Thursday, July 24, 2008

Look into my eyes

Jobacle had a great short post on eye contact and I thought I would expand on it slightly since eye contact can have ramifications for interviews, as well as on-the-job customer service delivery.

The Jobacle post has some nice basic rules, but there are some cultural rules to be aware of: not all cultures evaluate the quality of eye contact in the same way as North Americans. There are differences between the countries that make up North America, as well as urban/rural, or native Americans or Canadians, and male to female. I have also met some North Americans (more below) who are pretty harsh when evaluating the quality of eye contact, so if you are interviewing for a North American position, but you aren't from around these parts, you might want to get some tips.
If you have concerns about your eye contact and the appropriateness of your gaze, you might want to have a mock interview that is video taped and see how good your eye contact is. Talking with a person from the country where you plan to interview--and, yes, there are differences between the US and Canada (we're not just cooler)--is a good idea.

As an aside, I teach ESL as a volunteer, and I have heard some disturbing stories from my students about getting hassled by law enforcement (train security and city cops) because of their lack of eye contact. Some of the officers have told these students that they look shifty and deceitful. The cops were quite belligerent with the students, when really the student's culture has told him/her to look on people in uniform with respect--not to mention that some countries have notoriously bent cops and it's a good idea to not attract their attention. I'm surprised that this was an issue, but I had a really upset student talk to me about a situation last year that made me think that people in authority--and this includes librarians and HR professionals--should stop acting like hyperactive rottweilers.

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