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The future is officially here: the year is 2013, and computers can now teach you how to be a warm, engaging human.
Us+, a new art project-slash-app, seeks to take the bugs out of IRL communication. Emotionally tone-deaf? Whiny and rambling? Passive aggressive? Us+ knows all your issues, and, unlike your best friend or your interviewer, isn’t afraid to tell you.
The revolutionary new program works with Google+, monitoring your conversations (including the more sophisticated aspects of conversation like facial expressions and tone of voice), and gives you reads on how you’re doing.
You’ll get insights on what you’re communicating (are you being a downer without realizing it?), as well as suggestions for better relating to your audience. That could mean matching their emotional levels, (with prompts to tone down laughter if the app sees your partner is less than enthused), or keeping things even as far as who gets to speak and for how long. And it’s all without much weak, human coddling: the app automatically mutes you if you speak for more than a minute uninterrupted.
This could prove problematic for more intimate discussions, as a Huffington Post piece on the app points out (see below for link): close friendships, family, or romantic situations often call for much more authenticity and some conversational generosity.
But what about professional situations, where the aim is not to grow closer to a friend or vent to a family, but to impress? What if your nervous rambling habit is costing you attention spans at your business lunch, or your manic energy is scaring away sales leads?
Thus, we find the perfect application for an idea so vulnerable to misuse via control and manipulation: doing business! Or more specifically: harnessing social conventions to get people to like you when it’s most important: on a job interview.
Research has shown time and again that an interviewer’s feeling about you is just as important as your skills and experience—sometimes even more so. So if there’s a tool out there to help you with likeability while you prattle off your work history, we say, make diligent use it. Grab a few copies of your resume and a Google+ friend, and attempt a mock interview.
A few ways Us+ can help boost your social skills:
1. It teaches you awareness of your audience
Empathy is key to making connections, whether on a date or in a panel interview (and the two can be surprisingly similar). But it’s easy to get caught up in our own thoughts and feelings while telling a story and forget the feelings of our listener altogether. Us+ does the multitasking for you and monitors both your manner of speaking and your listener’s reactions. So if you’re waxing a little too poetic about that job you used to love or getting worked up over a crappy ex-boss, the program will direct you to dial it down.
2. It helps you learn good conversational rhythms
Any conversation should have a certain give and take to it—even in an interview, where you’re the official star of the show.
Try answering a few long form questions during your mock interview and note the point at which the app asks you to share the floor. Though it’s appropriate to speak a bit more when answering complex interview questions, you should still be keeping your interviewer engaged, and consistently demonstrating interest in the company. By practicing, you’ll learn to instinctively feel out the right time to toss your interviewer a question and break things up.
3. You’ll gain awareness—and thus, control—of what you’re really saying
Communication can be tricky: sometimes your tone of voice, facial micro-expressions, or unconscious mannerisms can turn a simple story about a project you worked on into a very mixed series of messages (you had romantic feelings for a coworker, the project was stressful, you’re not confident in your abilities with Excel). Yikes. If an interview is a game of poker, you’ll need to get control of your “tells” or risk losing big.
Awareness is the first step, so Us+’s clear-cut feedback (“Try being more positive!”), can give you the cold, hard truth about how you’re really coming off. Once you get a handle on your unconscious signals, you can start harnessing them for the effects you want: a cheerful tone, competent disposition, positive outlook.
Manipulative? Maybe a little. But if it helps you get out of your own way and get the job you deserve, well, more power to you.
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