have you in the work area, makes him comfortable with your presence, and starts him in a thinking process in which you are already included in the work area.
6. Turn the interview around. Most people in a hiring position have feelings about their work. They may be proud of the team, disappointed in the product, etc. Feel free to interview the interviewer. This gives them a chance to vent, show off, whatever they like, to you, their prospective new employee. You’ll get many points if you can cause them to digress into a long chat about their working life. You’ll become their friend. If you were hiring, who would you rather pick, a stranger, or a friend?
7. If you are asked a technical question to test your grasp of the work required, such as, “What color is ff0000,” and if you don’t know the answer, there is no need for panic. You can simply state, “I don’t know the answer off-hand, but I certainly know how to find out.”
8. Notice words or phrases that indicate the person’s primary mode of sensing the world. If the person says he likes the way something looks or ‘everything appears’ a certain way, then you can sprinkle similar visual ‘predicates’ into your replies. The speaker is likely to use visual, auditory, feeling or neutral predicates.
9. You might want to consider ‘meta-programs.’ Typical meta-programs are “away from / toward,” or “global / detail.” You may notice that the interviewer is always considering the big picture and his eyes glaze over when you talk about details. Or, the interviewer is always ‘moving forward,’ not ‘running away’ from a goal. You can modify your replies to work in the same meta-program, and/or an appropriate one. For instance, if the interviewer is looking to fill a detail-oriented job, such as one involving paperwork, you might want to use detail-based concepts in your conversation, instead of global ones, which would indicate to the interviewer that you are likely to be lost in the big picture and not able to complete the details properly.
10 Speak a bit with everyone around you, if you can, and practice these same techniques with them. They may be consulted by the interviewer after you’ve left, so you want them to be your friends also.
11. Enjoy the process. How often do you get to be interviewed? It may be a long time before you get this chance again, so you might as well have fun!