One of the key pieces of advice you usually get in business is to mimic your audience because it ultimately makes you more relatable. This is pretty sound advice in general and it has served me well with customers over the years. I dress like them, talk like them and even try and adopt their sense of humor when working with them. It can be hugely beneficial to your relationship. In fact it’s kind of in our nature to mimic those we want to be around.
However, this can be a real pitfall for you if you’re interviewing for a job. In fact, it’s a trick that some interviewers use in order to get the interviewee to drop his guard. I call it the ‘kill ‘em with casual’ approach. Here’s how it works: At some point in the interview the interviewer will try and take the formality out of the meeting in order to create a more casual environment. His hope is that you’ll try and mimic his behaviour and as a result slip up and say something you really didn’t intend to. When people are disarmed they’ll act like their true selves, which is ultimately what an interviewer wants you to do.
Here are a few things to look out for:
1. Watch out for a shedding of the tie, rolling up sleeves, or even kicking off of shoes (I’ve actually seen this before). They’re trying to dress down the formality of the meeting.
2. Your interviewer uses curse words in the meeting. He may try and coax some out of you.
3. Your interviewer tries to tell you ‘how it really is around here’ to seem like your confidant.
4. He may try and get you to talk badly about a former employer of yours.
5. He may try and reveal something personal or ask about something personal to get you more comfortable talking.
My advice is, never go casual in an interview. It’s an interview, not a coffee date. Your job is to represent yourself in the best way possible. So keep it formal and don’t fall for these little tricks.