Interpretations, interviews and a little fun

If you look at this picture for a moment, what does the expression tell you? Is the person surprised, angry, annoyed, puzzled, shocked, bored, or something else? For a bit of fun, you could even ask a colleague what they see. The point is that:

Different people can see the same thing in different ways.

And this can go further. Take the classic case of Leonardo da Vinci’s painting of the Mona Lisa in the Louvre Museum in Paris. It has been the subject of much debate over the centuries as to why the expression seems to change as you view it. The ‘vanishing smile’ as they call it.

It has even been analysed in terms of peripheral vision, dead-centre vision, and of light. You can also look at it from different angles and distances (if you can get close enough with the throng of people in front of you!), but change it seems to. You may even feel initially that she’s smiling specially at you, which can be a little unnerving. In just the same way:

Our interpretation of things can change as well.

To use another example, there was a particular shot of Rod Stewart on TV lately – the one in which he was crying seemingly uncontrollably. It could easily have been interpreted that he was grieving. How misleading that would have been!

Rod has always been a Glasgow Celtic fan. He was at a football match where they had just beaten FC Barcelona, considered by many as the best club team around at present. So it was hardly a case for sorrow, more likely the emotion of joy spilling over.

If the shot had been shown randomly so that you didn’t know he was at a football match, it would have been out of context and could have been very misleading.

So for accuracy of judgement things need to be taken in context.

OK, so what has this all to do with getting your next job?

Well firstly, initial impressions can be misleading. If you’ve ever been in an interview where something said has put you off, or you feel it didn’t start too well, then it’s just as well to bear in mind that the interviewer may have a different impression.

In addition, the interviewer’s perspective may change as it progresses, so it’s as well not to make too many assumptions as to how it’s going. Sometimes candidates don’t get the job offer due to a misunderstanding, so it’s a matter of staying focused. There’s nothing wrong in asking questions to check that you have understood them, giving indications that you are listening well.

Getting in sync and staying in sync with interviewers can involve trying to think about what impression you are creating, whether the interviewer really understood what you have to offer, and whether what you are saying is ambiguous.

Preparation can help you look at it from their point of view, so what are they looking for? What have you said and done that is relevant to what they want? In this way you are keeping in context with their expectations and increasing your chances of getting a job offer.

Lastly, no candidate can afford to totally relax, no matter how well it seems to be going. We know of many cases where due to becoming too relaxed all chances of getting the job disappeared with an unnecessary killer sentence.

People ‘buy’ people, so there is also a need to show them your personality. It’s as well to keep in mind that there is a fine balance between the two.

We hope this helps.

Want a bit of fun with interpretation? Then try this:


If you’re interested in the research on the Mona Lisa smile, here’s a link:


This article was written in November 2012 by Bill Paterson and the team at New Business People. If you have any queries, observations, ideas or requests, please contact us using the replies section. Comments are not published and could be very helpful. Thank you.

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