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Psychologist Tells Us How to Leave a Great First Impression in Interviews

Psychologist Tells Us How to Leave a Great First Impression in Interviews

Upon meeting you, an interviewer can decide if he or she likes you, if you’d fit in the company culture, and if they should hire you — in the time it takes for you to finish reading this paragraph.

Psychologists call it “thin slicing”, which means making quick decisions based on limited information.

Welcome to the wild world of first impressions. Where people are judged with the speed and ease no less than hitting a “like” button.

Many job candidates make the mistake of trying to be perceived as smart or witty. They show up with all-too-ready answers or awkwardly force in one-liners that comes out limp. It usually ends with a painful, indefinite wait for a phone call that will never come.

Don’t try to be the smartest guy in the room, if you want to get in the room.

In her book “Presence”, Harvard Business School professor and Ted Talks sensation Amy Cuddy [1] distills the science of the first impression into two simple questions:

1. Can you be trusted?

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2. Can you be respected?

The qualities that you need to have (or at least be perceived as having) are warmth and competence respectively, according to psychologists.

Even Cuddy admits that most people in a professional setting believe that competence is the more important factor. Naturally, you’d want to prove that you’re smart and talented enough to handle the organization’s business.

But the first requisite of warmth, or trustworthiness, is the most important factor in how your prospective employer will evaluate you. Competence remains highly coveted, but it is evaluated only after trust is established.

With those insights in mind, here is how can you leave a great first impression:

Be Who You Are

Your interviewer can meet up to dozens of job candidates every month. What makes you — and your first impression — different from others? Having interviewed over 300 people in my career, my first piece of advice is: Be yourself. Sure, there could be many eligible candidates, but there is only one you.

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Who you are, what you stand for, what drives you, your set of work and life experiences, and your values as a professional and a person, set you apart from everyone else in the field. The good news is, your interviewer wants to get to know this real side of you.

The bad news is, you may feel the need to conceal it. Or at least veneer it with some slick, corporate gloss you see everyone else using.

Authenticity is the origin of all trust. 

Don’t pretend to be someone you’re not. Don’t fake-laugh to fill up a silence. Don’t fake enthusiasm, be enthusiastic. Don’t boast of big things you’ve never done before, speak passionately of the small things you’ve actually done that made a big difference. Don’t try to be the next Elon Musk or Richard Branson, be the first (your name here).

Now I’m not asking you to show up and behave like you’re with your childhood friends at a backyard barbecue. It’s a job interview. Do be pleasant. Do be positive. Do be professional.

Find Common Connections

It amazes me that people still show up for interviews without doing any homework on who is interviewing them. With Google, LinkedIn, and company websites all literally at your fingertips, this one is just one notch below not showing up at all.

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When you subtly share what you know about your interviewer — his or her past experience, milestone achievements, significant work, press interviews — you’re saying, “I respect you and getting to know you obviously matters a lot to me.” Respect is a two-way street. As you give, you’re more likely to receive.

Just as important is the opportunity to find and build on common grounds. You probably already know that humans actually like other humans who are like them.

Do you homework well enough, and you may discover that you went to the same school as your interviewer. Or are fans of the same football team. Or are advocates of the animal-rights movement. Or are hardcore workaholics. This won’t land you the job right away but imagine the human connection you can make.

Perfect Your S.H.E.

The basics of good body language in a professional context can be summed up in this neat acronym: Smile, Handshake, and Eye contact.

Smile from you heart. If that’s not clear, smile like you really mean it, like you’re actually happy to see your interviewer. Not the plastic “See, I’m smiling for you” smile. Not the creepy “I’m still smiling after 13 minutes” smile. Not the non-smile.

Give a good hearty handshake. Firm but not crushing (especially important when shaking a female interviewer’s hand). Smile (see above). And hold eye contact (see below).

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Keep a comfortable level of eye contact with your interviewer when you’re speaking. Always look at them when they are talking. Never sneak-check your phone. Or steal glances at the lush office interior. Your interviewer just need to catch you looking away once while he or she is talking to break the connection.

Turn Weakness into Strengths

Perched atop the Interview Questions Hall Of Fame is the all-time classic “What is your biggest weakness?”

There are many, many resources that will prep you well for this one. Many of them will advocate answering this to come out looking like your weakness is some sort of a misunderstood strength. Your interviewer will see right through it and smile politely with an “um-hum”, and make a mental note that she’s been served some corporate-level PR.

