4 of the Most Important Interview Tips Backed by Science

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Most people have a fairly good idea of the right job interview etiquette. Whether it’s making sure you have plenty of STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) answers in your back pocket, ensuring you’ve done your company research with a fine tooth comb or reading every industry related news piece on Google alerts, you know the score.

But is there any prep you’re missing? We don’t just mean run-of-the-mill, common or garden advice. We’re talking advice backed by SCIENCE. Here are four data-backed interview tips to help you land the job of your dreams:

1. ‘Priming’ yourself for success.

We all know that your mindset is absolutely key to success. If you’re feeling down, or unprepared for an exam, for example, the feeling can contribute as much to your own failure than the unpreparedness itself.

This is exactly the thought that could be key to succeeding in an interview.

The idea is that by taking some time to consider what it might feel like to be a successful entrepreneur or experienced public speaker and writing down how this might feel, it can put you in a frame of mind that benefits you greatly.

The science: In 1998, two Dutch psychologists asked a group of students to do just this. One group was asked to get into the frame of mind of a college professor and write down how this might feel, while a second group was asked to consider how it would feel to be a football hooligan.

They were then asked to perform 42 difficult trivial pursuit questions. Despite being of equal intelligence, the group primed to think like professors outperformed the hooligans by 55.6 percent to 44.6 percent, more than enough to make the difference in a key test or interview situation.

Whether this can be as effective when the priming is conscious is up for debate, but studies are increasingly showing that priming yourself by thinking of a time you felt powerful before an interview can benefit your performance massively.

The bottom line: Take some time out of your interview preparation to get into the frame of mind of an inspirational figure or consider a time when you felt successful or powerful.

2. It’s not what you wear, it’s how you wear it.

You can read thousands of articles on the internet about what to wear for job interviews, so I won’t bore you with another article about the pros and cons of a three-piece suit or whether you should ever wear trainers in a job interview.

A much more interesting point is the importance of how you feel in the clothes you’re wearing.

The science: Scientists studying how clothes affect your brain process were looking into the effect of wearing clothes associated with authority figures. They took two groups and gave them both a white coat. However, they led one group to believe that the coat belonged to a doctor, and the other to believe that the coat was a painter’s.

Both groups were then given focused attention tests and unbelievably, those who thought they were wearing a doctor’s coat showed significant increase in focus — even though the coat was exactly the same. They were being primed to focus based on nothing more than who owned the coat.

The bottom line: It’s not just about what you wear. Wearing a new scratchy suit that you don’t feel comfortable in can prime you to be uncomfortable in the interview. Wear something familiar, and something you’ve succeeded in before to prime yourself for success.

3. Eye contact really does matter.

Most people know that eye contact is an important part of human interaction. It makes us appear trustworthy, confident, and comfortable, convincing the person we’re talking to that we’re listening to what they say.

But what about in the more formal situation of a job interview. Is it invasive or creepy? Does it really matter that much when there are so many other differentiating factors?

The science: Yes, it does, as it turns out. A 2011 paper reveals that, in a case study where two people are otherwise evenly matched, the candidate with stronger eye contact will always clinch it.

Not only was the ‘hirability’ of the candidate higher if the candidate held appropriate eye contact, but this was even more noticeable with less qualified candidates.

The bottom line: Always maintain eye contact in your interviews. If you’re a recent graduate, eye contact is even more important than for more highly qualified candidates, so make sure you keep your eyes on the prize!

4. Power pose your way to the job.

Associating certain ways we stand or sit with power isn’t new. People who puff out their chests, stand tall, and appear bigger tend to exude confidence and dominance (even if this is misplaced…).

But did you know that by standing in this sort of power pose, you can actually make yourself feel more powerful and important? It’s not just about how you look to other people, but that you can quite literally fake it to make it.

The science: According to Amy Cuddy, the leading expert on this type of body language, ‘effective leaders have a classic hormone profile: high levels of testosterone, low levels of cortisol (a stress-associated hormone)’ and studies suggest that this is exactly what power posing does.

In fact, just two minutes of standing powerfully can spike your testosterone and drop your cortisol, and these poses have been shown to increase power, self-esteem, and reduce fear.

As a result, it’s not about standing like a puffed up army sergeant for your whole interview. By doing a simple power pose before an interview, it’s shown to make you more enthusiastic, confident, and primes your brain to perform. In the interview itself you don’t won’t to over-dominate, instead try to make yourself as big as possible while appearing comfortable.

The bottom line: So does it really work? The studies seem to suggest so. So stand tall, with your feet about a foot apart, and hands on your hips. Stretch your way to success!

About the Author

Matt Arnerich works as a content writer for the UK’s leading graduate recruitment agency Inspiring Interns. They help young people find graduate jobs in London and Manchester, and offer advice for graduates looking for their first graduate job or internship.

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