Let’s be honest, we have sat through more interviews than we care to admit. We’ve endured the frequent anxiety, nervousness and knowing that our every little move is being evaluated and critiqued far too often. We’ve honed our listening skills to ensure to catch each question clearly and quickly all the while, we’re running the STAR acronym through our minds at the speed of lightning to ensure we’ve answered the questions thoroughly. We’ve also been on so many interviews that we know the tell-tale signs for when our interviewers have lost interest in our answers: the glazed-over look, tapping of their pens, or doodling. And, we have all probably spent too many hours agonizing over the best questions to ask when the dreaded “Do you have any questions for us?” part of the interview arrives. Even once we can escape their clutches and breathe normally, the waiting begins and we hope we’ve made a good impression on them. We hope that our answers were enough. We hope our non-verbals were appropriate and subtle. But have we ever considered on whether or not they made a good impression on us?
I’m partly referring to what they said about the campus, the staff and the office environment. But how about how the committee re/acted when they spoke? What were their non-verbal cues? Did they conflict with what they were saying? If you can read these subtle non-verbal signs, you may learn whether or not you need to do more research and talk to more colleagues about their experiences at the institution.
Let me explain by sharing one of my personal experiences during an interview.
During the interview I was on point. I was being lobbed some complex questions, but was hitting them out of the park. And at the end of my interview, my questions to the interview committee seemed to really make them reflect and think about their answers. On the plus side, I got the position. On the negative side, I was misled about the campus environment. Over my first few months on campus, I reflected upon whether or not I had asked the right questions to get the feel of campus or if I had set myself up by ignoring the signs.
I finally came to the conclusion that while I asked all the right questions, I did ignore the signs. And after replaying the interviews over and over in my mind I knew where my mistakes laid. It was my inability to pick up on their nonverbal signs that contradicted their words or should have made their very general politically correct answers stick out as red flags for me to look into further.
In hindsight, here are some non-verbals that I identified from this interview:
My Question: How is student retention on campus?
Verbal Answer: While it is low, it has been a steady and solid rate.
Non-Verbal Sign: Subtle grimaces and raised eyebrows.
My Question: How is the work environment for professional staff?
Verbal Answer: This is a great place for professional staff to produce great work.
Non-Verbal Signs: Raised eye brows, people shuffling in their seats and eyes darting between committee members trying to figure out who would be stuck answering the question.
My Question: Is collaboration for on and off campus partnerships welcomed?
Verbal Answer: Yes collaboration is always welcomed.
Non-Verbal Signs: Heads stayed down and there was a longer than normal silence. Quiet and subtle smirks and chuckles as the verbal answer was given.
My Question: What is the pulse on working here? A great place to work at?
Verbal Answer: Staff on campus love working here.
Non-Verbal Signs: Furrowed eyebrows and pursed lips.
If I had been able to piece their non-verbal signs together with what they were saying to me, I probably would have still taken the position but I would have been better prepared for what to expect from the political issues and low staff morale that plagued the campus. Paying more attention to non-verbals can help you identify if there is a need to re-examine the institution a bit closer before continuing your interview process or accepting a position.
Looking back at my interview, each time they tried to answer my questions, the committee would turn rigid and uptight and that was when their non-verbal signs came through. When you put together non-verbal signs with verbal responses, it could help you out quite a bit when making your decision.
Good luck to everyone on your #SASearch, whether or not you are new professional or a seasoned pro looking for that next step in their journey!
> BONUS <
Podcast With Amma Marfo on Introversion in Student Affairs