How Psychology Applies to Job Interviews

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Nervous about your upcoming interview? Don’t fret. These tips straight from the world of psychology can help you land the job.

When preparing for a job interview, it’s normal to feel nervous about doing your best and acing the interview. When we take a step back, you’ll be surprised to realize there are a lot of ways human psychology often plays a part in everyday job interviews.

Interviewers are often susceptible to the same psychological preferences and cognitive biases that affect the rest of us. Being aware of these psychological factors is important to understanding how to portray yourself as a strong job candidate. Candidates and interviewers alike can use these tips about behavioral interviewing to come off as a friendly, competent, and confident candidate during the interview process. 


Giving a Good First Impression 

According to Forbes magazine, our brains make a thousand computations during the first seven seconds we see someone. From our physical appearance to the way we dress, all of this information plays an important part in our first impressions. 

Visual, Verbal, and Vocal Communication

There are three channels of communication: Visual, verbal, and vocal. Visual communication represents our body language and facial expressions and often holds a higher weight than the words we are actually speaking. Verbal communication is the words we actually say, and vocal communication is the way we say it. Utilizing all three channels can help you communicate more clearly and effectively. 

Comfortably Engaging In Small Talk

When first meeting your interviewer, don’t discount the small talk. Employers want to ensure that you will adapt quickly and easily into their work culture. Those who can easily engage in small talk will show that you are friendly and help start your initial connection.


Dress For Success 

Since it only takes seven seconds for someone to judge your appearance it is best to start off strong. Dressing professionally can give you that extra boost of confidence and put you in the right mindset for achieving excellence. 

Even if you are interviewing via phone call or video chat, your performance will often be different if you are dressed appropriately compared to lounging in your sweatpants and fuzzy socks. When you look your best, you have the potential to achieve your best performance. 

Dressing appropriately for the interview also speaks toward your expectations and how much you value the job itself. For example, if you were expected to wear a suit and tie every day to work would you show up in anything less for your interview? Dressing appropriately for the situation shows that you have respect for your employer and clients, and you’re willing to follow the norms and standards of the workplace. 

If you’re unsure what you should wear to your interview, utilize the company’s website and social media platforms to determine the look and feel of the company and how co-workers dress on a daily basis. This will help you plan appropriately, ensure you feel comfortable, and show that you would fit in easily within the workplace.


Showcase Your Professionalism

There are many factors that can take away from your first impression on the interviewer before you even sit down. Exhibiting professionalism can help showcase your experience and your preparedness for the position. Examples of exhibiting professionalism include arriving 15 minutes early, being prepared with multiple copies of your resume, as well as paper and pen for taking any notes, and pre-written questions to ask the interviewer. 

If you are participating in a virtual interview, making sure you are in a well-lit area with little to no background noise is essential. You’ll want to ensure that your interviewer can see and hear you clearly with no distractions from your interview. Testing your technology will help you prepare appropriately and find the right location for your interview. 


Utilizing Body Language

A big part of our visual communication, body language helps to convey your message in a way that words cannot. We often make a lot of common body language mistakes that can take away from getting your message across.

Common body language mistakes during an interview include:

  • Slouching: Slouching often expresses our lack of desire to be in the situation. Sitting up straight with square shoulders will make you appear more confident. 
  • Failure to make Eye Contact: Making direct eye contact with your interviewer can show you are engaged in the conversation as well as passionate about the position. As a rule of thumb, successful eye contact means holding your gaze for at least a second, but no more than three seconds.
  • Too Strong of a Handshake: While you want your handshake to be firm, too strong of one can cause you to come off as aggressive or difficult to work with.
  • Fidgeting or Playing With Something on the Table: Both of these body language mistakes can show nervousness, anxiety, or unpreparedness.

Mirroring Your Interviewer

A great tip for implementing body language in your interview is to mirror your interviewer. Known as the chameleon effect, people tend to like each other more when they are exhibiting similar body language. So, if they are using hand gestures, you should use hand gestures, or if they smile, you smile. This phenomenon often occurs naturally on its own so you should be aware and always try to remain positive and upbeat if your interviewer is more distant. 

Reflective listening is also a great way to mirror your interviewer in terms of vocal communication. Reflective listening is when you repeat back your interviewer’s statement or question in your own words. This shows that you understand what the interviewer is trying to say and can help demonstrate sincerity.


Build a Connection

Humans tend to get along with and like more people who are similar themselves. This is also known as the similarity-attraction effect. By building an emotional connection and using empathy in storytelling, you can emphasize shared values and strengthen an emotional tie between you and your interviewer. You can do this by sharing personal information that highlights your strengths, skills, and experience. 

Storytelling can be very beneficial when trying to help you stand out during the interview process. It allows you to share your success stories, discuss any challenges you have faced in the workplace, and how you have worked to overcome them. The most effective stories are those tailored to a specific audience. Practice telling your story with a friend so you can learn how to better cater it to your audience and speak towards them more confidently. 


Speak Clearly and Effectively

Whether it’s a presentation, an interview, or a general conversation we always want to speak as clearly and effectively as possible. We always want to ensure that we are not mumbling or using too many filler words like “cool,” “amazing,” “awesome,” “like,” and “umm.” Again, mock interviews have always been helpful in preparation for the real thing and can make you aware of any filler words you may be using when you are nervous or pausing for thought. 

If you find yourself in a panel interview with two or more people, it can be difficult to know which person to address with your answers. You should aim to engage all of the interviewers, making eye contact with each one and asking them questions to keep them all involved.


Write a Thank You Note

Following your interview, send a thank you note to your interviewer for their time and reiterate how you enjoyed speaking to them. Sending a thank you letter expresses how much you value the job and keeps you fresh on the interviewer’s mind. You can also use this as an opportunity to reiterate your capabilities by linking to an online portfolio or your professional network. If you were interviewed by multiple people, ask for a business card at the end of your interview, this will ensure you have everyone’s contact information for sending your thank-you email. 

Psychological cues not only play a large role in everyday communication but the interview process as well. By ignoring them you could miss out on opportunities to make yourself stand out from your competition and achieve your goal of landing your dream job. Here at PeopleSuite, we represent a variety of businesses throughout the hiring process, helping them find high-quality candidates. Visit our job board to see what open positions we have available or connect with us to see how we can help you in your job search. 

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