If you were interviewing someone who couldn't make eye contact, would you give them the job? Probably not. I got the same answer from a colleague who works in Human Resources, who's had the power to hire (or to say thanks but no thanks) to many hundreds of applicants.
Although poor eye contact might just be due to nerves or shyness – and completely understandable in an interview situation—it's something you need to tackle if you think it may be holding you back.
If you're not engaging with your recruiters and looking at their faces, you're missing out on lots of valuable non-verbal cues: Are you speaking too little, and missing the fact that their body language is encouraging you to expand, or are they ready to move on?
Eye contact creates rapport
Prepare for your interview with an intention to create rapport with your interviewers. It's easy to put so much pressure on yourself that you forget to focus on your potential hirers – taken to extremes, that's just poor manners, and not likely to lead to interview success.
Notice their posture, facial expression, voice tone and language. If your eyes are on the floor you'll miss it all.
You already have excellent rapport skills; you use them with your with family and friends every day, unconsciously. With a short window of time in a pressurised environment, an interview is obviously a different situation altogether, but your existing rapport skills should map over—you might just need to use them more consciously. If recruiters are going to make lightning-fast unconscious assumptions about you, you want to tip the balance in your favour. How to do that? Help them to like you.
The importance of body language
Remember that your body language speaks volumes about you. As human beings we communicate constantly, even when we're not saying anything. Part of your role at the interview is to listen, as well as speak. Have you ever tried to carry on a conversation with someone who's not looking at you, fidgeting or looking at the floor? It's hard work.
However, don't fixate on eye contact, even if it's something you think you need to work on. It should come naturally, as part of your general rapport building during the interview. Put yourself in a positive state before you walk in the door. Yes, your interviewers are important, but so are you—and you wouldn't be here if they didn't think you might be the right person for the job. Meet them confidently, look them in the eye, and you're a long way towards building credibility and the result you're after.
Eye Contact Interview Tips:
- While eye contact is important, don't go to the other extreme and stare-down your interviewers. Eye contact naturally comes and goes with the ebb and flow of conversation.
- Bring along a nice notebook and pen to the interview; it gives you a natural opportunity to look down occasionally.
- If you have more than one interviewer, remember to make eye contact with all of them, not just the person you feel most comfortable with, or the one doing the most talking.
Rose Murphy writes for A Winning Personality, a site dedicated to the science and psychology of winning.