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How Poor Communication Skills Can Kill Your Chances for a Job

by Stacy Pursell, CPC, CERS

The VET Recruiter®

During my career as an Animal Health Executive Search Consultant and Veterinary recruiter, I’ve sent candidates on literally thousands of interviews. That means I’ve received feedback from hiring managers and practice owners thousands of times. With all of that feedback, you might guess that some trends and patterns have formed over the years in terms of the nature of that feedback.

If that’s what you guessed, then you guessed correctly. And it’s one of those trends that I’ll be addressing in this blog post.

You might have also guessed that I have a case study upon which I’ll be basing this discussion. Once again, if that’s what you guessed, then you’re correct. I recently received feedback from one of our firm’s clients regarding a candidate who had interviewed earlier that day with the organization. According to the feedback, this candidate:

  • Did not possess developed communication skills, at least not developed enough for the hiring manager to consider them for any of their Veterinary practices.
  • Sounded unsure of themselves during the interview.
  • Said the word “um” often, too much for the people conducting the interview.
  • Did not sound engaged in the conversation.

The hiring manager then stated they were providing this feedback in case I wanted to coach the candidate in these areas in advance of interviewing for other opportunities. I thanked them and said that I would absolutely do that. And I’m also writing this blog post to help other job seekers and candidates, as well. You can see by this case study how a lack of communication skills (or even a perceived lack of them) can kill your chances for a job.

That’s why I’ve assembled a list of best practices for communicating well during the face-to-face interview. Remember that communication is broken into two main categories, verbal and non-verbal, and you want to excel in each one. That’s the best way to ensure that you brand yourself in a positive fashion, make a favorable impression, and increase the chances that you receive an offer of employment.

Below are eight steps for communicating well during the face-to-face interview . . . and not killing your chances for landing a great new job:

#1—Give a firm (but flexible) handshake.

Yes, this falls into the category of non-verbal communication. You want to give a firm handshake, but you do not want to crush the other person’s hand. That will also send the wrong message.

#2—Look the person in the eyes when you shake their hand.

This is the second half of an appropriate handshake. This conveys confidence, and if there’s one thing that you want to convey during an interview, it’s confidence. Not cockiness, though. That’s going too far in the other direction.

#3—Look the person in the eyes when you speak to them.

This is a non-verbal extension of #2 on our list. This also conveys confidence, and it’s even more important than when you shake someone’s hand. A handshake may only last a second or two, but if you’re conversing with someone for 30 seconds or more and you don’t look them in the eyes as you do so? That’s a big, red, waving flag.

#4—Speak loudly enough to be heard.

You can’t mumble your way through an interview. If you mumble with the hiring manager and/or practice owner, then they’re going to think that you’ll mumble with customers and pet owners, too. Remember: what they see from you during the interview is what they think they’re getting if they hire you. This is basically an audition, so act like it’s one.

#5—Smile when speaking.

You also want to convey energy and enthusiasm during the interview. Smiling is one of the best ways to accomplish this. However, don’t force it. People often notice when someone is forcing themselves to smile, and unfortunately, this can be even more damaging than if you don’t smile at all. So get plenty of practice with mock interview sessions.

#6—Don’t say “Um” and “Uh” or use slang.

As you saw in my case study, this can be off-putting to hiring managers. It makes it seem as though your thoughts are not organized. Employers want to hire people who are sharp and “quick on their feet,” so they can tackle problems and devise solutions in real time. By the time you’ve uttered your second “Um” in the interview, they’ve probably already mentally crossed your name off their list.

#7—Don’t interrupt the other person.

There’s no better way to endanger your candidacy than by constantly interrupting people during the face-to-face interview. First of all, it’s considered rude. Second, remember that this is an audition. If you interrupt those conducting the interview, they’ll assume that you will interrupt other people if you’re hired. This includes co-workers, customers, and pet owners.

#8—Be sure to practice active listening.

I have written an entire article on active listening. That’s how important I believe it is, and the reason that I believe it’s important is because many employers have told me that it’s important. And they usually tell me after they’ve interviewed a candidate and the candidate didn’t practice active listening during the interview. If it’s important to a hiring manager, then it should be important to you.

When you communicate poorly during the face-to-face interview, you brand yourself as someone who is a poor communicator. The interview is all about personal branding. Everything you say and do and everything that you don’t say and do has to brand you as the best person for the job. That should be your number-one goal entering the interview stage of the hiring process. That’s because the number-one goal of the interview stage is to receive an offer of employment, so that you can advance to the offer stage of the process.

However, I can tell you beyond a shadow of a doubt that Animal Health and Veterinary employers do not make a habit of offering jobs to people who are poor communicators.

We help support careers in one of two ways: 1.By helping Animal Health and Veterinary professionals to find the right opportunity when the time is right, and 2.By helping to recruit top talent for the critical needs of Animal Health and Veterinary organizations. If this is something that you would like to explore further, please send an email to stacy@thevetrecruiter.com.

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