Psychology is at the heart of all human interaction. Job interviews are no different. In this article, we will show you basic psychology to help you connect and engage with potential employers. Our job interview tips go beyond basics like bringing extra copies of your resume or arriving 15 minutes early (You do this by searching the interview location ahead of time, by the way). Instead, we dive into the psychology of how you can control specific moments of the job interview, impress the hiring manager, and make it obvious that you will thrive in their company culture. Follow these interview tips and the job offer is yours.
Most likely, you’ve already made a great impression with your resume and cover letter and shown that you could be a good fit for the job. Therefore, approach the job interview as an opportunity to understand the role and connect with the hiring manager. Most importantly, use your time in the job interview to show that you have great communication skills and a good personality.
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And without further ado, let’s get into the psychology of job interviews!
What is Psychology?
First, let’s clarify what psychology is.
“Psychology is the scientific study of the mind and behavior. Psychologists are actively involved in studying and understanding mental processes, brain functions, and behavior. The field of psychology is considered a “Hub Science” with strong connections to the medical sciences, social sciences, and education.”– Boyack, Klavans, & Borner, 2005
Psychology branches out and links many other aspects of daily life – medicine, health, and yes, you guessed it – work. When we apply elements of psychology to our job search, and the interview process, we have an edge. Psychology as a powerful tool to understand the mind and behavior of hiring managers and ultimately to land a job offer.
Let’s learn how use psychology in the following 5 interview tips.
1. Project Calmness
Job Interview Tip #1: Carve a Path to Calmness
Entering the interview room with an aura of calm projects confidence and strength. Therefore, key to a great impression with your future employer.
Calmness is a sign of a good leader who can interface with different people and situations. From the interviewer’s perspective, there are bound to be stressful times in your job. And a candidate who can navigate choppy waters with an easy-going demeanor is highly valuable to get through tough times.
Calmness also tells the interviewer that they may not need to worry about interpersonal conflicts with you. Anxious people can have issues with irritability and get carried away in their emotions which can cause interpersonal conflicts. On the flip side, calmness suggests a higher emotional IQ and ability to word well with others.
Although you may applying for a job that requires a specific list of hard skills, soft skills like effective communication and high emotional IQ are important as well. Showing up to the job interview calm tells new employers that you will be this person.
In the days leading up to your interview, it is understandable to feel nervous and anxious about meeting the interviewers. However, do not allow nervousness into your interview. Your body language is important to project calm.
Take special note of your body language. Anxious body language can work against us if we let it. Here are some examples of anxious behavior to become aware of:
- Nervous twitching (toe tapping, finger tapping)
- Shallow breathing
- Speaking too fast
- Using filler words like ‘Umm’, ‘Like’ ‘You Know’
- Not making eye contact
Test it out
To get an objective sense of your body language, ask a friend or family to do a mock interview with you. Here are some common interview questions. Afterwards, ask them if you projected calmness or if you demonstrated specific anxious behaviors.
Better yet, set up your phone on a tripod and film yourself. This way, you can see if you’re nervously napping your foot or say umm every other word. Self-awareness is key here.
Preparing for the Job Interview Calms Nerves
Interview preparation is key to feeling calm, so let’s go over ways you can prepare for your interview. Preparing for the interview not only helps you better understand the company and the position, but calms your mind so you can come prepared and relaxed.
- Research the company and your interviewer(s)
- Find commonalities between you and your interviewer. Mention these commonalities in the interview (Did you go to the same school? Live in the same area?)
- Pay special attention to the company mission statement. Examine ways that you can provide value directly related to the mission statement
- Practice with common interview questions
- ‘Tell me a little bit about yourself’
- ‘Where do you see yourself in x years?’
- ‘What is your greatest weakness/strength?’
- Figure out your outfit/makeup the night before your interview
- More about outfit/makeup in the fourth section
- Plan out your travels to the office if you’re interviewing in person
- Don’t come 20 min late with the excuse that you got lost
Thanks to the Internet, it is so easy to research the company you are applying to and learn more about your interviewer. Therefore, take an in-depth look into company culture, the executive team and the company’s mission statement.
Interview tip: Most companies have a mission statement and it generally serves as a guide for how the company acts internally with employees and externally with clients and customers. Companies put a lot of thought into their mission statements and you should too! Find commonalties between your previous experience and the company’s mission statement.
Learn How to Be Calm
So far, we’ve learned why calmness is important, what body language to avoid, and useful interview preparation. Now, let’s review how to create a long-term plan for integrating
calmness into your life.
