Interview Tips

How to Use Psychology to Nail Your Interview

The following list will help you get into your interviewer’s head and learn what they want to see in a candidate. This list contains science-backed strategies to make you seem more likeable, competent, and ultimately hireable.

Scheduling your interview: Where possible try and arrange your interview for around 10:30 am on a Tuesday as your interviewer will likely be more relaxed than say a Monday morning at the same time.

You should avoid early-morning meetings because your interviewer may still be preoccupied with tasks for that day. Also avoid being the last meeting of the day, as your interviewer may already be thinking about what they need to do at home. Friday’s are generally a bad day for meetings as most interviewers will usually be thinking about the weekend and you probably will be as well.

Don’t interview on the same day as the strongest candidates: Interviewers base their evaluations of individual candidates on who else they’ve interviewed that day.

Applicants who interviewed at the end of a day after a series of strong candidates can be rated lower. But those who interviewed after weaker candidates were rated higher than expected. If you have any knowledge of who else is interviewing and when, choose to come in after candidates with less experience than you.

Match the colour of your outfit to the image you want to project: Different clothing colours convey distinct impressions.

  • Blue: Suggests that you are a team player.
  • Black: Suggests leadership potential.
  • Orange: Is the worst colour to wear, and suggests that the candidate is unprofessional.
  • Grey: Logical/analytical.
  • White: Organized.
  • Brown: Dependable.
  • Red: Power.
  • Green, yellow, orange, or purple: Creative.

Tailor your answers to the interviewer’s age: You can learn a lot about your interviewer and what they want to hear based on their generational age. So conduct yourself differently based on which generation your interviewer belongs to.

  • Generation Y interviewers (between 20 and 30):These are the most tech-savvy generation and value the ability to deliver and receive information quickly and efficiently. Bring along visual samples of your work and highlight your ability to multitask.
  • Generation X interviewers (between 30 and 50):In general they have an entrepreneurial bent and they’re pretty tech-savvy. They are passionate and creative, and expect others to be the same. They care a lot about finding balance between their work and home lives. Emphasize your creativity and mention how work/life balance contributes to your success.
  • Baby Boomer interviewers (between 50 and 70):Baby Boomers believe hard work and education are above talent and intelligence. Hard graft and earning your manager’s respect is important to them; they can’t stand the idea that you automatically deserve it. Show that you work hard and demonstrate respect for what they’ve achieved.
  • Silent Generation interviewers (between 70 and 90):Silents are remaining in the workforce (or returning to it) for financial reasons. They’re highly experienced and family-oriented, hard working, and reliable. They also value teamwork and loyalty to their organization. Mention your loyalty and commitment to previous jobs.

Hold your palms open or steeple your hands: Your hand movements contribute to the impression you convey in a job interview.

  • Showing your palms generally indicates sincerity.
  • Pressing the fingertips of your hands together to form a church steeple indicates confidence.
  • Holding your palms downward is a sign of dominance, which you’ll want to avoid.
  • Concealing your hands looks like you have something to hide.
  • Tapping your fingers shows impatience.
  • Folding your arms indicates disappointment.
  • Overusing hand gestures can be distracting.

Find something in common with your interviewer: We tend to like people who share similar attitudes. So if you know your interviewer values charity work and you do too, work that topic into your conversation.

Mirror the interviewer’s body language: The “Chameleon Effect” is a psychological phenomenon that describes how people tend to like each other more when they’re exhibiting similar body language.

Ideally you should be in harmony with the other person. Otherwise it can seem like you’re not interested in what they’re saying, you’re not a team player, or even that you’re lying. If your interviewer is leaning forward in their chair and putting their hands on the table, feel free to do the same. Chances are they won’t notice that you’re copying them.

Compliment the interviewer and the organization without self-promoting: If you can charm your interviewer, without coming across as self-promotional, you are more likely to be recommended for the job.

