The single most critical determinant of whether someone receives a job offer is how well they handle the interview process. In addition to ensuring candidates have the qualifications, interviews also determine important, intangible factors that could contribute to the employee’s and the company’s success. This is all accomplished in about 40 minutes, the average time a typical job interview lasts.

In order to assist job candidates in turning interviews into offers, I spoke with communications expert Judith E. Glaser, author of the recently published “Conversational Intelligence: How Great Leaders Build Trust and Get Extraordinary Results.”

Glaser points out that one of the ways companies use interviews is to determine “cultural fit.” These face-to-face meetings are an opportunity to screen candidates to see how well they will work with the team members. Many companies set up interviews not only with a human resources representative but also with the boss and team members to determine if there is chemistry between the team and the new person.
“When there is no immediate chemistry, team members will seek ‘workarounds’ and form sub-groups, often without realizing it, and the team’s effectiveness and overall cohesion will be damaged,” Glaser said.

Companies are also seeking to foster more “WE-centric, collaborative and innovative workplaces,” she said. Interviews are an opportunity to determine whether introducing this candidate into the group, no matter how otherwise talented he or she is, will require a significant amount of management time being spent resolving conflicts. In today’s highly competitive marketplace most bosses don’t have the time, the skills or the desire to spend a significant amount of time mediating disputes.

Finally, companies are seeking to find out about a candidate’s interpersonal skills. Most jobs today require people who know how to motivate others, gain support and work across disciplines and cross culturally; successful employees need to be able to reach out and engage others, often remotely and across vast distances. Interviews are a chance to explore this particular skill set.

Once these factors are assured, most interviewers, in the end, rely on their gut instincts. Part of how they judge candidates is based on how well they connect with them. According to Glaser, research shows that in the first seven seconds, a person starts to make judgments about another’s trustworthiness, openness and warmth, attributes that we use to determine if we like and ultimately connect with them.
Glaser offers the following “Conversational-IQ Neuro tips” on how better to connect with interviewers:

  • Warmth. If someone seems distant, or is hard to read, we generally label them cold. That label influences how we listen to them and how they are viewed. During an interview, reaching out to shake hands and looking someone in the eye communicates warmth. This makes a strong positive connection with the interviewer that physiologically releases oxytocin, a neurotransmitter that facilitates more connectivity and trust in others, creating a perception of warmth.
  • Curiosity. During an interview, you have a better chance of making a positive impression and connecting with the interviewer if you demonstrate an interest in what they have to say. Asking thoughtful questions, and being inquisitive about what the interviewer does and what they think will send signals that you care and want to know about them, not just tell them about yourself. Asking questions about the company and discovering how the management views things — from the future of the industry to the values they live — demonstrates that you care about the business and the culture. It also releases oxytocin, and strengthens the bonds of connection.
  • Sharing. Be willing to show who you really are, how you’ve learned from the past, and how you apply lessons learned. While you are being judged for your job knowledge, you are also being judged on how human and honest you are. Share stories about what you have done, challenges you have faced and how you have grown from the experiences. This demonstrates an ability to learn from difficult situations and makes you a more attractive candidate.

Even if you have the right skills and experience, and powerfully present them in a résumé, it will only go as far as getting you an interview. Standing out from the other qualified candidates who have made it to that stage is what will garner you a job offer. To do that requires conversational intelligence — directing your answers to what the interviewer really cares about and being able to connect with him or her.

A veteran human resources executive, Lee E. Miller is a career coach and the author of “UP: Influence Power and the U Perspective — The Art of Getting What You Want.” Mail questions to