By Lisa Parker

Many people are influenced by the attitudes and communication styles of others. I’m not immune. During a conversation I find myself emulating the other person. Within minutes I’m talking at the same speed, with the same level of enthusiasm, the same jargon and sometimes even the same accent. The accent bit is embarrassing. There have been times I’ve heard myself talking and wondered where all of the extra vowels were coming from. You do it too, right? When in Rome… Accents aside, my natural inclination to mirror the other person serves me well in sales. A big part of the reason clients like me so much is because they are essentially experiencing themselves. What’s not to like?

One thing not to like is if the person I end up subconsciously mirroring is having a bad day. Perhaps they are distracted, lacking energy, pessimistic or stressed. If I serve that back to them, they aren’t going to see what they like about themselves. They are going to see the things they’d prefer to deny or ignore. And they won’t associate my demeanor as having been inspired by their own. So I have to make a conscious effort not to mirror that person in those types of situations if I want to make a good impression. Sounds simple, but it really takes work.

How does this relate to job seekers? Think about the interviews you’ve had with companies that didn’t go well. Is it possible you contributed to the mood? Did the interviewer mirror your own lack of enthusiasm or energy? Did you mirror the interviewer’s stress inspired disposition? Whether you set the negative mood of the interview in motion or contributed to it by mirroring the interviewer, the outcome is the same. No job for you.

What’s a person to do? For one, be aware of mirroring. Understand the interviewer is just as capable of following your lead as you are his. Walk into that room engaged, enthusiastic and positive. You will find the interviewer more likely to follow suit when you do so. Secondly, realize that people do like it when others adjust to their style. If they talk slower or are soft spoken, talking loudly at a mile a minute isn’t a good plan. Third, be aware of what is a bad day versus an interviewer’s particular style. If he is short with responses, slouched or distracted, turn your systems on alert so you don’t do the same. I can hear some of you say, “duh, Lisa…I’d never do that.” You’d be surprised. Ever yawn when someone else does? How about fidgeting? Averting eye contact? Checking your watch? When other people do these types of things around you, it’s more natural than you think to do the same. So don’t rule out the possibility you are also mirroring frowns, clipped words and disinterest.


Lisa joined the Michigan State University Alumni Association as Director of Alumni Career & Business Services on May 1, 2012. Her primary focus is to develop effective networking and resource channels for experienced alumni interested in professional development and job search strategy assistance. Additionally, Lisa works directly with corporate, education, foundation and government partners seeking to attract qualified talent, retain and develop good employees, and establish collaborative relationships in line with their established goals and objectives.

With 15+ years’ experience in third party recruiting, Lisa offers a balanced understanding of both employee and employer perspectives.

Lisa is a firm advocate of the networking process and considers it a vital element in a successful job search. In addition to helping job seekers develop and best utilize networking contacts, Lisa shares her knowledge and insight-gained aiding corporate recruiting efforts-to give Spartan job seekers an edge in terms of lead sourcing, resume presentation and interview strategy.

Among Lisa’s notable accomplishments: Prima Civitas Foundation Scholar; Michigan Works Association Volunteer of the Year; Pink Slip Mid Michigan Planning Committee; career content blogger.

The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Michigan State University.


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