Making a personal connection is paramount to a successful job interview. While some professions require plenty of interpersonal skills to be successful, some do not. So why does it matter if we make a connection with the interviewer? Well, if you’re sitting in the interview room, they likely already have an idea that you have the requisite skills and experience to do the job. If not, you wouldn’t have made it through the screening process. So why are you there? You’re there so that the organization can assess not only what you have done, but how you’ve done it and, most of all, if you would be a good fit for their team.
During practice interviews, WorkFaith graduates are always asked the same first question—“Tell me about yourself.” This is a natural first question for any interview process, to get to ‘the person’ before getting to any technical questions that they may have about you or your experience.
Arguably “Tell me about yourself” is the most important question a job seeker will be asked. Here is your chance to make a personal connection with the interviewer and prospective manager.
Part 1 of the ‘30-Second Commercial’ that WorkFaith graduates practice is “Who are you personally?” This would be your opportunity to find common ground with the interviewer.
“Who you are personally” should cover a multitude of topics including, where you are from and what are your hobbies and interests. With the last two being the most important. Why would your hobbies and interests matter? Aren’t you there because you need a job and not a friend? It is because your interviewer is getting a glimpse at who you are, not what you’ve done and they are looking for commonalities between you, themselves, and their ideal employee.
A good example of an excellent part 1 answer would be, “My name is Judy, and I’m from Oklahoma. I love animals, reading, cooking new and exciting recipes, seeing a new movie on Friday nights, and helping people get back on their feet.”
You may see this as a run-of-the-mill set of hobbies and interests, but what did the interviewer just hear? Judy is a person with feelings and interests. And they’ve keyed into several commonalities that Judy and the interviewer have. What if the interviewer is a cinephile? Or a big fan of watching cooking shows? I bet they just made a connection they wouldn’t have if this were just work-talk. The next natural question from the interviewer might be, “What have you cooked recently?” or, “Did you see the latest movie that came out, the one with that awesome actor?” The interviewer could even follow up with a statement like, “I volunteer at the animal shelter, I love animals too” or “I have two dogs at home that I love to death.”
A word of caution. Like all points of the interview, be honest about your hobbies and interests. You don’t want a world-class trout fisher asking you about the finer points of fly fishing if you’ve never owned a pair of waders. But, mention as many truthful interests as you can. Cast a wide net, and look to catch commonalities.
So what happens after part 1 of the 30-second commercial? Judy and the interviewer find out that they have a lot in common. This is important because people hire people they like and, more importantly, people they think will get along with the rest of their employees. If the interviewer believes they can step into the break room and have a pleasant conversation with you or if their long term employees will like you also, then you’re well on your way to a new job.
After breaking the ice here, both you and the interviewer will feel more at ease with one another. That is a tremendous first step. Breaking the ice will allow you to shine and talk to the interviewer with greater confidence.
The other key points to making a personal connection are to: be yourself, be the most at ease you can, be gracious, and when you get the chance, ask the interviewer about themselves and their company.
Asking questions at the end of the interview is your chance to assess the company’s cultural fit for you. It also gives the interviewer an opportunity to do what everyone secretly loves to do—talk about themselves. Interviews are often one-sided conversations from 30 minutes to an hour. It may be the first chance the other human in the room has had to speak at any length. Make it matter.
How? By asking a set of questions that shows you’re engaged in the process. Ask engaging questions such as “Tell me what it’s like to work for you?”, “Am I replacing someone and if so why?”, and “What are the next steps?”
We want the interviewer to talk about themselves and to see you as a person. If they mention any personal hobbies or interests in response to your elevator speech, ask them questions related to that. For instance, if they say something about road trips, be sure to ask questions related to that topic, like if they have traveled anywhere recently.
At the very end of the interview, think about asking questions that would be helpful to you, whether you’re the successful candidate or not. Questions like “What skills or experience have led you to success with this company?” or “What do you think the most important traits are to be successful in this role?” Again, this gives the interviewer a chance to speak but also impart some wisdom. Not only do people hire who they like, but they also tend to hire people who they can mentor and coach. Make sure you’re taking time to demonstrate that. If you are successful, you’ll know what success looks like for this manager, and if you aren’t, you still learned something valuable from someone with a great deal of experience.
Author: Jeffery K. Archer, Jr.
Jeff Archer is a regular WorkFaith volunteer since 2016. He is a graduate of the University of Oklahoma Price School of Business and has worked in a variety of Military and Private sector roles. He regards himself as a young cattle rancher who went to college to avoid working so hard. He is a former United States Army Reserve Officer who attained the rank of Captain and was awarded the Bronze Star Medal, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Combat Action badge and numerous other Department of Defense awards. Jeff started his professional career in Energy after deploying to Afghanistan in 2012. He is a member of Grace Bible Church in Houston, Texas and a stark advocate for helping the underprivileged get back to work.