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The skinny on 'getting the job' in 5

Be engaged!

The Job Interview

The good news oozes in like ice cream oozes refreshing on a sun shiny day. You have an interview for a job you want. It’s about time. You’ve been searching for a job forever.

You’re ready. Your suit is pressed; your shoes, shined. You’ve read the job description a million times. ‘What do I have to do to get the job?’ you ask yourself.

Equally important is the mirror to the question above: ‘What do I not want to do?’ Oscar’s story follows. It’s a cautionary tale of what not to do in an interview.

Oscar kills his chances of getting the job

Oscar places himself at the head of the boardroom table. As I approach, he glances in my direction dismissively. He doesn’t smile. I stretch out my hand. ‘Hello, Oscar, I’m Eroca Gabriel, Director of Change Management. How are you?’

He turns halfway toward me and makes a perfunctory remark. I drop into the chair next to his and continue with niceties. ‘How was your drive from Winston-Salem?’ ‘Was it easy for you to find HQ?’ ‘Would you like a drink?’

Oscar verbally pitter patters through my pre-amble. I hear slight impatience in his voice.

It’s 2002. I’m interviewing Oscar for a leadership position in IT/IS at the health insurance company (‘The Company’) in North Carolina where I work for Fred, the SVP IT/IS. I am employed as a ‘process’ consultant.

‘The Company’ is undergoing business change or reorganization (‘reorg’). The ‘reorg’ is driven by IT/IS – we’re putting in a necessary and more effective information management system – a typical starting point for managing change in a large organization.

‘The Company’ needs a VP IT/IS to lead the change on the technology-side. Oscar has been vetted by a retained search firm. He’s it (or so I’m told by the search consultant). However, after three minutes with Oscar, I fall into conversational ‘flat line.’

Oscar has a communication problem and he doesn’t know it. I can hear it in his voice and see it in his eye contact, facial expressions and posture. He reveals his problem in everything he says and does.

Ninety minutes later, after a bumpy one-on-one with Oscar, I take a deep, relaxing breath and glide toward my office. Fred emerges from a meeting and looks at me. I lay it out there. ‘Pick a word. Arrogant. Condescending. Entitled. Which one do you want? Oscar is all three.’

Oscar’s problem – an inability to build rapport with me during the interview – killed his chances of getting the job; a job he wanted badly because of its location, Chapel Hill, where his wife and children lived. Haughty tone. Rolling eyes. Sarcastic remarks. He acted as though he’d be doing us a favor by taking the job.


Rapport, a seemingly innocuous communication concept, and one that Oscar didn’t understand, is the center pole of the job interview – whether the interview takes place face-to-face or virtually.

It’s up to the job searcher to know how to build rapport with recruiters, hiring managers and potential co-workers. No rapport; no job – especially in the nuanced work world of the 21st century where companies communicate with searchers in a plethora of dimensions – all of which searchers are expected to be aware of, understand and buy-into.

Here is the core interpersonal (human to human) communication skill for successfully building rapport with people who make decisions about whom to hire.

The more you ‘listen, observe, tune-in and join-in,’ the more rapport you’ll have with people and the greater your ability to relate to them for a mutually satisfying result.

The Virtual World

Virtual interviewing and its larger cousin, the virtual job fair, which is increasing in use in our increasingly digital world, call for a ramp-up in rapport building as a way to ‘keep it human’ (e.g., get the right person in the right job at the right time).

Chris Brown, Director of Human Resources, for InterCall, the world’s largest conferencing solutions provider, described the virtual job fair to me when I spoke with him over the phone recently:

‘A virtual job fair is not a digital event. It’s a social (interpersonal or human to human) event in a digital environment (parenthesis mine).’

Building rapport at a virtual job fair can make you stand out from the virtual crowd – and it’s done by ‘listening, observing, tuning-in and joining-in’ (much like at a face-to-face job fair).

Again, Chris Brown of InterCall:

‘Recruiters want attendees at virtual job fairs to be engaged,* not passive.'**

Being Engaged

Learning to be engaged – the ‘who, what, where, and when’ of ‘listening, observing, tuning-in and joining in’ – is Self-Help Project #1 for job searchers (What can I say? I’m a Baby Boomer. Self-help is my generation’s contribution to society.). Being engaged is easier than you think if you understand its particularities.

The mojo of being engaged is simple: tuning-in. When you tune-in, you recognize the other– who – in the actual or virtual room, which gives you an advantage; an advantage in building rapport and, ultimately, in getting the job.

The Skinny on ‘Getting the Job’ in 5

1. Searching for a job in the real and virtual worlds is a social (interpersonal or human to human) endeavor.
2. Building rapport with recruiters, hiring managers and potential co-workers is the core interpersonal communication skill for job searchers.
3. Build rapport by engaging in the job search process.
4. To engage: 'listen, observe, tune-in and join-in.'
5. Tune-in before you join-in. Focus on who first; then, what, where and when.

*Listening, observing, tuning-in and joining-in' is known as being engaged in the corporate world.

**To that end, InterCall's 'The Complete Guide to Conquering an Online Job Interview' tells you how to ask for an online job interview during the job search process. It also gives you action steps to be successful before, during and after the interview. It's available here:

Organizational communication maven by day. Food, wine and beer buff by night. World traveler. Entrepreneurial spirit. Contact Eroca Gabriel, a former Fortune 100 ‘people and culture’ consultant, at


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