Wondering how to ace an interview?
Whilst there are no surefire solutions, there are things you can do to ingratiate yourself with the interviewer and influence their thinking.
Interviewers are people just like the rest of us, and they’re susceptible to the same cognitive biases and psychological responses. Learning how to take advantage of that could help you improve your interview technique, and consequently your chances of landing the job.
Here’s how to ace an interview using science-backed psychological principles.
Feel the power
Research suggests that making yourself feel more powerful makes you appear more powerful outwardly.
A study found that participants who recalled and described an incident in which they had power over other people were more likely to be perceived as having high status in a group task – even after two days.
Replicate these results by recalling a time when you held power, and either talking about it with a friend or writing about it in the lead up to your interview.
Make eye contact
You’ve probably heard that making eye contact with your interviewer is a good idea. Well, it is – and here’s some evidence to back it up.
A recent study found that participants who were told a series of ambiguous statements were more likely to believe those statements if the speaker looked them in the eye, while another study found that people who consistently made eye contact while speaking were considered more intelligent than those who didn’t.
However, don’t go overboard – a psychopathic stare isn’t likely to win you any brownie points. Another study found that people are most comfortable with eye contact that lasts just over three seconds at a time.
Compliment the employer, not yourself
A study found that participants who ingratiated themselves with their interviewer were more likely to be perceived as a good fit for the job. Self-promotion, on the other hand, didn’t have any significant positive effects on perceived fit.
In other words, those who were positive about the organisation, showed enthusiasm for working there and complimented the interviewer were more likely to be recommended for the job, while those who played up their own achievements didn’t make so much headway.
Highlight your potential rather than your achievements
Talking about your accomplishments is a no-brainer in an interview, right?
Not necessarily. Research suggests that references to a person’s potential produce greater interest and more favourable responses than references to their achievement.
In a study, participants learned about a hypothetical job applicant. Some were told the applicant had two years of experience and had scored high on a test of leadership achievement. Others were told the applicant had no experience but scored high on a test of leadership potential.
The applicant who showed great potential was perceived more favourably, suggesting that in an interview you should focus on what you could achieve in the future if you’re hired, rather than on what you’ve achieved in the past.
Be honest about your weaknesses
It’s a common interview question, and one that many people struggle to answer.
When responding to ‘what’s your greatest weakness?’, lots of people opt for an answer that, in fact, emphasises their strengths, like the old classics, ‘I work too hard’ and ‘I’m too much of a perfectionist’.
However, research suggests that this may not be the right direction to go in. A study found that ‘humblebragging’, or bragging disguised as a complaint or humility, is a less effective self-presentation technique than straightforward bragging, reducing liking, perceived competence and compliance with requests. It backfires because it’s seen as insincere.
Instead, try being honest. Think of something that you genuinely struggle with – for example, public speaking or organisation. As long as it isn’t one of the essential requirements of the job, being candid about your weakness may be more likely to recommend you to the interviewer.
How to ace an interview using psychology: A conclusion
We hope our psychological strategies have given you an idea of how to ace an interview. Now all you need to do is get yourself an interview so you can put them into practice!
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Self-employed and out of interview practice? Here’s some great advice on making the transition into employment easier.