Almost all the programs in personality development and interviewing skills talk about the importance of eye contact in interview and sales situation. People are advised to maintain eye contact with the other person from the time one enters and keep it till one sits down. But this is a myth and creates problem for both the interviewer and the interviewee as it does not allow for the natural process one goes through while meeting someone for the first time.
Natural Process: When one meets someone new, one is naturally bound to go through a process of “looking one over” and that takes a few seconds. A man wants to look over a woman’s hair, body shape, legs and overall presentation. Similarly women also go through the same evaluation process with both men and women interviewees. They are also more critical than men or women interviewees who do not appear very presentable. They also look at male interviewee’s hair length, clothes and shoes. Shoes are very critical as women interviewers are very observant of the same.
The problem in maintaining eye contact from the beginning: If a candidate maintains eye contact right from the time of entering the interview room, it does not allow for this natural process to take place. This makes the interviewers un-comfortable and it results in them trying to steal glances at the interviewee during the process of interview and this distracts them from the interview and becomes a disadvantage for the candidate at times. It also makes the candidates feel very uncomfortable, especially female candidates when they find the male interviewer trying to look at them from time to time.
The solution: Therefore in a job interview or sales situation it is advisable to provide a time window of few seconds after entering for this process to take place. The interviewee or the sales person, after entering, should allow the interviewer or the client to look him or her over for a few seconds and then keep eye contact. This can be achieved by various small activities like looking down to open folder or briefcase, arrange papers, moving the chair closer etc. The idea is to allow the interviewer or the client few seconds of unrestricted view to check over the candidate or the sales person. It has been shown that if this is allowed to happen, then the interviewer or the client actually develops positive feeling and it usually adds up to a better outcome in results.
Ref: The definitive book of body language by Allan and Barbara Pease