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Jonathan Golding, Ph.D. and Anne Lippert, PhD
Jonathan Golding, Ph.D. and Anne Lippert, PhD

5 Psychological Tricks to Get Ahead in Job Interviews

You may be surprised at how a little psychological effort can go a long way.

When preparing for job interviews, most of us are aware of the power of psychology. We put effort into certain aspects we believe will influence the interviewer’s judgment of us such as our external appearance, demeanor, and timeliness. Of course, a neat presentation and showing up on time are likely to be better than showing up disheveled and 2 hours late, but these will not really help you get ahead since they are pretty much expected in any interview and will not set you apart from other candidates. So what are some ways we can use human psychology to help us make a uniquely favorable impression in the interviewer’s mind? And how can we be sure these efforts will work for us and not against us? In a world where competition is fierce, any little tactic to increase your chances of employment may help. We give you five empirically based tips below:

Strike a pose before the interview

NovelBestSeller /Pixabay
Source: NovelBestSeller /Pixabay

Practicing expansive “power poses” before job interviews has been shown to enhance performance during the interview. In a study by Cuddy and colleagues (2015), Participants adopted high-power (i.e., expansive, open) poses or low-power (i.e., contractive, closed) poses and then prepared and delivered a talk as part of a mock job interview. Those who prepared for the job interview with high power poses performed better and were more likely to be chosen for hire. See examples of high and low power poses here.

Smile… but only at certain times

Greyerbaby / Pixabay
Source: Greyerbaby / Pixabay

Use your smile, but sparingly. Studies show that candidates will be seen as more suitable for a job if they smile less, especially for jobs requiring a serious demeanor (Ruben, Hall & Schmid Mast, 2015). In one study, hiring was maximized when applicants smiled less in the middle of the interview relative to the start and end (Ruben, Hall & Schmid Mast, 2015).

Be clear

Source: TobiasD/Pixabay

Be very clear in what you are saying and be sure to present it in a well structured manner. Rather than attempting to impress the interviewer with dense jargon, a more simple and strong presentation of what you have to offer will work in your favor. Research shows that candidates who speak is intelligently, clearly, and logically have increased chances at favorable employment outcomes compared to those that speak too technically and in a random seeming manner (Clark, 2008).

Be enthusiastic

Barni1 / Pixabay
Source: Barni1 / Pixabay

Use your voice to express excitement during your interview. The extent to which the speaker’s presentation is enthusiastic, confident, and captivating significantly predicts job interviewers’ general evaluations of applicants, call-backs, and final hiring decisions (Young & Kacmar, 1998). In particular, candidates with higher affect, energy level, and pitch and amplitude variability are significantly more likely to be invited back for a second interview than applicants who demonstrate lower affect, energy level, and pitch and amplitude variability (Degroot & Motowidlo, 1999). Job candidates who fail to demonstrate enthusiasm tend to be judged as more anxious (Levine & Feldman, 2002), lacking confidence, less effective communicators and as such are less likely to be positively evaluated in job interviews (McCarthy & Goffin, 2004).

Mirror, Mirror… but not obviously

Source: jill111/pixabay

Many people believe that subtly mirroring an interviewer’s body movements can help create an atmosphere of trust and increase chances of employment. Yet, what is not common knowledge is that if the interviewer picks up on attempts at mirroring, the candidate will likely be perceived as inauthentic and manipulative, hurting his/her chances of being hired (Baron, 1986). Thus, only mirror if it is naturally something you do. Don’t force it and risk being seen as conniving.

Hopefully these tips have given you some helpful things to think about as you prepare for your next interview. If you end up using any of these tips, please let us know how it goes. We would love to hear from you and any insight you have into careers and psychology!

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Baron, R. A. (1986). Self-presentation in job interviews: When there can be “too much of a good thing.” Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 16, 16 –28.

Clark, C. (2008). The impact of entrepreneurs’ oral ‘pitch’ presentation skills on business angels’ initial screening investment decisions. Venture Capital, 10, 257–279.

Cuddy, A. J., Wilmuth, C. A., Yap, A. J., & Carney, D. R. (2015). Preparatory power posing affects nonverbal presence and job interview performance.Journal of Applied Psychology, 100(4), 1286.

DeGroot, T., & Motowidlo, S. J. (1999). Why visual and vocal interview cues can affect interviewers’ judgments and predict performance. Journal of Applied Psychology, 84, 986 –993. 0021-9010.84.6.986

Levine, S. P., & Feldman, R. S. (2002). Women and men’s nonverbal behavior and self-monitoring in a job interview setting. Applied HRM Research, 7(1), 1-14.

McCarthy, J. M., & Goffin, R. D. (2004). Measuring job interview anxiety: Beyond weak knees and sweaty palms. Personnel Psychology, 57, 607– 637.

Ruben, M. A., Hall, J. A., & Schmid Mast, M. (2015). Smiling in a job interview: When less is more. The Journal of social psychology, 155(2), 107-126.

Young, A., & Kacmar, M. (1998). ABCs of the interview: The role of affective, behavioral, and cognitive responses by applicants in the employment interview. International Journal of Selection and Assessment, 6, 211–221.

About the Author
Jonathan Golding, Ph.D. and Anne Lippert, PhD

Jonathan Golding, Ph.D., is a professor of psychology at the University of Kentucky. Anne Lippert, Ph.D., is a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Kentucky.

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