9 Ways to Use Psychology to Help You Get Hired

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Can you get interviewing down to a science? While interviewing is more of an art than a science, you can employ tips from social, organizational and personality psychology to improve your chances of interview success. 

Review these tips for how to use psychology to increase your chances of getting hired. Giving one or more of them a try could up your chances of making it to the next round of interviews—or even get you a job offer.

9 Science-Backed Job Interview Tips

1. Use “power-priming tactics.” In a job interview experiment where one group of applicants were asked to focus on a time in which they felt in control and empowered in their lives, and another group was instructed to reflect on a time when they felt disempowered, it was the first group — the power-primed group — that succeeded. Interviewers chose the power-primed group over the other group at a significantly higher rate.

Before your next interview, think about a time in your life when you felt successful and empowered — work-related, or personal — to increase your chances of getting hired.

2. Smile, but not too much. You should always be friendly and polite, but be serious when you need to be. In one study, candidates who smiled more at the beginning and end of the interview, and less in the middle — when they were focused on answering questions — did better than those who smiled continuously throughout. You want to use your personality to shine at a job interview.

3. Use your interviewer’s name. Not only can using your interviewer’s first name help you remember it, but it’s also a proven way to make them feel more positive about you. Of course, don’t overuse it, but do drop it in a few times.

4. Practice “reflective listening.” Reflective listening is when you repeat back your interviewer’s statement or question in your own words. Studies have shown that reflective listening can increase your chances of getting hired, as it demonstrates a comprehensive understanding of what the interviewer is trying to communicate, and may also make your interviewer feel more positive about you.

Here’s an example of how you can use reflective listening in a job interview:

  • Interviewer: “This position requires a writer who won’t have a problem covering a political story one day, a celebrity gossip piece the next, and can do both of them well, and willingly. How does this sound?”
  • You: “So, you’re looking for a versatile writer who’s enthusiastic and up for anything. That’s exactly how I would describe myself. As you can see from my clips, I’ve done everything from travel writing to investigative journalism, so I believe I’d be a great fit for this job.”

5. Keep your hands warm and dry. Cold and clammy hands are a sign of anxiety. Therefore, warm and dry hands suggest the opposite. Before you interview, if you’re coming in from hot temperatures, be sure to wipe off any sweat, and if you’re coming in from the cold, make sure your handshake isn’t icy!

6. Try mirroring, but stay positive. Mirroring is when you mimic a person’s body language: they smile, you smile. They use hand gestures, you use hand gestures. Research has shown that mirroring can increase your chance of success in an interview, and in many interactions, people “mirror” each other without even trying. This is something to be careful about. In a study where interviewers were distant and aloof, interviewees who mirrored their body language were less likely to be hired than those who stayed positive no matter what. 

7. Be mindful of your body language. It’s been said time and time again, but study after study has shown just how important nonverbal communication can be. When you’re in a job interview, use positive nonverbal behavior. According to research findings, you should:

  • Show a high level of energy and enthusiasm
  • Keep a positive expression on your face
  • Maintain a high level of eye contact
  • Nod to show understanding
  • Use subtle hand gestures when speaking
  • Lean towards your interviewer, but maintain appropriate personal space
  • Vary your tone of voice so as not to speak in a monotone

8. Consider the Construal Level Theory. According to the Construal Level Theory, the farther away you are from an object or person, the more abstract your thinking will be. The closer you are, the more concrete your thinking will be. An often used example is a summer vacation: six months out, in the winter, you’re daydreaming about sunshine and sand. Six days out, you’re planning specifics, like making restaurant reservations or nailing down your itinerary.

Researchers tested the theory in an experiment where they had applicants sit either close or far from interviewers, and then either promote themselves in concrete or abstract ways. The results were in line with CLT: applicants who sat close and discussed specific attributes or instances were most successful, as were applicants who sat far away and emphasized more abstract qualities, like their soft skills

What does this mean for your interview? Well, providing specifics is always a good thing to do in an interview. If you find yourself seated far from your interviewer, take care to mention some soft skills, too — for example, your “strong work ethic” or “superior time management skills.”

9. Don’t interrupt. Interrupting someone elicits negative feelings. Never interrupt your interviewer, even when you think that finishing their sentence will show that you’re on the same page.