December 18,2013 by Walter Cogan
During my career I have personally employed over 400 people in various business enterprises and conducted well over 1,000 interviews. As a recruiter, I interview people for a living on the behalf of clients. Regardless of the type of job I am interviewing a candidate for, I always pay attention to the eye contact the interviewee makes with me. More often than not, what the candidate does with his or her eyes during the interview tells me almost everything I need to know about their personality.
What people do with their eyes during interviews will quickly indicate if they are nervous, sincere, self-conscious, confident, overly-confident, and even arrogant. The two traits I am always looking for in candidates are “confidence” and “sincerity.”
How does an interviewee display just the right amount of confidence and sincerity during an interview? It’s quite simple actually. By having direct eye contact with your interviewer while they are speaking will always tell them you are paying rapt attention to them and that indicates sincerity. If you’re starring off into the distance when your interviewer speaks, or over their heads, or at a picture on the wall, your lack of eye contact will give the impression that you are not paying attention and therefore indicates a lack of sincerity and interest. When you are speaking on the other hand, you must also make direct eye contact but it’s perfectly normal to stare to the side or to the papers in front of you for a second or two while you are gathering your words, but eighty to ninety percent of the time you should be making direct eye contact. Making direct, consistent eye contact with your interviewer when you are speaking indicates a level of confidence that most people find appealing.
Making the proper type of eye contact during an interview will never get you a job if you lack the experience needed by the employer. It will however always give you an edge against the competition if you have the “right” skills. Every employer wants to hire people that have the right skills and experience to perform exceptionally well in a position, but they also always want people that are confident and sincere. A highly experienced interviewer will quickly ascertain if those traits are dominant in a candidate almost immediately. If your eye contact indicates anything less or anything more than sincerity and confidence, the probability of landing the job will most likely be highly diminished, regardless of your capabilities.
I could probably write all day about the things “not” to do on an interview with your eyes. There are many books written on the subject for sale online which may be a good idea to read. My suggestion however is to practice making eye contact with people you barely even know every single day. Adding a small smile when you do so “screams” sincerity and confidence. The more you practice—the more your comfort level will grow in your daily life and that will always shine through on an interview.