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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

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Victor Ng

Executive coach

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Last Updated on February 1, 2019

How to Increase Your Self Awareness to Be Much More Successful

How to Increase Your Self Awareness to Be Much More Successful

Self awareness can be defined as having a clear understanding of your personality, including your beliefs, emotions, motivation, strengths and weaknesses.

A 2010 study by Green Peak Partners and Cornell’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations found that self awareness is a key and common characteristic of successful leaders. [1]

And research[2] by the Driehaus College of Business at De Paul University has also demonstrated that high self awareness leads to improved team performance.

Self Awareness Makes You Improve Much Faster Than the Others

“If I have lost confidence in myself, I have the universe against me.” – Ralicoph Waldo Emerson

Self awareness allows us to understand who we are, and how others see us. From this, we can determine how similar or different we are to other people.

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Individuals with high self awareness tend to live happier and more fulfilling lives. That’s because being self aware brings several powerful benefits, including:

  • Finding and expressing your authentic self.
  • Being proactive, instead of reactive.
  • Enjoying positive and harmonious interpersonal relationships.
  • Having deeper thoughts.
  • Revealing your true purpose.

One secret behind the magic of self awareness, is the fact that being self aware allows you to see your weaknesses. Once you know what they are, you can then act accordingly to fix them (where possible).

As an example, think back to a time when you achieved a major success in your life. Your confidence jumped off the scale, and suddenly, everything in your life began to look rosy. However, success was fleeting, and before long you were not only back where you started – but had lost your initial faith and confidence too.

Instead of seeing this as bad luck or personal failure, the better response would be to analyze exactly what happened.

What caused your success? What caused your failure? And what could you have done differently?

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By answering these questions, you’ll gain insight into your decision making and personality traits. Most importantly, you’ll be able to discover where you went wrong, and how you could avoid this next time around. This is how self awareness becomes a crucial partner in reaching your dreams and goals.

How to Increase Your Self Awareness

“Knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom.” – Lao-Tze

Okay, you’ve now seen some of the ways that self awareness can boost your success in life. (And we’ve only scratched the surface of potential benefits.)

It’s now time to reveal several tips and techniques that will increase your self awareness.

Take a psychometric test: You’ll understand more about yourself

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Psychometric tests are ideal for raising your self awareness. The tests force you to think deeply about yourself, and how your react to different situations. Self reflection = Self awareness. Try this free, 100-question psychometric test offered by the University of Cambridge.

Keep a personal journal: It can reduce anxiety and depression at the same time

Writing a daily journal can be a great tool for increasing your self awareness. If your writing is honest and open, you’ll quickly discover things about yourself that you’d never previously realised. You’ll also begin to see how habits create your conditions. For self awareness purposes, your daily journal should (at the very least) list your biggest failures and greatest successes of the day. Science supports the effectiveness of journalism, with a recent Psychotherapy Research study[3] showing that writing a daily journal reduced anxiety and depression.

Learn to meditate: To clear your thoughts

If you’ve never tried meditating before, then you should definitely consider trying it, if you want to boost your self awareness. Meditation can help you to delve below the incessant chatter of your conscious mind, and instead, let you tap into the depths of your subconscious mind. As well as boosting your well-being and health, meditation can clear your thoughts, and help you to become more creative.[4]

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How to get started? There are plenty of books and videos that can teach you the basics of meditation. Alternatively, you’ll be sure to find mediation classes in your local area.

Ask for feedback: You’ll be amazed

Choose a close family member or friend who knows you well. Ask then to give you an honest appraisal of your actions, beliefs and motivations. You’ll be amazed (and possibly shocked!) at what you hear. In fact, it’s likely that you’ll gain a completely new perspective on yourself. Use this new knowledge to make positive changes that could increase your effectiveness and success in life.

Through boosting your self awareness, you’ll begin to see new, exciting opportunities for growth and success. You’ll also learn how others see you. This will help your interpersonal relationships – as well as your ability to read others.

Self awareness can help you predict the success of others. It can also help you predict your own success.

So, choose to follow in the footsteps of the highly-successful, and start developing your self awareness today.

Reference

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