So, now that you’ve prepared for the interview as best as you can, you can focus on your calmness toolbox. Here is a short list of how to keep calm under pressure, starting with my favorite – mindfulness meditation:
- Practice mindfulness meditation
- Use box breathing exercises
- Get good sleep
- Stretch your body
- Walk in nature
2. Honesty is ALWAYS the Best Policy
Job Interview Tip #2: Nobody likes a Liar
Call it what you want: lying, fibbing, evade, mislead, misrepresent – but stay away from lying at all costs. Meanwhile, if you’re thinking to yourself, ‘I’m an honest person and I certainly don’t lie in job interviews,’ then think about this staggering static:
” Candidates tell two to three lies, on average, in a 10-to-15 minute interview, Dr. Feldman’s research finds. That’s similar to the amount of lying we do when we meet a new person in everyday life.”Wall Street Journal
In support of this statistic about lying, researchers found that 78% of job candidates lie with the most common lie being that the candidates had mastery over skills that they didn’t.
Why You Shouldn’t Lie
Even if it’s just increasing your GPA point by .5 or listing responsibilities that you did not do in a previous job, your dirty lies will catch up with you. Let’s look at a few reasons why you shouldn’t lie:
- Background checks and references checks quickly out you
- Your reputation is now tainted with dishonesty
- Even if you do get the job, your employer will eventually find out
- Lies lead to more and bigger lies
- You may be fired
Moreover, when you lie in your interview you tend to show signs of anxiousness which in the previous section was a big no no for projecting confidence. In short, don’t lie!
Instead, Be Honest
Now that we’ve reviewed why we shouldn’t lie in our job interviews, let’s discuss the merits of honesty. If you think about it, you’ve already got your foot in the door with a great resume and cover letter. Thus, the interview is just a place for the interviewer to get to know you as a candidate better. Let’s look at a case study from someone we reached out to who landed a job at Apple.
“There were multiple points in the interview process when I was asked questions about programming. I’m not a programmer and what I do know about programming is mostly self-taught. However, when I was asked if I knew something about programming, I said ‘I didn’t know.’ At one point of the interview, my interviewer said ‘Wow. Most people don’t say they don’t know,’ and moved on in the interview. I didn’t know if this was a good sign or a bad one. Ultimately, I think it was because it showed that I knew my limits, had self-awareness, and honesty. Also I ended up landing the job!”– Scott Tooby, Core Audio Engineer at Apple
There is so much right about being honest in a job interview.
Perfection is not Necessary
Let’s go back to the most common lie that people tell in job interviews: mastery over skills that they don’t have. If you were honest in your resume and cover letter, and we hope you were, then your potential employer is fine with the skills that you currently have. Ultimately, employers need to gauge the limits of your knowledge to see where you’d be a good fit, especially if it’s a technical job.
So, let’s get into the reasons why you should be honest in your job interview:
- Shows trustworthiness
- Gives a true gauge of your knowledge and what training you may need
- Reflects self-awareness
- Demonstrates respect for your interviewers and the company
Interview Tip: If you don’t know the answer to a question, it’s okay to say that you don’t know! It’s better to give an honest answer than an uninformed one.
3. Take Control of Your Interview
Job Interview Tip #3: Leverage Scheduling and Outfit and Makeup
You may think that your job interview is entirely in the interviewer’s control, but it’s not! In this section, we will go over the control that you have in the interview and the subtle psychology of behind it all.
When you get contacted by the job recruiter or hiring manager with the question ‘When’s a good time for an interview’ this is your first area of control in the job interview. Rather than thinking when would be a good time for you, you should think when a good time for the interviewer might be.
According to Glassdoor, the optimal time to schedule a job interview is 10:30 on a Tuesday. However, if you follow these guidelines about scheduling your situation might be different.
- Avoid early mornings
- You never know if your interviewer is a morning person or if they have a hectic morning at home
- Try to avoid any meeting times before 10am
- Stay clear of end of day
- By the end of the days, most people are exhausted
- No pre or post lunch interviews
- Scheduling right before lunch, around 11am or 11:30am is a bad idea because your interviewer is probably thinking about their stomach
- On the other hand, scheduling right after lunch 1 or 1:30, your interviewer is still digesting
- Avoid holidays and weekends
- Avoid all holidays and we generally try to steer clear of Fridays, especially Friday afternoons
- Ask around to see what time is ideal
- front desk and office assistants are great people to ask this question because they know when in the day is calm and when it is not
And there you have it, the first area where you can control the interview. Let’s move on the second area you are in control of.
