With your qualifications and perhaps the help of your restaurant recruiter, you have an interview with a prospective restaurant concept. The interview is your opportunity to sell yourself. Making a good impression on your interviewer means more than dressing properly, combing your hair and being polite. Your ability to connect with the hiring manager, by developing rapport throughout the interview, can close the deal. Interviewers tend to remember interviews with candidates better when they are linked with an emotional impression. Whether the feelings associated with an event are positive or negative, emotional connections make the event significant, helping us remember things more clearly. Making a positively memorable impression on the hiring manager depends on your ability to connect with them.
It helps if both your personalities click and you both have something in common. With some practice, you won’t need to rely upon discovering external or circumstantial similarities in order to establish a good rapport with the interviewer. At the least, you can expect that the hiring manager wants you to understand and appreciate what he or she is saying concerning the goals and concerns of the position, including the restaurant’s expectations and needs.
You can generate a sense of rapport when you actively listen to the interviewer. He or she needs to feel that you are attentive and engaged. So, when you find yourself facing the restaurant hiring manager across a table (after you have made certain no stray lint or stain tarnishes your otherwise well pressed shirt and power tie), you can be certain they want to be heard and respected.
The active listening skills you can employ to connect with your interviewer are not unique, but are not often used. You can and should develop these skills with some practice.
Use Proper Body Language
Both your words and your behavior will affect whether you establish a connection with the interviewer. When you first meet the potential employer, you will want to show that you are confident, open, attentive, trusting, and eager, yet restrained.
All of this can be communicated to the hiring manager in the handshake. Make sure that your palm is about perpendicular to the floor. If you extend your hand with your palm facing down, you indicate that you need to be in control. This can be off-putting in an interview scenario. If you extend your hand with your palm facing up, you can appear overly docile, not a good trait for a restaurant manager. Also, extend your hand with your palm relatively flat, so that you offer to make full contact with the other person's hand. If you cup your hand, you indicate that you mistrust the other person.
Your posture throughout the interview also indicates whether you are open and attentive, or somehow withdrawn from the interviewer. Leaning back shows boredom, insolence, or lack of interest. The proper posture is to sit up straight and lean forward just slightly, facing the interviewer directly. Crossing your arms in front of you can demonstrate to the hiring manager that you are defensive, whether from insecurity or mistrust. Keep your arms open, even if your legs are crossed.
Eye contact is also crucial. Look the person in the eye when you are speaking and listening, taking breaks and look away to the right or left to avoid “staring“ a hole into your interviewer..
Mirror the Interviewer‘s Behaviors
People feel comfortable when you respond and behave as they do, provided your imitations are not obvious. Smile if the interviewer is smiling. If the interviewer furrows his brow at a certain point, do the same. Mirroring works not only for behaviors, but for verbal statements as well. If you briefly summarize what you hear when the hiring manager says it, you show that you are connected. Again, this engaged listening tool should be used with discretion. Too much can be awkward.
Ask Appropriate Clarifying Questions
If you don’t fully understand something that the interviewer asks or says, it is best to clarify. Doing so signals to the interviewer that you are both interested and invested in what he or she is saying. A word of caution, if you ask questions that seek clarification on issues that are not directly related to what the interviewer is trying to communicate at the time, such questions can distract the interviewer's train of thought and cause him/her to become frustrated or defensive. Before interrupting the interviewer to clarify a point, make sure that you are listening attentively. Follow the train of thought of the speaker. Then pose a question.
Ask Open-Ended Questions
Open-ended questions, which don’t allow for a “yes or “no” answer, gives the interviewer the freedom to respond as he or she desires and also demonstrate that you are open to what they have to say. They also allow you subtly to steer the interview in a direction that allows you to learn more about the things you wish about the restaurant concept and position. The information you gather from these questions will assist you in evaluating the company.