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The Lost Art of Mastering a Great First Impression – Part IIIa: How to WOO

Many of us by now have read the great book “Now Discover Your Strengths” and are familiar with the talents spelled out in detail. The one talent that some have in excess, and that serves them their entire careers, is WOO – winning others over. We can also call this topic building rapport with all the stakeholders and parties involved in you landing your dream job.

WOO’ing is not easy for all of us. My partner, Chris Bull, can walk into any room and immediately build rapport with just about any type in that room – from the cigar chomping, back slapping CEO type, to the technical R&D product developer type that’s passionate about technology but that sticks to themselves in social settings. I like to say that he can play the entire spectrum.

Some people are excellent in their jobs and can be those high performers most companies would want on their teams. However, their ability to build rapport in that initial interview phase before they land that job can be challenging for them. In this post, I’ll discuss how being introverted can keep you from that dream job, and some things you can do to address it.

I recently interviewed an outstanding candidate for a finance search our firm is conducting. This person has great experience and has led a career of ever-increasing responsibility in finance and accounting roles for some great public companies. In fact, their experience has included many extremely challenging positions, throughout North America, and the devil that knew them (their current employer at the time) found them to be the best candidate for the positions. And, after each assignment, it was back to HQ for another role of increased responsibility. Sounds like a dream candidate, right?

Well, during our interview, this candidate had a difficult time expressing themselves and showing energy and enthusiasm for the role we were discussing. In fact, at the end (if you haven’t guessed this by now, you should know I’m very candid with people), I mentioned flat out that I liked this candidate for the role, however I was concerned about their energy level and about how my client might perceive them. I even called this person “mild mannered” – remember Clark Kent was Superman, and was called mild mannered himself?

Apparently, this was no surprise. In fact, this candidate had heard that before and had even been rejected for a position in the past that turned out to be more junior than their current role. Again, I can’t stress enough how important it is to make a great first impression. Figure out your strengths and your weaknesses. Make sure you can detail your strengths to a potential employer with enthusiasm and help them draw the conclusion that through your prior experiences, you are capable of performing the proposed duties and responsibilities very well. I like to call this “connecting the dots.”

How can you make the most of an interview if you are challenged by building rapport with someone you’ve just met?

Do some research on the interviewer and their background.
Use this information and get them talking about themselves. People love to hear themselves talk and the more you can get them talking, the less you have to talk.

Address your introversion straight out.
In fact, this candidate, after I made my comment about being mild mannered, went so far as to say that this character trait has served them well in two prior companies as both were going through major restructurings, with significant layoffs, business unit sales, and plant closings. They became known as the “voice of calm” in their companies and were often the leader of hope by getting their teams focused on the goal, and the plans needed to be executed against to reach their goals. By being naturally calm, they could be cool-headed and make sure that everyone looked closely at what needed to be done, and merely executed against that. In fact, throughout their companies’ turmoil in their career, this person has never been laid off and was always given increased responsibility. Sounds like a great goal for us all.

Look into public speaking courses.
If you are an introvert, perhaps you should consider public speaking courses such as ToastMasters or courses taught by the Improv. I’ve heard great things about these courses and while they might not turn you into the life of the party, they can help you get out of your shell and make a great connection with a potential employer, and not cost you that dream job. Again, this goes along the lines of managing your career to make it the best possible, so identify those areas of potential improvement, and take the initiative to make sure they don’t hurt your chances of future career success.

In my next post, I’ll discuss WOO and the extrovert.

Do you have a similar story or experience? Or do you have additional suggestions for introverts to try? Please share it and let’s get the best ideas out to our readers.

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