Saturday, October 27, 2012

What Job Seekers can Learn from “The Dog Whisperer”

by Mary Salvino

When Cesar Millan, known on TV as the Dog Whisperer, walks into a room full of canines, the four-legged followers know immediately that he is in charge.  This simple action leads to the question of, “How does he do that?”  The simple answer is that it is a matter of attitude.

While your résumé may illustrate that you are a pit bull on paper, if that attitude does not transmute to your face-to-face interactions with hiring managers, you have lost the career opportunity even before you begin to speak.

If you are like many of those job seekers who hide behind a veil of shyness during interviews, you will need to change your attitude and do it sooner rather than later if you want to be successful in your effort to secure a new career opportunity.  You will have to find a way to demand, albeit in a subtle way, that the hiring manager look up from what they are doing and pay attention to you. 

Attitude is a strange kind of unspoken authority and level of confidence that people trust.  When you combine this kind of assertiveness with the correct tone in your voice, your posture and personal mannerisms, a higher level of poise is conveyed. 

HINT #1 – Lack of head movement.  A ‘level-headed’ position during the interview equates to an ‘executive presence’ in the workplace.  If the interviewer is looking for someone to lead a team, displaying this type of posturing is essential as long as the interviewer does not feel threatened.  As long as the hiring manager feels secure in his/her position, he/she will welcome you into the pack.

HINT #2 – Stop filling in dead air.  Every time you absentmindedly say ‘um’, ‘uh’ or ‘you know’, you sound unsure.  Never be afraid to pause while you search for the correct word.  Well-timed pauses can actually increase credibility.

HINT #3 – Do not end statements with an upward rise in your voice.  Downward inflections of your voice denote assuredness. Upward inflections of your voice denote uncertainness. Are you making a statement or asking a question?

HINT #4 – Control your space.  During interview situations, be cognizant of where you choose to sit, if you are given the choice, how much distance there is between you and the interviewer, and refrain from encroaching on their personal space, i.e. do not put any of your things on his/her desk and always put your briefcase on the floor.  

HINT #5 – Open your posture. Do not cross your arms in front of you. Lean forward in your chair.  If you place your arms on the conference table, as might be the case if you sitting at a conference table to write something down, the arm attached to the hand that is not attached to the hand that is doing the writing should be parallel to the pad of paper you are writing upon.  If you are one who naturally crosses your legs, at the minimum, ensure that the interviewer cannot see your crossed legs, e.g. crossed legs under a table.  

HINT #6 – Maintain eye contact. Dropping your eyes in a business setting may give the interviewer the impression that you have stepped away from the conversation.  Most hiring managers will catch and interpret your eye body language in the following ways:
  • They will accept the fact that most people will look away for a moment or two when they are processing information:
    • Looking up and to the left will be interpreted as thinking about experiences and emotions, i.e. trying to remember a sound
    • Looking up and to the right will be interpreted trying to remember a recent experience and thinking logically
    • Looking down may be interpreted be as submissiveness (unless you are reading your notes.)  Please note that not engaging in and/or avoiding eye contact may be interpreted as disinterest or a desire to leave and holding a gaze without speaking for more than 5 seconds will likely be interpreted as too aggressive and threatening to the interviewer.  It is never a good idea to threaten the interviewer!

Remember that during the interview process, a healthy degree of eye contact is critical for your success. If you look at the interviewer and they are not looking back at you, it means that their attention is likely elsewhere. Even if they hear you, this lack of eye contact reduces the personal connection.  

If you want to persuade someone into doing something in particular, i.e. convince the hiring manager that they should hire you rather than any of the other candidates, the first step is to gain eye contact and then sustain it with regular reconnection.  In this case, as with many others, actions speak louder than words.  If you are unsure of the unspoken messages your are transmitting to hiring managers, you can always try to videotape yourself to spot conversational glitches or habits that may be undermining your credibility.


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 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