Many interviewers will privately admit that it’s not your weakness they want to know, but how you express and address your weakness that they are more interested in. I’m one of them. They know absolutely nobody is without weaknesses, but they are looking for somebody who is honest, self-aware, and willing to improve.

To build a connection based on trust and authenticity, actually tell your weakness. Look them in the eye and admit to a weakness that isn’t a deal-breaker (such as you’re careless but would like to be considered for the role of senior accountant). Let them know how you’re aware of it and the specific actions you have taken or are taking to improve on it. Keep it short and professional.

Only when your interviewer feel that they can trust you as a professional can they look into your competencies and fit for the organization. Keep these strategies in mind as you work on being and showing the best version of yourself.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Victor Ng

Executive coach

12 Essential Communication Skills That Aren’t Taught in Schools at All Psychologist Tells Us How to Leave a Great First Impression in Interviews

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Published on November 28, 2018

How to Do Meditation at Home to Calm Your Anxious Mind

How to Do Meditation at Home to Calm Your Anxious Mind

The woman in yoga pants sitting in a lotus position atop a rocky cliff, overlooking a valley draped in fog — this is the glamorized version of meditation you’ll come across as you search. Yet if you’re seeking meditation to calm your mind, a fantastic setting with no distractions is rarely available.

So how to do meditation?

The truth about meditation is it’s an everyday practice for anybody. You could be a mountain climber or you could be an accountant — either way, your home is just as good a place for meditation as any.

Are you seeking to corral your racing thoughts and relieve a sense of unease, awkwardness, or uncertainty? Look to home meditation to cultivate a laid-back, creative, confident, and organized frame of mind. According to extensive scientific research, meditation relieves stress and anxiety, decreases blood pressure, improves sleep, and improves your ability to pay attention. [1]

From start to finish, this article will give you quick, easy steps to follow so that you can meditate at home regularly. You’ll begin by assessing, identifying and altering things that need to change in your home environment. You’ll end by understanding the basics of meditation so that you can let yourself do what you already know how to do deep down in the hidden reality of your mind.

You’re ready to let your mind be, and just be, in your own home — let’s begin.

1. Find the Right Space in Your Home

Where is your right space for meditation at home? Is it in your basement, your bedroom, your living room, or your study?

The right space will be one with the least distractions built in to its purpose. In that case, it may be your bedroom. If you’ve set up your bedroom to be a place for sleep and only sleep, it will lend itself well to meditation.

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The right space will also be a reasonably spacious one. Although comfort is not your goal, you need room to sit. Choose a space that is private, spacious, and quiet. If you don’t have a space in your home like this, create one. Free it from clutter and get it ready for you to meditate there any time.

Ultimately, your right space is one you feel comfortable meditating in, the space you can enter with no other expectations.

2. Improve the Feng Shui in Your Home and Meditation Space

Feng shui means “wind and water.” It’s the ancient Chinese art of placement.[2]

Feng shui improves harmony with nature. Adherents to the principles of feng shui believe all things have energy (chi). The focus of feng shui is to send negative chi (sha) out of the space and attract positive chi (yun).

Here’s the truth about feng shui: it’s not complicated or hard. The following will influence feng shui positively in your home and meditation space:

  • Living things, such as plants
  • Beautiful objects, such as sculptures or even a well-polished piece of driftwood
  • Mirrors in symmetrical placement with the lines in a room
  • Mellifluous sounds, such as trickling water or wind chimes
  • Furniture away from walls
  • A centerpiece, such as a small table with books or an ornate lamp on it
  • Incense or something else that smells good
  • A lack of clutter and an attention to organization that emphasizes the usefulness, purpose, and essential being of each item in your house

Given that feng shui is connected to Taoism and Buddhism, it will complement the meditative atmosphere you want to cultivate in your home.

3. Eliminate Pervasive Distractions That Can Harm Your Wellbeing

In part, meditation is about accepting the existence of distractions. When you meditate, you don’t judge and assign a positive or a negative value to distractions — the ticking of a clock, an itch, the barking of a dog — you let them occur and let them dissipate like waves.

However, in the same way that feng shui removes objects that attract negative chi, there are certain types of distractions that don’t belong in your meditative space. You must remove them.

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In a survey of 1,700 people who visited social media sites at least 30 times per week, 30 percent reported high levels of sleep disturbance and 25 percent presented symptoms of depression. [3]

Those individuals who experience sleep disturbances or mental health issues due to social media are not setting boundaries between themselves and their connected devices.

