When you read advice about interviews, you’ll always read that it’s important to “have a firm handshake,” “be professionally presented,” “make eye contact,” “sit up straight” and “smile.”
If you’re like me you’ll read this advice, roll your eyes and go really? That’s it? That’s the nugget I am going to get from reading this article?
So I thought it would be more useful to look at whether research actually supports this advice and if it does, how can you apply this to your next interview.
Research from Princeton University shows that we make judgements about someone’s attractiveness and trustworthiness within one tenth of a second.
Now I know a lot of people will give up and say what’s the point – the interviewer writes you off without even thinking about you. And that may well be the case if the interviewer does not trust you or think that they could work with you. But to me this reinforces two things that are really important.
Firstly that split second judgment the interviewer is making about your trustworthiness shows just how important it is to be sincere about the roles that you apply for. Your sincerity will come across in your demeanour, the way you relate to the interviewer, your desire to answer the questions and in your body language.
Secondly this research also highlights how important it is to look your best and to look the part. This helps the interviewer place you in the role and focus more on what you are saying rather than having to process two judgments – “can I really see you doing this job?” and “do you sound competent?”
Positive body language is not just about looking positive. It can actually increase your performance.
I loved this popular TED talk by Social Psychologist Amy Cuddy. The Wonder Woman power stance Amy talks about in this video, increases testosterone and decreases cortisol, which physically helps increase your self confidence.
But it gets better than that.
Amy cites research her team conducted with interviewees where assessors said they would have hired all of people who had power posed before an interview, and hired none of the interviewees who had not.
Pretty powerful stuff – and easy to practice before your interview.
Ice breaker questions such as “tell me about yourself” are a weird way to start an interview.
An interviewer generally is not assessing a particular skill as such. But they are generally making judgments about your communication skills and ability to frame your thoughts in a logical manner, and they are using that information as a big part of their decision about you.
Why do I say this?
This research is revealing.
Last year global recruiters Accountemps surveyed over 500 hiring managers. 42% said they formed an opinion of an interviewee between the 6 to 10 minute mark, 60% said they did this in less than 10 minutes.
So an interviewer is assessing you when you spend those first few minutes you spend answering tell me about yourself. This means you simply can’t waste this valuable time waffling on about your primary school education, hobbies or the town you grew up in.
Karalyn Brown is a former HR and Recruitment Consultant, and Founder of InterviewIQ, a popular job search advice blog and consultancy that has helped many thousands of people find jobs and business opportunities. She’s really proud of her new app myPitch, which helps people answer “tell me about yourself” and sell themselves in 30 seconds or less.
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