By: Leslie Stevens-Huffman
If you say all the right things during interviews, and still can’t seem to land a contract engineering assignment, perhaps the problem is not what you’re saying but how you’re saying it.
Since only 7 percent of communications effectiveness is based on content, your attitude about yourself, your teammates and your engineering work is expressed through your tone of voice, pace and body language. Don’t let a lack of enthusiasm or eye contact hurt your chances. Convert interviews into offers by improving your communications style.
Speak enthusiastically and assuredly
A whispered monotone will seldom convince another person that you mean business, while a shouted epithet will likely bring on defensiveness, according to Bill Knaus, Ed.D in this article, It’s Not What You Say—It’s How You Say It! Practice speaking up and out and demonstrating your passion by modulating your tone of voice, your pace and gesturing. Bring your tone and volume up to emphasize a point and then bring it back down to end with a flourish.
Rambling or injecting filler words such as “um,” “ah” and “you know” makes you sound less confident. When you’re nervous, these superfluous words can sneak into your lexicon – unless you make a conscious effort to eliminate them. While taking a moment to collect your thoughts is fine, seize the spotlight when you answer a question by providing a series of smooth, cohesive statements that make a deliberate point.
You’ll seem upbeat and positive even when responding to negative questions if you sandwich adverse information between two positive tidbits. For example, if you don’t have experience with a particular engineering tool or practice, admit it; but point out your willingness to learn and share an example. Avoid transmitting negative vibes by ending every response on a positive note and weaving upbeat words into your vocabulary. Need some examples? Check out this list of positive words.
Listen and clarify
Listen without interruption when the engineering manager is speaking and be sure to clarify nebulous questions before you respond. Also, perform a communications check at various times during the interview by asking if your answer is clear or if the interviewer would like more information.
Make eye contact
Your facial expression should agree with your message and you should maintain eye contact with the engineering manager throughout the interview, without staring of course.
“A relaxed and steady gaze at the other person, looking away occasionally as is comfortable, helps make conversation more personal, shows interest and respect, and enhances the impact of your message,” notes Knaus.
Mirror the interviewer
Subtly mimicking the interviewer’s body language shows that you’re fully present, according to Vickie Austin, founder of career coaching company CHOICES Worldwide, in this article 10 Simple Tricks for Improving Your Communication Style. Plus, it creates a bond with the engineering manager by suggesting that you’re on the same page.
For instance, “If the person doing the interviewing leans forward, lean forward. If they lean back, do the same,” Austin says. “But the key here is subtlety. Don’t be a copycat.”
While you don’t want to come off as disingenuous or overbearing, speak clearly and enthusiastically about engineering practices or projects. And remember that echoing the engineering manager’s communications style may mean the difference between an offer and rejection.