What Your Interviewer’s Seating Arrangement Is Telling You…

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You’ve sent our your well-crafted resume. You’ve gotten responses. You walk into the interview, and by god, this time they’ve given you choices!  There is not one chair to sit at but a whole table of them!  There are even interviewing techniques to deal with situations like this so you are less likely to have a panic attack when your new boss gives you your first decision to make.  After all, seating positions have a lot more psychological influence on social dynamics than you might think.  Don’t go into the office and start playing musical chairs before you understand the atmosphere your decisions will create.

interview seating arangmnt

Here are 6 ways for you to make the most out of your seating options:

1. The Una-Bomber Position

This is how you don’t want to sit.  Ted Kaczynski, the Una-Bomber, used to do this in libraries while planning out his acts of “justice.”  Hood pulled over his head, his back to intruders, a hunched withdrawn position turning all would-be conversations away.  Not really conducive to answering tough interview questions, or making friends for that matter.

If your potential employers leave you in a room alone, you’d be better off putting on a dunce cap and taking a stool to the corner than doing this (at least you’d get a laugh).  Turning away from everyone who enters and withdrawing into your own little world sends the message that you don’t want to talk or have something to hide.  If you are left to sit alone, sit on the side of the table where you’ll face people as they enter or turn your chair around.

2. The I’ll Give You Back Your Son Alive For $1,000,000 Position

Two opponents sit across from each other.  Dead eyes locked.  Faces set firm.  Unless you’re in the World Series of Poker or negotiating a ransom, it just feels wrong, even if it is often the norm.

If you have a choice, don’t choose to sit like this in an interview.  People meeting in this position are a lot more likely to start debating or arguing.  It creates an air of competition, and the table dividing the “debaters” makes it easier to hold fast to an opinion because of the psychological attachment to the table as a protective divider.  You might find yourself raising an uproar over company protocol before you even fill out your W-2.

This type of head to head positioning is confrontational and imitates animals in the wild squaring off for a brutal bout of head-butting.  It’s our nature to get aggressive in this situations—thin how dogs flip out if you stare at them too long.  Save the negotiation position for when someone really does steal your firstborn.

We can understand your frustration though, because some power-hungry subordinates get their jollies creating this kind of atmosphere.  In one experiment, 76% of senior managers were shown to prefer a desk between them and someone lower in status.  They get off on their power, the sick bastards.  Or maybe they just like it for protection from disgruntled employees.

Us staff-workers notice all this power-mongering too.  The studies went on to show that when the desk is taken away we view the manager as a pretty cool dude who is open to new ideas.  This is simply the best position for getting on the level.

3. The There’s No “I” in Team Position

This is when you and the interviewer are sitting next to each other at a table and have turned slightly to talk.  “We’re in this together, Man.”  Putting your arm over the manager’s shoulder and repeatedly referring to him as “Tiger” is probably over-kill, but this position is great for rapport.  It’s up close and personal and you will often find your gestures mirror each other because psychological cooperation is so intense.

Studies show that in business situations 71% of people think someone who is sitting next to them is engaged and participating.  Awww…isn’t that cute?  Your new best friend.  When two people are seated in a There’s No “I” in Team position, the one on the left side will be the less cooperative of the two.  Just in case you’re still having trouble with your lefts and rights, that means you should try to get the manager on your right.

However, this can be dangerous too.  If the level of comfort you’re shooting for just isn’t there, you might make things a little awkward by sliding up a seat and getting personal.  If the big boss is particularly old school and thinks you’re getting fresh, you might have a fistfight on your hands.

4. Cozy Corner

This is what you want—get them in your corner.  This is when you and the interviewer are sitting at the corner of a table on adjacent edges.  It is the best seating arrangement for cooperation.

There’s good eye contact and you’re on an equal level.  Not confrontational.  And there’s still a tiny bit of table in there so the one with zero social intelligence doesn’t start having a panic attack and bolt for the bathroom to throw up their breakfast.  Someone who interviews like this may have a natural sense of human psychology.

If the interview seems more informal and the interviewer sits at a corner without gesturing which chair you should take, pick the corner one close to them and put them at ease—you will be surprised how quick they lighten up.

5. The Circle Jerk

On round tables, the person directly across the table is often seen as the opposition, so if one individual in a group of interviewers seems to be glaring, they probably just hate you because of where you’re sitting.  Either that or they are wondering why you’re staring at them instead of paying attention.

56% of people tend to think the person across from them is uninterested in what is going on—maybe its you that is glaring at him you competitive asshole; pay attention.

Their may even be good reason for them to feel that way because when people are put in a negotiation-style arrangement like this, whether facing a group or an individual, they have been shown to use shorter, more abrupt  answers to typical interview questions and don’t really remember much of what is said.  Minimize these subconscious assumptions by making occasional eye contact with interviewer directly across from you, nodding your head, and smiling.  This confirms that you are friendly and engaged.

6. Sitting With the Group: Everyone Wants to Belong

If you’ve got more than two people sitting in front of you during an interview, sometimes you’ll get one more sheepish or introverted manager who is kind of just following along.  He’s still got some decision-making power, though—you want him on your side.  Take control and exert some presence to make him feel at ease.

One technique to make sure he feels included is to look at the guy who’s asking the questions as you start to answer, and then look at the other.  Move your eyes back and forth, making Mr. Arrogance feel like you’re supplicating him while giving Mr. Insecure some extra validation for his inferiority complex

As you finish talking (no more than 30 seconds at a time, please), you should be looking at the talkative manager again.  This is an amazing psychological technique that can leave that silent manager gunning for you when it comes decision time.  He may not be used to having someone include him like that.

Yeah, he’s a needy little bastard, but you need a job, so play along. If you want to tip the scale, have more employers looking to hire you than you have time to do interviews, take a look at the Ultimate Resume Template.

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