Job interviews are normally more about candidates being nervous. But interviewers may also have to deal with moments of insecurity, for example when they are relatively inexperienced at interviewing and the candidate turns out to be a difficult character. In this case, three things are crucial: good interview preparation, remaining objective about the applicant's behaviour and a lot of patience.
Good preparation helps prevent insecurity
Preparation will help you get to grips with any personal feelings of insecurity. If you put together a detailed interview plan and clear up any organisational issues in advance, you can rule out potential blackouts or anything unforeseen happening during the job interview. A detailed plan also helps ensure you don't lose control of the interview, even in moments of insecurity. In addition, you can check if you've got all relevant information or need to ask about any specific issues. The plan can also be used for making notes about your own observations, so that you're not in danger of forgetting important details.
You can assume that most candidates will be nervous both before and at the start of the interview. After all, it's about their future. Nervousness can manifest itself in different ways. Some candidates may sit quietly wringing their hands in their lap, whilst hardly uttering a single articulate sentence; others literally abound in self-confidence and never stop talking. It's your job to look behind the façade and find out what skills and experience the candidate really has to offer. So remain objective and don't let yourself be influenced by just the first impression. Pigeonholing applicants too quickly can result in costly mistakes.
Identifying deceptive, conceited and overly shy people requires a good understanding of human nature and tact. People who appear shy need encouragement. Try making eye contact, smiling and nodding in agreement with the interviewee. By summarising what is said in your own words, and asking the occasional question, you show interest and give the nervous applicant the feeling of having a discussion between equals.
On the other hand, those who play the big supremo - who can do anything, know everything and are doing the company a great favour by applying - need to prove it. You can get the candidate to substantiate what he or she says by asking for specific examples or posing hypothetical questions ("What would you do if ..."). But, despite being unimpressed, remain professional and courteous by never showing a lack of interest.
Candidates that try to hide their nervousness by talking excessively need to be gently reined in. This requires patience. If the applicant starts to digress, interrupt politely by asking a question. This helps to refocus the discussion. You can also ask them to summarise what they have said in a maximum of three sentences.
5 ways to help nervous applicants
How to create an atmosphere in which the applicant feels comfortable, overcomes his or her nerves and opens up:
- Let them finish . Only interrupt if the candidate digresses or goes into too much detail.
- Listen attentively. Invest more energy in active listening than talking - 30:70 is the ideal split between interviewer and applicant.
- Don't put people under pressure. Deliberately putting the interviewee under pressure seldom makes sense. Under stress the brain goes into emergency mode and you only experience a part of someone's personality.
- Observe but don't judge. Use the interview to make a note of observations and impressions. Remain objective and avoid jumping to conclusions. Evaluation should take place afterwards with all staff involved in the interview.
- Use facial expressions and gestures to positive effect. Your own facial expressions and gestures can convey interest and put the candidate at ease. Open hands, eye contact and nodding will give the applicant a positive feeling.
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