3 simple hacks for giving a perfect interview

August 14, 2020
By Sarah Blunt
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Want to power-up your chances of landing your dream job? Instead of worrying about saying the right things or giving impressive answers, you might like to try these 3 simple hacks for giving a perfect interview - all backed up by psychological research.

The psychology of giving a perfect interview

In his international bestseller 59 seconds: Think a little, change a lot, Professor Richard Wiseman introduces quick and simple things that people can do to improve their lives. Backed up by psychological research, the book covers everything from creativity to motivation. In a chapter on persuasion, Professor Wiseman provides some great advice on how to significantly increase the chances of landing your dream job. Here's what he says...

Be likeable

Perhaps the most striking advice given in the book is that likeability and coming across as friendly is the most important thing you can do for giving a perfect interview. Research by Chad Higgins and Timothy Judge found that the most important factor for interview success was whether the candidate seemed like a pleasant person. The interviewers, perhaps subconsciously, put more stock in whether they thought a candidate would fit in than if they had the right experience and skills.

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So what can you do to be perceived as likeable and demonstrate that you would have a good fit within an organisation? The research revealed the following behaviours that will help show you in a good light:

  1. Talk about shared interests outside of work. If you’ve done your research into both the organisation and your interviewers you should be able to find some things you have in common that you can talk about. If you're trying to focus on giving a perfect interview, it makes sense to bring these up if you can. Don’t worry about this seeming forced, many interviewers will ask you to talk about yourself and ask you what you like doing outside of work.
  2. Smile and maintain eye contact. This is a no-brainer, but often things like being nervous or focusing on your answers can mean you forget to do the simple things. Nothing will better demonstrate your likeability than smiling, as it's a psychological marker for things like openness, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness and emotional stability . Maintaining eye contact will increase levels of perceived friendliness and likeability, whereas breaking eye contact or constantly looking away will make you seem less likeable and more unfriendly. This one is a no-brainer when thinking about the steps you can take for giving a perfect interview.
  3. Praise the organisation. In his book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, Professor Robert Cialdini identifies physical attractiveness, similarity, praise, association, and familiarity as being key to increasing likeability. By praising the organisation you have an interview with you are boosting your own likeability by first showing that you like them. Being liked activates the reward centre of our brains , and so giving authentic praise for the organisation will likely make your interviewers feel more positive towards you.

Focus on weaknesses early and save strengths for later

It’s sometimes hard to know when or how to bring up your weaknesses or things that you think might concern your interviewers. At the same time, we all know the importance of making a good impression by emphasising what we’ve done well. The research presented in 59 seconds… suggests a simple structure to follow for giving a perfect interview despite talking about your weaknesses. Evidence from studies shows that bringing up weaknesses early on tends to mean candidates are presented in a more positive light than if they either ignore them or bring them up later on. At the same time, if you’ve got something good to say then it will be received far better if you save it until later.

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Don’t worry about mistakes

Professor Wiseman uses an experiment by researchers at Cornell University to show that when we make mistakes we tend to amplify the impact they have on the people we are with. In reality, it would appear that we tend to overemphasise the impact of our own mistakes. In other words, other people don’t focus on our mistakes as much as we do. This is something called the ‘spotlight effect’:

From assessing the effects of a bad hair day to performing badly in a group discussion, those who feel embarrassed are convinced that their mistakes are far more noticeable than they actually are. Why? It seems we focus on our own looks and behaviour more than others, and so are likely to overestimate their impact.

So, next time you mess up an interview answer or forget the question you’ve been asked, don’t let it get to you - it doesn't mean you're not giving a perfect interview. Move on from it quickly and don’t let it throw you off track!

Although these hacks will go a long way to help improve your chances of giving a perfect interview, remember that on their own they won’t get you the job. However, if you’ve done everything else right then these three things can massively improve the likelihood of you getting the job.

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