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 Interviewer Tricks to Get You to Relax

By Joe Stein

In today’s world, Interviewers arrive at each interview expecting you to be fully prepared for each question that they expect to ask.  While, for the Interviewer, it is nice to see that a candidate is ready for the interview this does not, however, allow them to see the “real” you.  So, to help combat this issue, an Interviewer will try a number of different “tricks” in an attempt to get you to relax and let your guard down.

There are a variety of reasons that these relaxation techniques can be so important to the Interviewer.  It can range from the noted above reason of getting a view of your real personality, all the way to an attempt to get you see if you will answer questions in a way contrary to what you planned.  In some occasions, the reason may be as innocent as just an attempt to have a more enjoyable conversation.  Whatever the reason behind the actions, it is important for a Job Seeker to recognize when this is occurring, so that you can follow through with your interview plans.  You do not want to vary too far from the approach that you feel will be successful.
So, what are some of the “tricks” that may be used on you?  Below is an outline of some of the most common ones.

• The Use of Small Talk – Do you really think the Interviewer wants to discuss the weather with you?  Or, how the traffic was on the way to interview?  As fascinating as this discussion may end up, the reason this is being asked is the Interviewer is trying to quickly establish some type of relationship (perhaps even something in common), so that you will feel more comfortable. 

• Offering of a Beverage – It is certainly polite to offer someone water or a cup of coffee because an Interviewer does not want you too thirsty to speak during the interview.  This offering, however, is also designed to look at the Interviewer as something other than the Hiring Manager.  It can cause you to think that not only are they OK, but also not really doing an interview (just a conversation).  That is what people do over coffee…correct?

• Providing a Tour – This is especially true if the person giving the tour is not a Manager, but rather a floor employee.  The idea being that if you are out of the office setting and walking around with a non-Manager, you are likely to let your guard down and provide non-prepared responses.

• Asking a General Ice Breaking Question – Rather than just jumping right into tough questions related to the position, an Interviewer may ask a more general question that, on its appearance, seems relatively benign.  This type of question is again asked to relax you for later “tougher” questions.  Examples of these types of questions include inquiries about your perception of the current job market, why the job posting interested you, or what do you most want out of a new employer.  As you can see by these examples, the questions can also provide important information regarding your job priorities, which can serve to assess your interest level and/or fit for the role.  Don’t forget, all questions play some role in how you will be assessed!

• The Resume Review – Sometimes instead of asking a general ice breaking question, the Interviewer will request you do a chronological review of your resume. This serves to get you to start talking, while also doing a quick check regarding why you left or accepted a position.  Be prepared to be able to concisely summarize your work history and to be able to positively frame any of your job departures.

• Agreeing or Head Nodding – We all like positive feedback when we are talking.  To show that he/she is listening and to encourage you to say more, the Interviewer may smile, head nod, or agree with what you are saying.  This positive encouragement will often serve to encourage you to continue to talk and the more you speak the greater the chance that you will say something you were not preparing to share.

It is typical for an Interviewer to attempt to relax you during the interview.  This does not have to be bad thing, as long as you are aware of what is occurring and you do not fall into the trap of allowing your guard to come down.  Regardless of any attempt to relax you or make you more comfortable, don’t forget the mission on-hand which is to land a new position.