Today’s job market is competitive. Whatever position you’re applying for, there’s a good chance that others with great CVs and impressive experience are also applying. The good news is that as much as employers might say that’s what they base their hiring decisions on, the evidence is that they don’t. In fact, psychologists suggest that just one factor determines which candidate will get the job: likeability.
Two American psychologists set out to discover whether employers were as objective as they claimed when making their hiring decisions, or could ‘persuasive behaviour’ by candidates change their minds. The result was surprising: candidates who had made the interviewer like them, got the job. How that likeability was achieved varied, for some it was by chatting about something off-topic that the interviewer found interesting or also enjoyed. For others, it was good eye-contact and pleasant smiles. The bottom line was that being nice gets you the job.
It’s unlikely that you’re planning to go to a job interview and be deliberately rude. Most people, in that situation, are aware you need to use your best manners and show yourself in a positive light. But what do naturally likeable people do that the rest of us don’t?
Smiling more won’t just make you look happier, it can actually make you feel happier. The trouble is most people can spot a fake smile a mile off, so make smiling a regular part of your day so it becomes second nature.
Asking questions can do different things, in different circumstances. If you’re making social conversation, asking something shows a genuine interest in the other person, in an interview asking questions about the organisation shows you’re giving the role some serious thought. It can also be a good idea to make sure you’ve asked enough questions to avoid misunderstanding and make sure you answer the question that was actually asked.
Don’t overdo this one, but referring to someone by name and remembering that name for the next time you see them, makes the person that you are speaking to feel valued. For some people, remembering names comes naturally. If you’re one of those people who never forgets a face but often forgets the name that goes with it, there are techniques you can learn to help.
Another important influence in successful job interviews is the timing of when you discuss your strengths and weaknesses. The natural tendency is to start with strengths but only mention anything negative if it comes up, which tends to be later in the interview. Psychology will tell you that’s doing it all backwards.
Not literally, obviously. Don’t say, ‘Hi, my name is Bob and I am the most disorganised person you’ve ever met. It’s a miracle I made it here on time!’ But do think about mentioning weaknesses sooner rather than later. It seems to be that doing so demonstrates that not only do you know yourself well but that you’re prepared to tackle your problems head on. It may also be that leaving admissions of guilt until later in the interview gives the impression you were hoping to avoid talking about them. You’ll earn extra bonus points if you’re able to spin your negative into a positive.
It may be that mentioning your successes too early in the interview makes you seem boastful, but studies have shown that if you leave talking about your accomplishments until later in the conversation, it goes down better with interviewers. It is important to make the most of your good points though, and a job interview is one time you don’t want to show false modesty. In fact, in a recent survey, it was found that narcissists who love talking about themselves did better at job interviews that more modest people. So, while you might want to leave the self-praise to later in the interview, don’t hide your light under a bushel.
Of course, as the candidate you have a limited amount of control over what you can say and when. You’re being asked questions, and you will need to answer them when they’re asked, not ask your interviewer to hold that thought until later because positive stories should wait ‘til the end! Although you can take control of a job interview to a certain extent, and although there are small ways you can improve your chances, they’re not make or break. If you’re the right person for the job, you’ll get it.
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