“More often than not, I find that, regardless of credentials, it’s a candidates unique attributes that really influence the outcome of a job interview,” says Matthew McArthur, Indigenous Specialist Consultant, Ignite.
But what exactly is the elusive je ne sais quoi that makes one person stand out above the rest, beyond the obvious wear shoes, shower and don’t mention that giant pimple on their nose social norms?
Fear less, work-seeking warriors. We’ve dug through the archives of scientific journals to uncover some empirically proven tips to help you win your interviewer over. First, you should ensure you gain the requisite skills and experience. And then, follow these steps to become the Don Juan of candidates.
As counterintuitive as this seems, studies have shown that revealing your flaws is a surefire way to win a person’s affection. According to the Pratfall Effect if people see you as competent and you then reveal your imperfections to them, you become more relatable and, hence, more likeable. As they say, humility is a virtue. But make sure you establish your prowess before you go bragging about your defects.
This doesn’t mean to shadow your interviewer’s every move for comedic effect like your older sibling used to do to annoy you (yes, hilarity would ensue, but so too would a rejection email). The Chameleon Effect refers to the way people tend to mimic the gestures of others they are fond of. Various studies have shown that the more a person likes another, the more they will unconsciously mimic their behaviour. It stands to reason then, that if you mimic another person’s body language they’ll subconsciously assume they have established an affinity with you. Gestures might include anything as simple as crossing your arms, placing a hand on your hip or slouching.
Studies have shown that emotional contagion is a very real phenomenon. Furthermore, the emotions you catch off others tend to be influenced by nonverbal clues, as opposed to spoken words. So, for instance, you might avow your happiness, but if this declaration is accompanied by a light sob the person you’re conversing with is going to catch the sads, pronto. Try to remain positive, upbeat and happy and your interviewer will walk away feeling the same way.
Scientists have demonstrated the existence of what they call the Reciprocity of Liking, according to which we tend to like someone more when we think they like us. Unfortunately you can’t just go around pretending to like whomever you choose and getting them to fall at your feet. Authenticity is a vital ingredient in the game of winning people over. You have to find a way to actually like a person in order for a sort of likeability quid pro quo to be brokered. Try to focus on your interviewer’s most positive attributes. Perhaps try to envision them spending quality time with a loved one. If you meet an interviewer who is particularly hard to like, picture them experiencing a tragic moment and bear in mind philosopher Eric Hoffer’s quote: “Rudeness is the weak man’s imitation of strength.” Imagine how your interviewer wants to be seen, try to see them that way, and, who knows, maybe they’ll actually become that person.
According to the Spontaneous Trait Transference phenomenon, when a person uses certain adjectives to describe another person, whoever they’re speaking to will start to associate those same traits to the speaker. So if you were to speak about Mary in accounts, for example, and you were to say that Mary was competent and punctual, then your interviewer would unconsciously start to attribute those qualities to you. (By the way, I happen to know Mary and not only is she competent, she’s the best blog writer this side of the equator.)
The Gain-Loss Theory of Attraction demonstrates that people are more likely to grow a fondness for another if they feel they have somehow won them over. In a psychological experiment, subjects were allowed to hear a recording of what other subjects thought of them. Those who heard the other people say negative things about them followed by positive things, were much more likely to be fond of those people. Ergo, it’s best not to go into an interview guns blazing: all smiles and superlatives. You should allow the congeniality to grow organically as your interviewer gets to know you and vice versa. Start by playing it cool and then end the interview with a saccharine compliment and your interviewer will be putty in your hands.