When you’re in an interview, and you’re trying to make small talk, it can be difficult to be sure whether what you’re saying is actually interesting to the other person.
Building rapport is a crucial element that you need to get right during the interview, and will ensure that you stand out in the interviewer’s mind as a top-notch candidate.
But how do you tell whether the person on the other side of the table is actually interested in what you have to say, or whether they’re smiling politely, waiting for you to finish your sentence so that they can quickly get you out of there?
Here are some signs that I’ve uncovered by watching my own behaviour when I am bored during a conversation and in interviews. As a general rule, if you’re doing most of the talking, and the other person is being talked *at* rather than talking *with* you, that should raise a little red flag.
How to tell, are you boring or rapporting?
When people are bored with what you are talking about, they very rarely contribute to what you are saying. Often they will try not to look ‘bored’ by making simple statements to keep the conversation going out of politeness. This can sound like:
• Oh really?
• Is that so?
• That’s so funny.
• Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I understand.
• Or they may ask you closed ended questions, just for the sake of it.
A person’s body language will tell you a lot about how engaged they are with what you are saying.
Watch whether they are looking at you, and pay particular attention to their eyes. When people get that ‘glazed-over eye’ look, it’s a good indicator that it’s time to wrap up whatever you were talking about.
Other things like, the person is turning their body away from you, are playing with their pen, scribbling on paper, looking at the floor, staring into space, or even worse, into their phone – should have you consider whether this is a topic only you are interested in. Or maybe you’ve waffled on about it for a little longer than desired.
Some people say that interruption is a good thing and that it means that a person is actually interested in what you are saying. I believe it’s actually the opposite, because what the person is actually indirectly saying when they interrupt you, is “what I’m about to say is more important than what you are saying”. I.e. I’m not interested in what you’re saying.
This is actually a wonderful opportunity to reflect. Is this the sort of person that you want to work with? Are they self-absorbed and love the sound of their own voice? Or, are you having trouble keeping their interest because you’re going on and on about that thing again? Either way, it’s something for you to consider.
At times it’s not possible to tell what someone is thinking based on what they say and their body language alone. Interviewers at times won’t give too much away, instead remaining quite detached from the interviewee, breaking rapport often, sometimes even to test you.
Remaining unaffected by this is important, whilst simultaneously learning to read their vibes and responding accordingly.
Try to differentiate whether this is purely an interview style (acting cold and unengaged) or whether they sincerely are struggling to stay awake.
It sometimes helps to get an outsider’s opinion. If you don’t know whether you are an engaging story-teller, it’s time to become one!
What does it take to become an engaging story-teller? More on that to come….