The Eyes Have It!

There’s a biblical quote that says: “the eyes are the window to the soul.” If that is the case, from what I’ve seen lately, too many people have their windows drawn shut, and don’t want to let anyone see what’s inside.  While conducting a bunch of practice interview sessions recently I was reminded how many people have difficulty making good eye contact during important meetings.  An inability to make good eye contact during networking and interviewing can mean disaster for a job seeker.
There is no question that looking someone in the eye during an interview can be a bit intimidating.  The person sitting across from you (or standing across from you, if you’re networking) is typically a complete stranger, and you know that they may have your future in their hands.
There is also no question that culture is a factor in some people’s inability to make eye contact. For many around the globe, establishing and maintaining lingering eye contact can be interpreted as inappropriate, or too intimate.  And there are also those who are just plain shy.  For them, looking someone in the eye to extol their personal virtues and agenda is painful and extremely uncomfortable, even if they are really good at the work they do.
But that person sitting across from you during an interview is looking for someone they can establish a rapport with, build a solid working relationship with, and work along side.  They are looking for ways to bring you in to their ranks, not rule you out.  So, making good eye contact is necessary to help you convey your sincerity, your honesty, and believability.  Looking someone in the eye while describing your accomplishments and work skills conveys your confidence in what you do and who you are.
Are you supposed to unblinkingly stare into the eyes of your interviewer?  Of course not!  But maintaining your focus on your inquisitor shows your interest.  If you look away too much you could convey boredom and disinterest, as well as a lack of confidence, or the perception that you are being less than honest.  None of which will get you the job.
One good technique for maintaining good eye contact is to keep your gaze on the person’s entire face, occasionally focusing on an ear, the temple of their head, forehead or chin, not just the eyes.  This gives the appearance that you are focused on your interviewer without continually making direct eye contact.
Because it is difficult to maintain tight eye contact for an extended period of time, in order to avoid appearing like you are staring at your interviewer, you will be looking away occasionally, but only briefly.  You want to continue demonstrating your interest and attention.  A good time to quickly look away from your interviewer is when s/he is looking at your resume or other notes and not looking directly at you.
When turning away, however, many look down toward their laps, the ground or the table.  Again, this demonstrates a lack of confidence.  However, if you look upward, the interpretation is that you appear more thoughtful and reflective, like you are carefully contemplating your answers or assembling your thoughts.  When deciding to look up or down, think about where you want your “divine inspiration” to come from: up there, heavenward; or from down there, that other place?
Keep in mind that the person you are speaking with wants the interview to go well, and wants to get through the candidate selection process as soon as possible.  Your taking a little time to master maintaining your eye contact in a less intimidating practice interview situation can yield the positive results you need to be the candidate the employer selects to fill their opening.  What will you reveal through your eye contact (or a lack thereof)?  Will you reveal your honesty, sincerity, integrity and confidence?  The eyes have it!
And one more thing:  Tomorrow is Election Day.  Please don’t forget to vote!!!
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