Use a High Power Pose BEFORE your Interview to Win That Job

By Catherine Cunningham - Career Specialist - Australia

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You’ve done the hard work preparing for the interview and the day has arrived.  Now picture this.  You’re waiting in the Reception area - hunched over your chair, anxiously checking your cell phone and swamped by glum thoughts. How likely is it that you will be able to flick the button and switch to a smooth, confident performance once you meet your interviewers?  Not at all likely.

Harvard Business school research has identified an easy technique to put yourself in the right frame of mind before you enter the interview room so that you can positively influence how your interviewer evaluates and responds to you. 

They recommend what they call Preparatory Power gestures.  And, their research shows that not only do these postures reflect power, they also produce it!

Beating your Competition at Job Search

Job interviews are one of the most competitive activities that we undertake in the working world.  Those childhood days of every participant winning a prize at birthday Pass the Parcel games are long gone. The sad fact is that, all too often, the job goes to the slickest performer at interviews, rather than the best applicant. 

Generally, all you have to do is perform better than your competitors to win the job.  The trouble is, of course, that you will not know quite how slick your rivals are. Why not gain a head start to put yourself on the front foot and in the right frame of mind before you enter the interview room?

Intelligence … Fail! Ambition … Fail! Trustworthiness … Fail!

Experiment after experiment highlights the importance of positive Body Language when it comes to making a good First Impression.  Further confirmation of just how important this is to your job interview success came in a Harvard Business School study done in 2012 which showed that judgments made in the first ten seconds of an interview could predict the outcome of the interview.

This study looked at critical issues such as intelligence, ambition and trustworthiness. Imagine failing to make a good impression in these areas before you even say a word!

It doesn’t mean that you can ignore your voice.  Nearly 40% of that oh-so-important First Impression comes from the pitch, speed, tone of your voice.  And, of course, in the end, once people have made it past your Body Language and your Voice, they will still assess the words that come out of your mouth before deciding whether to hire you or not.

However, the fundamental message is that there is no point focusing on your Voice and Words, if you haven’t mastered Body Language.

Our Chimpanzee cousins excel at Body Language

In a job interview, one party often has more power to impact the future of the other. For example, the interviewer has power over your future, so the interviewer‘s evaluations of you are paramount.

In primates, expansive, open postures reflect high power, whereas contractive, closed postures reflect low power. Research has proved that smiling, hand gesturing, nodding, and leaning forward during an interview increases a person‘s chance of being selected.

The Harvard Business School research provides advice about how to adjust your posture to achieve more success in job interviews.  The Study indicated that getting your behaviour right before the interview can influence how your interviewer evaluates and responds to you.   

Ditch the Low Power Posture

In the moments before walking into our interview, many of us adopt postures that can cause us to feel even more powerless.

In contrast, adopting high power poses increases:

  • explicit and implicit feelings of power and dominance
  • risk-taking behaviour
  • action orientation
  • pain tolerance
  • testosterone (the dominance hormone)

Assuming a high-power pose represents a subtle way of making you feel more powerful. It reduces stress, anxiety and cortisol.

The Harvard study calls it Preparatory Power and they argue that it is a simple, free tool that has the potential to be adopted by and beneficial to almost anyone.

  1. Find a private space before you go in to the Reception area.
    Close your eyes and picture a winner. Stand tall and straight, chin up, eyes wide open with your arms opened up high.
  2. Hold that position for a couple of minutes.
    It takes less than two minutes for the changes to kick in inside your brain and to affect your confidence. So, a power pose not only reflects power, it also creates it inside you.
  3. Stretch out and occupy more space when you are waiting in Reception.
    Don’t slouch but don’t be arrogant.  We’re not talking about King Kong here.

1% inspiration, 99% perspiration

Swinging the balance of power to you in the interview process is possible.  It requires intelligent preparation and effort.  Your aim is to make them think: “Gee, she’s so good.  I wonder what we’re going to have to do to get her to come on board with us.”

It is critical that you prepare, prepare and then prepare some more for the interview.  Focus on all elements of the interview, including preparing interesting persuasive answers that prove you have the qualities required.

But, there is also a simple strategy that you can put into practice before you even go in for your interview that will put you on the front foot. Take advantage of your understanding of the Power Pose to win that job!



Catherine Cunningham is the author of My Career Rules! and is one of Australia's leading career experts. She appears regularly in The Weekend Australian Careers section, in The Advertiser's CareerOne, as well as in online publications such as, and


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