Monday, February 20, 2012

Job Interview ‘Tells’ Speak Volumes

In poker, a “tell” is any clue, habit, behaviour or physical reaction, that provides information.  Knowing how to read the interviewer's 'tell' will improve your odds of acing the interview and winning the job.

One of the key skills that all good interviewees have, is the ability to read the interviewer. Once you learn the most common 'tells', you can then monitor behaviour to make sure your body language is broadcasting exactly what you want to share with the interviewer.  

Try this.  The next time you are granted an interview, treat the experience like a poker game wherein the 'pot' is the 'job' you are trying to win.  As all professional poker players will share with you. there are no hard fast rules to "telling", but, regardless of the position you hold, i.e. interviewer or interviewee, a good rule of thumb is that when a player acts strong, s/he is probably weak, and when a player acts weak, s/he is probably strong.  [This phenomenon is especially true of Canadians, and even truer of women, who have been conditioned to believe that self-promotion is somehow crass.] 

Professional poker players also report that everyone has their own unique set of tics and 'tells', and that they are often fascinated by watching people and trying to pick up on the individual's unique set of 'tells'. Luckily, there are also a few involuntary and common tells that you, as a novice to the game, can watch for, even if it is the first time you sit down with someone.

 

Basic Tells: 

 

Tells that Say, “I am good”:

  • Acting uninterested - This ‘tell’ is used most often by the passive job seekers and strong candidate.  The player is pretending that s/he is not excited about the opportunity but s/he really is.
  • Rapid breathing - While some people can control their habits and tics, it is far more difficult for people to control their heart rate.  When you see that someone’s chest is visibly rising and falling, it is a sigh that they are excited and eager.  This sign is especially important during salary negotiations.
  • Instant/automatic responses - When a candidate provides an answer to a question that is clear and concise, it is usually taken as a sign that the candidate has done their homework, anticipated the question and taken the time to formulate their answer.  Interviewers would deem this person to be a very strong candidate.
  • Long pause - Taking time to answer a question posed by an interviewer may often be interpreted as being thoughtful and therefore a very strong candidate.  Taking too much time, however, may be viewed as someone who is ill prepared.   Lack of proper preparation and failing to practice answering ‘standard’ interview questions will usually destroy that candidate’s chances of securing a job with that company.

Tells that Say, "I am weak":

  • Staring down - When an interviewer is staring the interviewee down, s/he is trying to show that they are in a position of strength. If the interviewer has the need to stare down the interviewee, it usually means that they are not confident on their own abilities and may be intimidated by how you are presenting yourself during the interview.   Remember that even though the interviewer may start off in the ‘power’ position, s/he may not stay there. 
  • Openly demonstrating some form of anxiety - Anxiety typically occurs in people when they are confronted, or anticipating confrontation. Psychologists call this the "Fight or Flight" stimulus response, which links back to the days when we were cavemen/cavewomen. Physical changes happen including flexing of muscles, eye pupil dilation, palpitating heart rate, dry throat.  During the interview process, as is also the case when playing poker, when someone is a strong candidate, i.e. has a big hand, they are typically ready for confrontation and can exhibit some of these characteristics. Obvious ‘tells’ include the chest expanding abnormally, or that the tone in their voice becomes slightly higher as s/he makes a comment.  Often, inexperienced interviewees will hold their breath if they are bluffing, i.e. not confident with the answer they have given to a question during the interview.
  • Body Posture/Attitude - During an interview, some people will show obvious changes in their posture based upon what they believe to be the strength of their candidacy. Slumping shoulders are a ‘tell’ that the candidate is not confident.  Conversely, sitting tall shows strength and confidence. 

The golden rule of tells is that a strong candidate may often try to act weak, while a weak candidate will try to act strong; and, the same holds true of those conducting the interviews as well. 

For some reason the lyrics from the tune made famous by Kenny Roger for “The Gambler” [Don Schlitz, songwriter], seems à propos, so, I decided to include it in this post.  Take from it what you will.

The Gambler

On a warm summer's eve
On a train bound for nowhere
I met up with the gambler
We were both too tired to sleep
So we took turns a-starin'
Out the window at the darkness
The boredom overtook us, and he began to speak

He said, "Son, I've made my life
Out of readin' people's faces
Knowin' what the cards were
By the way they held their eyes
So if you don't mind my sayin'
I can see you're out of aces
For a taste of your whiskey
I'll give you some advice"

So I handed him my bottle
And he drank down my last swallow
Then he bummed a cigarette
And asked me for a light
And the night got deathly quiet
And his faced lost all expression
He said, "If you're gonna play the game, boy
You gotta learn to play it right

You've got to know when to hold 'em
Know when to fold 'em
Know when to walk away
Know when to run
You never count your money
When you're sittin' at the table
There'll be time enough for countin'
When the dealin's done

Now every gambler knows the secret to survivin'
Is knowin' what to throw away
And knowin' what to keep
'Cause every hand's a winner
And every hand's a loser
And the best that you can hope for
Is to die in your sleep"

So when he finished speakin'
He turned back for the window
Crushed out his cigarette
And faded off to sleep then somewhere in the darkness
The gambler he broke even,
but in his final words
I found an ace that I could keep

You've got to know when to hold 'em
Know when to fold 'em
Know when to walk away
know when to run
You never count your money
When you're sittin' at the table
There'll be time enough for countin'
When the dealin's done

You've got to know when to hold 'em
(When to hold 'em)
Know when to fold 'em
(When to fold 'em)
Know when to walk away
know when to run
You never count your money
When you're sittin' at the table
There'll be time enough for countin'
When the dealin's done

You've got to know when to hold 'em
Know when to fold 'em
Know when to walk away
know when to run
You never count your money
When you're sittin' at the table
There'll be time enough for countin'
When the dealin's done


Copyright © 2012, Career Matters. All Rights Reserved. Permission to Reprint: This article may be reprinted, provided it appears in its entirety with the following attribution: Copyright © 2012, Career Matters. Reprinted by permission of the author, Mary Salvino. “Career Matters” is a blog authored by Mary Salvino, Senior Consultant for SMART Career Planning.com that is dedicated to those who are seeking advice on managing their career and future job opportunities. We welcome readers to share their experiences, post their comments or ask questions about career related matters. This blog is also dedicated to those who stand a little taller each time they picked themselves up after failing and those who gained the wisdom and humility from those experiences to help others do the same. For any questions or comments that are better addressed privately, please feel free to e-mail Mary directly at Mary.Salvino@shaw.ca