Humans are creatures of habits, and unfortunately many of these habits are undetectable and often unintentional. How many times have you been informed not to judge a book by its cover, only to feel helpless in trying to prevent such a prejudgment? In a nutshell, prejudice is actually judging the contents of the book by reviewing the cover.
There is a difference between judgment and prejudice. A judgment is the process of forming an opinion or making a decision that is based on careful thought and consideration. However, prejudice is an unfair preconceived adverse opinion or inclination formed without just grounds or before sufficient knowledge is acquired, which breeds feelings of an irrational attitude or a hostility of dislike directed toward a person or group because of physical appearance, race, religion, association, etc.
When going into an interview and/or meeting someone for the first time, it is important to remember that you most likely have the same bad habits of judging people before ever getting to know them. So, think of the fact that people have a propensity to make snap judgments, and they make them incredibly fast and find them difficult to change.
First impressions are from 100 milliseconds to three seconds max, and this initial impression has a tendency to cling to the cerebral cortex of the brain. This is the outer layer of the frontal parts of the brains cerebral hemispheres. Its functions include the perception of sensations, learning, reasoning, and memory. In other words, first impressions are extremely sticky. First impressions are like mud thrown against a white wall—it may not always stick to the wall, but it will leave a stain.
Imagine wearing the hat of a job interviewer and meeting Frankenstein for the first time coming in for a job interview. Your company is hiring for a Head Security position, but the criteria for the position is vague and not written out well. Your secretary feels slightly intimidated by the size and appearance of Frankenstein standing in front of her as she calls you on the intercom to let you know your next interview is ready. You ask your secretary about any additional forms Frankenstein may have brought to the interview. You slightly whisper, “How does he look?” She sounds vague because he’s standing in front of her. She replies, Sir, can I bring him in now?” Your reply is “Yes bring him in.” Well, as your secretary opens your office door, you rise to greet your interviewee and you find yourself having to fight to keep from starring at him, even though you know you are to look him in the eyes. In this case, the interviewer has nothing to be concerned about, but the interviewee does.
How do you properly and aptly make a good, or if possible, a great impression when meeting a person of the opposite sex, a new business contact or a job interviewer? Think of this, can Frankenstein reduce his height? Can he change how big his hands or feet are? Is he able to remove the electrical receptacles on his neck? No, he cannot change any of those physical attributes; but, he can accept who he is and strongly believe in what he is capable of doing. With this belief firmly set in his mind and heart, he will be able to address any person without any intrinsic apprehensions about his physicality.
Apply these few tips and advice I’m offering Frankenstein who is looking to improve his initial impression on the interviewer. These few suggestions apply to practically anyone, and just about any situation. Here are a few of my personal, yet professional insights:
1. Don’t ignore the elephant in the room.
You are the elephant and you should be completely aware, by now, of some of the misgivings people have when they initially meet you. Usually people won’t initially see you the way you see yourself. So, you should always have an opening line when people notice the obvious about you. For instance: I recall meeting a young man who was about 6’8 and of a slender build. I immediately asked him the obvious question, “Do you play basketball?” “That’s often a misconception people have about me,” he said with a smile. His reply for a young man was not only comical but it relieved my own apprehension.
Frankenstein doesn’t have to make a circus out of his physicality, but he should be secure enough about himself to realize he has an advantage interviewing for a Head Security position. Once the initial 3 seconds have passed, opening his mouth to articulate his intelligence about the position would usually be what will cause the interviewer’s perception to immediately change to a more favorable consideration.
By Frankenstein presenting his initial line with a smile, and intelligently answering the interviewer’s questions by articulating his thoughts concerning his capabilities, and how he can help organize security for the company, will usually works to diffuse any apprehensions the interviewer might have. The interviewer will feel comfortable, relax his walls of pre-judgment, and most likely, select Frankenstein for the Head Security position.
2. Let them talk first but you should always have the last word.
Frankenstein should turn off all impulses to speak about his abilities and accomplishments until asked. Even when he is asked about his skills, he should have a mentally prepared way of communicating what his skills are without going into a long dissertation. You want the interviewer to trust you, so help them to trust that you are a good listener. The interviewer should always be given the floor by the interviewee.
When the interviewer is practically done with his series of questions, the interviewer will usually ask if you have any questions. Frankenstein should always have a question, even if he feels most of his concerns were answered. A question shows your interest in the position and your willingness to learn more about the company’s agenda. Your last words before exiting the interviewer’s office should demonstrate a kind gesture of thanks and appreciation. One quick note: make sure your eye contact is subtle not a wide-eyed staring which can cause the interviewer to feel uncomfortable.
3. Become a chameleon.
Maintain the speed of the interviewer when communicating. If the interviewer speaks slowly, slow your speech down slightly to match the speech pattern of the interviewer. If the interviewer speaks with a sense of energy, put some oomph in your talk. If the interviewer speaks a little fast, try speaking a little faster than your norm, but not so fast that you’re tripping over your words.
People like people who are like themselves. When they are excited, you display excitement, when they seem melancholy, you become sympathetic but uplifting. You’ll be surprised how slightly mimicking a person in an initial meeting will cause them to feel quite comfortable around you. You never, however, want to appear as if you are competing or that you are a threat to their position. Pay attention to those ‘ums’ and ‘ahs’ when you are speaking, as they are usually fillers when you are reaching for words. These two little fillers can cause you to sound uninformed or as if you are making something up. Stay a notch lower than the interviewer so that after the interview they can’t wait to speak to everyone about their interview with you. Before you know it, everyone in the company will be looking forward to meeting you…though you haven’t yet been notified that you have the job.
My advice to Frankenstein is not at all condescending but simple and serving in nature: Who can forget a monster with wit, intelligence, and a sense of humor?
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