Good Impressions

WRITING - Joe Bob's America

Supposedly, when you go down to Wal-Mart to interview for a job stacking giant boxes of VCR's on a 12-foot-high shelf,

you have to talk to these "expert" psychologists who can watch your body language and figure out whether or not you're a serial killer, or you spend a lot of money on 900 numbers, or you once stole all the wire hangers out of your ex-wife's closet.

And then, if they decide you're a weirdo in some way or another, they give you the old "We have no openings at this time" or "Your skills don't fit our particular needs."

You understand how this works? These "professional interviewers" don't CARE what you say when you answer the questions. They only care HOW you say it.

So let's say the question is, "Now, Mr. Smathers, do you have any experience working with mentally retarded Indonesian children?"

And the answer to that question is either gonna be "Yes" or "No." (Of course, there are a few people in my own family who would answer "I am NOT retarded," but we're not dealing with actual MUTANT behavior here. I'm saving that for another column. Right now we're dealing with normal people.)

So let's say the answer is "No," but you HESITATE for a minute before you say no, and you cross your feet, and you give the interviewer a little smile. If you do all these things, there are some of these interviewers who will believe you're LYING, and that you actually DID work with mentally retarded Indonesian children, but you DON'T WANT ANYONE TO FIND OUT!

Another thing these people look for is signs of an "agreeable" personality--and usually what they mean is that, if you nod and smile a lot, you're agreeable, and if you sit there like a slug, or if you stare the interviewer right directly in the eye, then you might be "hostile." (Of course, this goes against everything my daddy ever told me about "looking people in the eye." HE considered it a sign of respect.)

Anyhow, here's my point. They just did a bunch of studies showing that most of these interviewers DON'T KNOW WHAT THE HECK THEY'RE TALKING ABOUT! Isn't this refreshing? I LOVE findings like this.

In other words, the studies showed that people who stare, or sit in a rigid position, might not be hostile or "dominant" at all. They might be SHY. And people who nod and smile a lot might be conning you. They might be thinking, "What a bozo. Better be nice to this guy. Look at those NOSE HAIRS! I'll act like I don't notice."

And so now the psychologists are saying that the interviewers are making all the wrong assumptions. That includes judges, lawyers, psychiatrists, police detectives, polygraph operators, and others who sort of, like, NEED to know this stuff.

I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, "Hmmmm, now that we know this, I wonder if I can go back and get that great Toys R Us sales clerk job where they said I was a paranoid schizophrenic who blames his problems on other people. After all, they WERE out to get me, and they ruined my life."

Actually, I could have saved these psychologists a WHOLE lot of time. There's only one profession where MISREADING these non-verbal signals can have immediate and devastating effects on your life. They should have gone to Vegas and talked to the top 20 poker players in the world.

Believe me, they know. They ALWAYS know. And when you see THEIR eyebrows move, or their knees jump, or their head start to swivel a little bit, what it REALLY means is . . .

Whatever they WANT it to mean.

You understand how this works now?