Are you aware of the impression you leave in a job interview or networking meeting?

I recently connected Karen, a job seeker, with Kevin, a friend of mine who runs a business. I thought they would probably have a lot to talk about given they were in the same industry. I was hopeful that they might find some commonality, and even more hopeful that Karen might be a fit for Kevin’s organization.

After the meeting, Karen called me. She was so excited. She and Kevin hit it off so well and she wouldn’t be surprised if there was some kind of offer or at least next step on the horizon. I was excited too. That is, until I got the call from Kevin. He politely thanked me for the introduction but told me he wouldn’t hire Karen in a million years. Wow, that’s a long time. What happened, as Kevin explained to me, was that Karen was nice enough, but was so concerned with telling her story that she didn’t ask a single question of Kevin. Not one.

And it’s the same story I hear over and over. Job seekers (and others as well) are so concerned with ensuring they sound interesting and compelling, they’re forgetting the basic rule of networking. It’s not about you. In fact it’s about everyone but you.

As I’ve said before (and apparently need to say again and again and again), the more you try to show what you know, the less likely they’ll want to hear it. The more you ask smart questions and get others to do the talking, the more they’ll like you and want to refer you or even work with you. Dale Carnegie has been talking about this concept since the 1930’s. And still, many people don’t seem to get it.

It goes hand in hand with the idea of being self-aware. Do you know what others think of you? Do you have any idea of your interactions and how you’re coming across? Perhaps you may not be as in tune as you think you are.

Many people think they’re self-aware and pride themselves in it, but in reality, they have no idea what others’ impressions are of them. I often find myself in the middle of feedback from both parties. It’s absolutely astounding how different the feedback is. It reminds me of an old Saturday Night Live skit where one of the characters talked to people on a flight and bored them so much they would do anything to get out of the conversation – including jumping out of the airplane.

Aside from feedback that blatant, rarely will you ever know the truth.  Sometimes the truth is hard. Sometimes the truth hurts. Sometimes the truth doesn’t even matter because many people brush off the feedback and blame it away.

But one way you can ensure that you’re not showing up and throwing up (as my friend Susan calls it) is to make a concerted effort to not dominate the conversation by actually not dominating it.  If you find yourself talking more than half the time, you’re dominating it. If you find yourself talking at least 40-50% of the time, you’re dominating it. If you find yourself talking 25% of the time or less, you’re starting to get the idea.  When you can participate in a conversation and do the talking less than 10% of the time, you’ll start to see what I mean. You’ll start to see the benefit of what it means to really listen. You’ll start to see the benefit of how you can build a relationship by being interesting to others by being interested in others. You’ll start to realize that it’s not so much what you say, but what you ask, that builds the foundation for a real relationship. And once you reach this level of awareness, you’ll be amazed how many other people are so completely and terribly unaware and probably will be for the next million years!

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4 Responses

  1. Molly – would you say this strategy is still correct if you’re in an actual interview? I realize you need to ask smart questions and be knowledgeable about the company you are interviewing with to ask the right questions – but if you only speak 25% of the time, doesn’t the other person feel they are dominating?

    • Absolutely Oleg. In fact, if more people interviewed in this manner, they’d probably get the job more often! And, like I said in the blog, the majority of people are so unaware of how much they talk, and will never have a clue they’re dominating the conversation. But, remember, we LOVE when people dominate it by answering our questions, because we’re asking them for a reason, and we’re not only getting information, but they’re getting more comfortable being around us because they’re not having to think about the conversation – they can just react to our questions.
      It’s a good thing!
      Molly

  2. This was very good reading….thanks Molly!

  3. Molly – excellent points. Cold but brisk water to the face. Something I will take heart as I meet for interviews and networking. Thanks!

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