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The Importance of Eye Contact in a Job Interview

by | Oct 1, 2012 | Communication, Image consulting, In the Workplace

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Making the right amount of eye contact in an interview can make the difference in whether you successfully snag a job. According to UCLA professor and researcher Albert Mehrabian, 55 percent of messages processed by the brain are based on a person’s body language. This means that your facial and eye movements are constantly being judged — perhaps even more so than the skills and previous employment listed on your resume. The eyes become the window into your interest level, confidence and professionalism during an interview. When you establish good eye contact, you’ll feel heard and appear likable.

Convey Confidence
Looking down at your shoes or focusing on the table are actions that can convey a lack of confidence and nervousness. Making eye contact, on the other hand, sends the message that you are prepared to answer — and ask — questions regarding your skills, previous employment and experiences. According to body language expert, trainer and consultant Susan Constantine, “If your eyes in an interview are fidgety or continuously shifting back and forth, this can mean you are trying to conjure up an answer that you are not sure is the right one.”

Exhibit Honesty
Make eye contact but avoid a sudden change in eye contact. “If you’ve been making great eye contact the whole interview and suddenly start blinking rapidly — more than 70 blinks per minute — when asked a question, this can indicate stress and a desire to avoid the truth,” said Patti Wood, body language expert and author of “SNAP- Making the Most of First Impressions, Body Language and Charisma.” Make sure eye contact remains consistent throughout the interview without turning into an awkward stare.

Manners and Likability
In some countries, such as Japan, it is considered rude to make constant eye contact. In the United States, however, the appropriate amount of eye contact shows good manners and makes candidates appear likable and appealing. “Good eye contact in an interview means you are interested and appreciative of the employer’s time,” said Constantine. “Poor eye contact is considered disrespectful and translates into a candidate seeming disinterested in the job, the person conducting the interview or the salary offered, for example.”

Interest and Intent
Allow your eyes to light up when the interviewer is talking about something particularly interesting or you are revealing information you are proud of, for example. “When a candidate is authentically interested in the conversation, there is a chemical released and the eyes dilate,” said Constantine. This sparkle, in turn, inspires the employer, letting her know your adrenaline is up and you are interested and engaged in what is being presented or expressed.

Trust Issues
As a society, we’re taught to distrust someone who looks away while answering a question. Constantine says this isn’t always accurate and is oftentimes an unfair strike against candidates. “Looking away while answering a question can simply mean a candidate is recalling information and needs a minute to gather thoughts or construct a sentence,” adds Wood. If you find yourself breaking eye contact during an interview, gradually look back at your interviewer while assessing her body language to see how your answer was received. If you sense the interviewer is uncertain, simply ask to restate your thought in an effort to clarify. In addition, it’s a good idea to practice talking about project or client successes before the interview, advises Wood, so that your thoughts flow smoothly.

AccuConference: Non-Verbal Communication
Susan Constantine; Body Language Expert; Orlando, Florida
Patti Wood, MA CSP; Body Language Expert; Atlanta, Georgia
About the Author
Based in Los Angeles, Lisa Finn has been a freelance writer since 1994. She has written how-to and feature articles for print and online media, including, “Spa Magazine,” “L.A. Parent” and “Business Magazine.” Finn holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Chapman University.