Try and praise the organization you want to work for and indicate your enthusiasm for working there, and also compliment the interviewer on their achievements.

Show confidence and deference simultaneously: Success in business is often a matter of competing and cooperating which means showing deference to your interviewer, while also demonstrating self-confidence. One-way to do that is to say something like, “I love your work on [whatever area]. It reminds me of my work on [whatever area].”

You’re confident in that you’re taking the initiative to guide the conversation, but also deferential in that you’re admiring your interviewer’s work.

Emphasize how you took control of events in your previous jobs: To impress your interviewer, you should talk about past work experiences where you took initiative. If you can show how you contributed to a positive outcome at your company, your interviewer will likely be more impressed with you than if you act like you had little to do with it. But be careful not to overstate your role in the outcome.

Be candid about your weaknesses: In answering the question “What’s your greatest weakness?” your initial impulse might be to craft a response that emphasizes your strengths, which can have a negative impact on your interview. It’s much wiser to say something genuine like, “I’m not always the best at staying organized,” which sounds more honest, and could make your interviewer more inclined to recommend you for the position.

Speak expressively: Avoid speaking in monotone. If two speakers utter exactly the same words, but one speaks a little faster and louder and with fewer pauses and greater variation in volume, that speaker will be judged to be more energetic, knowledgeable, and intelligent. Expressive speech, with modulation in pitch and volume, and a minimum of noticeable pauses, boosts credibility and enhances the impression of intelligence.

Slow down and speed up depending upon the importance of what you’re communicating at the time. If you’re summarizing or going over background, speak more quickly than when you’re providing new information. When you’re introducing an important concept, slow down to give listeners time to absorb it.

Make eye contact when you first meet your interviewer: This is the best way to show you’re actually paying attention and engaging with the situation. Of course this doesn’t mean stare blankly at your interviewer, but strive to hold eye contact for a few seconds at a time.

If you’re faced with more than one interviewer, be sure to make eye contact with all of them. Address the person who asked the question, then hold eye contact with the other interviewer for a few seconds, before returning your attention to the first interviewer. It is likely you will be considered more intelligent than those who didn’t make eye contact.

Be friendly and assertive at the same time: Nervousness and being anxious at a job interview could mean you are less likely to land the job as it can make you seem less warm and assertive, and makes you speak slowly. If you’re not naturally extroverted, you need to make sure you sell your skills so don’t be afraid to take ownership of your contribution to a project.

Showcase your potential: It’s important to tell your interviewer all about your past accomplishments, but you should focus more on what you could do in the future, if the organization hires you. An interviewer will pay more attention to uncertain information because they want to unlock it. That means they will end up spending more time analysing that information and, if the information is positive, they’ll be left with a more favourable view of your competence.

Be friendly: Smile and nod where appropriate, and laugh when the interviewer does. You want to show you have a personality and you’re paying attention to what’s being said.

Aim for perfect posture: Sitting hunched forward, or lounging with arms and legs everywhere has the effect of looking a too relaxed. You don’t want to sit there tightly clutching your fists in your lap, but you also don’t want to portray a casual, not really bothered attitude.

From the moment you arrive in the reception area, you need to keep your posture perfect. Always be aware of your body position and avoid angling yourself towards the door, it’ll look like you’re planning a quick escape! Sit up straight and lean forward a little when you’re asked a question, it gives a sense of curiosity and engagement.

People who play with their hair or excessively touch or rub their noses can seem dishonest and untrustworthy. Also try to avoid rubbing your head or neck, it can give the impression of being bored or disinterested. Same goes for sitting with your arms crossed, it just makes you look defensive and unapproachable.

All your personal gestures should be open and expressive. Keep your shoulders relaxed and facing the interviewer to ensure they’re always involved in what you’re saying.

It goes without saying that you should listen attentively and try not to interrupt. Focus on keeping your tone of voice even and polite. Too soft and you’ll seem timid, too loud and you’ll seem domineering.