Many candidates work really hard to identify the right company to target, create the right job opportunity, and do everything right in the race to win that next perfect job, only to lose in the last mile – the interview. Even the most polished presenters can trip up in a job interview, and as the old saw goes, you never get a second chance to make a good first impression.
I recently came across a post from PsyBlog, “10 Psychological Techniques to Help You Get a New Job.” It captured my interest because of the links to research. As the blog notes, hiring decisions often are made on gut feeling and personal interaction more than on credentials. In fact, your credentials are probably what landed you the interview. Most interviews are about “fit” – can you really do the job and will I like working with you. Here are some pointers based on psychological research that should be valuable to anyone going into an interview:
1. Schmooze but don’t sell. Be complementary about the other party; don’t sing your own praises. Praise the organization, the interviewer, show enthusiasm, see if you can find common interests, use eye contact. In other words, engage the interviewer. Research shows that those who ingratiate themselves do better in interviews.
2. Maintain control. You undoubtedly have rehearsed some of the tough questions in advance. So when an interviewer asks you how you handled a tough situation, make sure you answer the question so it displays the qualities they are looking for. Specifically, show how you took charge of the situation, rather than letting the situation control you.
3. Give yourself a pep talk. You should talk to yourself because it provides “verbal self-guidance.” Talk to yourself about positive ways to approach the interview such as “Smile and offer a firm handshake” and “Be confident in your approach.” Vocalizing these instructions helps give you more conviction and confidence. (Just don’t get caught talking to yourself in the interview itself.)
4. Use mental imagery. Visualize yourself as feeling confident and relaxed in the interview. Studies show that those who use positive mental imagery perform better in job interviews.
5. Lose the plastic smile. Be forthright in your body language, using eye contact, lean forward, don’t cross your arms, etc. But don’t put on a fake smile. A genuine smile and relaxed posture go farther than putting on a false front.
6. Use a firm handshake. It’s amazing but a firm handshake makes all the difference, especially for women. Use a firm hand grasp to start the interview.
7. Be defensive when appropriate. Some career coaches advise that you avoid being defensive, but if you are being challenged about holes in your job history or other obvious issues, defend yourself. Studies show that interviewees who made excuses, expressed remorse, and promised reform ranked higher than those who didn’t. Human fallacy is desirable.
8. Be honest about your weaknesses. It takes skill to reveal your weak spots without sacrificing likeability. Being honest about your weaknesses is seen as a positive trait and refreshing, where being honest about your strengths is perceived as boastful. If you are up front about your weaknesses, you will promote likeability with a better outcome. If you walk out of the interview on a high and feeling good about it, chances are the interviewer will come away with the same impression.
9. Avoid the, errr, verbal pauses, like, you know. It’s a shame that many of the younger job seekers lack verbal communications skills and continue to punctuate their conversation with phrases such as “like,” “you know,” and “ummm.” Studies show that these verbal fillers are seen as being less professional and have a clearly negative impact on hiring.
10. Be different. Granted, you have heard most of the interview questions in the past, but if you can come up with a unique response or a novel answer, it will be to your advantage. You will stand out and remain memorable for all the right reasons.
Practice makes perfect, so don’t be afraid to get some interview coaching. Find a professional to practice with so you can smooth the rough spots out of your interview technique.