Surprising Lessons from the Susan Boyle Craze

Surprise singing phenom Susan Boyle is lucky she got a chance to sing during her first appearance on "Britain's Got Talent," because the "interview" portion before her song offers some great examples of what NOT to do in a job interview.

If you're not familiar with the clip, watch it now -- it's a wonderfully inspiring and instructive moment on many levels.

When the unemployed singer first walks on stage, she starts what is essentially a job interview. And the three interviewers -- as well as the crowd -- begin judging her based on her appearance and her demeanor.

This nonverbal sizing up happens every day and in every interview. Experts say that most hiring decisions happen in the first 10 minutes of an interview. You could be doomed before you get a chance to sing.

Susan's first moments with the interviewers are awkward. She fumbles with small talk about her home town. She responds to another light-hearted comment by swiveling her hips suggestively, raising a possible red flag about her judgment. These elements of her initial presentation have the interviewers and audience against her (as a judge later admits).

Sure, she was probably nervous, and most job interviewers are, too. But nervous behavior can backfire very quickly.

When you arrive at a job interview, make sure you are prepared for elements that are common judgment points in those first moments:

  • Make sure your outfit is appropriate for the job and fits well, and that your appearance is well-groomed.
  • Arrive five minutes early.
  • Greet the receptionist warmly and politely, as he or she might offer impressions to the hiring manager.
  • Offer a firm handshake with your interviewer.
  • Maintain good eye contact.
  • Engage politely in small talk if the interviewer leads that way.

The positive takeaways from Susan Boyle's big moment: her confidence and security. People laugh or gasp the moment she mentions her dream of being like stage star Elaine Page, but she doesn't flinch. She knows who she is and what she wants, no apologies.

Being confident and comfortable with yourself comes across in many nonverbal ways, and it usually impresses recruiters and hiring managers.

Susan's confidence and talent were enough to redeem her and adjust faulty first impressions, but not everybody gets that kind of opportunity.  

For more, I recommend the article "Interview Insights: 10 Ways to Make the Most of the First 10 Minutes."

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