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The Psychology Of The Job Interview

Date Posted: 02.05.2017


Here’s what respondents had to say about winning recruiters over, putting on your game face and the power of body language.

The hands have it

Your hands can make a positive or negative impression. There’s nothing worse than a cold handshake when you greet an interviewer, according to Susan Bearry. “Dry, warm hands inspire confidence. Cold, clammy hands are a big unconscious turn-off,” she wrote. “When you get there early, go to the bathroom and warm your hands, either under hot water or under a hand dryer…Psychological studies have shown that even holding a warm cup of coffee makes someone feel more positive about the person he or she is talking to.”

Once the interview begins, keep hand gestures to a minimum so as not to detract from the discussion. “Keep your hands in sleep mode,” wrote Sharad Dhumane. “If you use them, let it be a slow, small movement.”

Resist the temptation to cross your arms, Melinda Edwards wrote: “This gives off the vibe that you're closing in on yourself and not willing to understand.”

Mirror, mirror

Zambelli Sylar Federico recommends mirroring your interviewer’s body movements to gain their trust. It’s a technique, he said, good salesmen often employ to close deals. “By mirroring their movements, tone, gestures, breathing pace and so on, you're basically communicating: ‘Hey, we’re playing the same tune here. We're akin. You can trust me,’” he wrote.

But, you have to be subtle, Federico noted. “They scratch their nose with left hand, you touch your face with right hand. They cross their legs, you cross legs the opposite way. And so forth,” he explained.  “After you feel confident with body language you might want to move on with [mirroring] tone [of voice]: as you may be well aware, some people speak at a very fast and intermittent pace, others are very slow, others have instead a rhythm.”

Slowing things down

Time is of the essence but that doesn’t mean you need to rush the interview. “I once had a boss who was really into meditation and he told me later that he really liked that I breathed slowly and deeply in our interview because he knew I would keep cool under pressure and would have a calming influence on him,” wrote Bearry. “Short, rapid breaths or running out of air when talking is a clear sign of nervousness and it can make your interviewer edgy as well.”

When answering a question, don't feel compelled to answer immediately every time, “especially if you get a question that could trip you up,” wrote Tim Chi. “It is OK, and sometimes even preferable, to take some extra time to think over your response.”

This, he wrote, can help in two ways:

  1.  It takes off some of the pressure to memorise canned responses.
  2. It projects confidence:  When you take some time to answer, instead of rushing, it communicates to people that you know your own value.

One caveat: “Don't wait that long, or else you might just seem spacey and nervous,” Chi wrote.

Act confidently but don’t overdo it

How can you project confidence when you’re anxious?

Try not to let it show and never apologise for it.

 “Body language and nonverbal communication is a missing piece of what makes for a successful interview,” according to John Sannicandro, a psychotherapist. “Practice the way you sit, stand and walk to increase your confidence.”

Smile, maintain eye contact with the interviewer and try not to fidget, added Edwards. Fidgeting, she wrote, “makes the interviewer uncomfortable somehow, because they see how restless you are.” 

While a nervous candidate may not endear themselves to an employer, acting overly confident can also send the wrong message. “They don't want an arrogant jerk, unless you're already famous in your field; then they'll overlook it,” Carole Grimley wrote. “Just be polite, act the way everyone else does.”

 Listen carefully, talk when appropriate

It’s important to chime in and answer questions so an interviewer gets a sense whether you can do the job, but never interrupt your interviewer. “Sometimes interviewees are over eager to show that they ‘get it’ or that they are a quick study, but no one ever likes being interrupted,” Bearry wrote.

Also avoid long speeches. “Unless demanded by the situation, use your mouth sparingly,” Dhumane wrote. “Just be natural.”

Observe reactions

Facial expressions can be very telling, but it works both ways. While an interviewer is observing you, you should also be observing them, taking note of how he or she reacts to your responses.

The important part is to know if they are interested in what you have to say, according to Shino San. “If they seem disinterested, learn to stop speaking even if you have something amazing to share,” San said. “Be precise, and if they show interest in your topic, speak it loud and up. Let them know who you are and why the want you.”

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