Part of learning how to meditate at home is learning how and when to set boundaries between yourself and your connected devices and social media accounts. If you need your phone for a timed meditation practice, but you normally receive social media notifications on your phone, set it on Do Not Disturb or Airplane mode during your meditation time.

4. Flow into Meditation Through Time

Next, set aside a time for meditation each day. It’s right to be structured and disciplined about your meditation time.

Buddhist monks whose lives revolve around meditation are very structured and organized with their tasks each day. Structure provides the balance your being needs. Once you are meditating, your mind has no need for time. Outside of your given meditation time, you are completing tasks essential to the wellbeing of yourself and your home.

Consider meditating as the sun rises. This is a quiet and contemplative time of the day when it is natural to set your day’s balance through meditation.

5. Recognize the Rightness of Doing Nothing

At home, you’re probably used to always doing something. When you do meditation at home, you are being, which is doing something and nothing simultaneously.

Maryville University points out that successful people unplug by doing nothing. [4] Not only this, but they set the right expectations for the time during which they will do nothing.

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We oftentimes look forward to the future by expecting something to happen and by expecting something of ourselves. To meditate from home, look to that time and that space by expecting nothing. You will not do any chores. You will not catch up on work. You will do nothing but meditate for a certain amount of time each day.

This might sound crazy, but in taking on meditation from home, you’re not expecting yourself to improve and become a better person. As Ram Dass put it, you are expecting yourself to be here now.

6. Choose from the Incredible Variety of Meditative Practices

As I outlined in my post on types of meditation, there are many different and not-so-different types of meditation from which to choose.

Many beginners find it right to choose guided meditation, for which there are apps, videos, and audio tapes available.

If you are not necessarily a beginner but are merely moving your meditative practice into the home, you can facilitate a practice such as Nada Yoga — sound meditation — by placing a fountain in your space or listening to ambient alpha wave music.

If you’re used to meditating outside of your home — perhaps you are drawn to the outdoors because of the sounds of nature — a practice like Nada Yoga can help you transition into your home space.

7. Understand You Can Meditate Any Time at Home

What if I told you to throw out all of the tips that came before this? Sounds crazy but that is how radical mindfulness meditation really is. We don’t think of it as radical because it is now ingrained in our popular discourse.

Mindfulness meditation does start as a sitting meditation practice. It goes like this:

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  1. Sit comfortably and close your eyes.
  2. Focus on breathing. Inhale through your nose slowly and exhale slowly.
  3. As distracting thoughts arise, don’t judge them and don’t hang onto them. Let each thought go as you focus on breathing.
  4. Treat all physical sensations and feelings in the same way you do thoughts: register them, then let them go, returning to breathing.
  5. Extend this practice to everyday activity, remaining “in the moment” of the body’s activity with each new breath.

As you practice mindfulness around your home, note the physical characteristics of the things in themselves. Note physical sensations: sounds, smells, textures, appearances, tastes. Stop now and then and do a body scan from head to toe, noting what each section is doing and how it’s feeling.

Note thoughts that come and the emotions attached to them: let them go. Concentrate on the breath and the physical activities — including the details of the objects with which you’re interacting.

You’ll notice that your home will lend itself to a meditative state when things are in order. This is where true feng shui originates. You will naturally sense how the arrangement of things affects the energy in a room.

Clutter will disappear because mindfulness tells you to dispose of unnecessary things. Plants will bloom. Birds will make their nests in your backyard. Your home will smell pleasing and people will naturally be attracted to it and your presence.

You’ve Reached the Beginning and the End

Once you are able to do mindfulness meditation even as you are attending to the normal and abnormal requirements of your home, the mundane and the unusual, you are at both the beginning and the end.

You are at the beginning because meditation never ends. Continue setting aside time each day to do sitting meditation in the space you’ve set aside. Continue practicing mindfulness as you attend to the energy of your house, your own energy, and the energy of those around you.

You are at the end because you grasped what it means to do meditation at home: it means letting go of cares and concerns and being in your home as you attend to the right tasks. The right tasks are those necessary for being in your home.

As you sit in your home, rise, open the door and you leave, you are calm in your mind because you are home.

Featured photo credit: Simon Rae via unsplash.com

Reference

[1]Healthline: 12 Science-Based Benefits of Meditation
[2]Marquette University: Feng Shui: The Wind and Water
[3]Rutgers University: Social Media and Well-Being
[4]Maryville University: How Successful People Unplug

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