Most people spend so much time preparing for the technical aspect of interviews—i.e., answering questions about their skill sets and job history—that they forget to bring a very important element: a little bit of emotional intelligence.
You’ve probably heard of emotional intelligence. Some people believe your “E.Q.” (sometimes referred to as “E.I.”) is as important as your I.Q. According to current thinking, those with high emotional intelligence are empathetic, keenly aware of both their emotions and those of others. That’s helpful in everything from collaboration to negotiation, as well as avoiding conflict.
It’s also helpful in job interviews. If your interviewer mentions anything personal—that they saw a particular movie, for example, or just returned from a vacation to a certain state—that’s your opportunity to (briefly) respond in a way that demonstrates a commonality between the two of you (for example: “I saw that movie, too!” or “Sure, I went there once!”).
You can also use items in the interviewer’s office to create a connection. Is there a book on their shelf you’ve read? Mention it briefly. Do they have a tchotchke on their desk? That might be worth a quick discussion.
That being said, there are two important points to keep in mind:
- Keep Responses Short: While a brief personal interaction can help humanize you to the interviewer, be cautious about over-sharing. You can mention that you also like a particular activity, or commiserate over a rough commute, but abstain from engaging in a lengthy monologue. You’re both there for professional reasons.
- Don’t Exhibit Too Much Emotion: Emotional intelligence is about empathy and connection, not immediately displaying your emotions to their fullest extent. Keep things calm; anger and sadness have a way of making interviewers uncomfortable.
- Don’t Force It: While paying attention to the interviewer’s asides and emotional cues is a good thing, don’t try to force a personal moment in a situation if a natural opening hasn’t presented itself.
With a little bit of practice, you can quickly and easily establish a human connection with your interviewer, and leave a positive, lasting impression.