Interview Outfit and Makeup
First, you should find out what the company dress code is like. Again, ask around to find out this information.
When you show up to your job interview dressed appropriately for the role whether it be a suit and tie or a crewneck and khakis, you subconsciously tell your interviewer that you’ve done your research about the company and are prepared for the job.
Ultimately it comes down to what you most feel most professional and comfortable in, however, let’s look at the different levels of office attire.
Generally, there are 4 levels of office attire:
This is the most formal and means tailored suits, ties, and polished shoes for men and pantsuits, skirt suits, and heeled shoes for women. Companies with business formal attire expect a high standard of professionalism in the wardrobe choices of their employees.
The second most professional kind of dress code is business professional. While this is a step down from business formal, business professional outfits are still conservative. However, there is more wiggle room when it comes to colors and patterns in ties and shirts. For women, accessories like chunky earrings and necklaces are acceptable.
Business casual means that you don’t have to wear a suit, pumps, and stockings every day. However, you should still keep a certain level of professionalism, no matter how casual the dress code is. Men can wear crisp button-ups whereas women can wear slacks, skirts, and dresses with a cardigan. There is also more freedom with jewelry and other accessories.
As the least formal, the trickiest part might be making sure you are still maintaining a level of professionalism. Clothes should still be pressed, neat, and appropriate for the type of work you do. For men, you can expect casual pants and slacks with collared polos or crew-neck sweaters. Women have the freedom to wear nicely-fitted tops and blouses, slacks or skirts. Fun patterns and colors are acceptable with a casual dress code.
If you are the kind of person who wears make up, we turn to none other than Bobbi Brown for her helpful makeup tips. Brown offers 11 tips, but here are the main takeaways for interview makeup:
- Aim for a fresh, clean, and neutral look
- Stay clear of bright lipsticks, eyeshadows, and heavy eyeliner
- Try a natural makeup look
4. Ask Good Interview Questions
Job Interview Tip #4: Interview the Interviewer
When you approach your job interview as a two-way conversation by asking followup questions, you establish yourself as a collaborator and not as a subordinate (even if you might be). Psychologically, when someone asks you questions about yourself or your company, you tend to like the person better.
A Case Study about Questions
According to the episode, People Like People Who Ask Questions, by Hidden Brain, people tend to be more likeable when they ask followup questions to their conversation partner. Karen Huang, a Harvard Ph.D. and Hidden Brain host, Shankar Vedantam said the following about followup questions, likability, and speed dating:
VEDANTAM: The researchers found that asking more questions increased how much the other person liked them. In a separate study, the researchers looked at speed daters, and they analyzed how often people asked questions of one another and the effect this had on their prospective partners.
HUANG: After each date, they reported whether they wanted to go on a second date with that person. And we found that the number of follow-up questions one asks predicts the partner’s willingness to go on a second date.Hidden Brain
While you may not be speed dating with your interviewer, we can take some of the finding from this psychological experiment into the interview room. Intuitively, it makes sense that you are a more likable candidate for asking questions because it shows interest, curiosity, and intelligence – all important characteristics for any strong employee.
So, when the interviewer has a pause in their questioning or asks at the end of the interview if you have any question, definitely have some prepared. Make sure that you come prepared with questions that are not easily answered from your online research.
Questions to ask your Interviewer
Here are some thoughtful questions about your role that you should ask your interviewer:
- How would my performance in X role be measured?
- What is a typical day like for someone in this role?
- What are the signs of someone thriving in X role?
Although you may think that answering questions is the only part of the interview, asking questions is equally important. Asking good questions shows you spent time researching the company and will impress the hiring manager.
In addition, asking questions can help you gauge if this is a company that you’d truly enjoy working for. Here are some questions you can ask to get a sense of the company culture:
- What is the team and company culture like?
- How would you describe the work environment here? More collaborative or more independent?
And most importantly are interview followup questions so that you know what the next steps are in the hiring process. Make sure to ask some variation of these questions at the end of your interview:
- What are the next steps in the interview process?
- Is there anything else I can provide for you that would be helpful?
In short, when you ask questions you position yourself as a strong candidate who is interested and thoughtful.
5. Show Gratitude with a Thank You Letter
Job Interview Tip #5: Follow through is Very Important
Even though you may feel great walking out of your job interview thinking that you did a great job, the interview is not completely over until you follow through with a thank you letter. Though some may find the post-job interview thank you letter (or email) unnecessary and outdated, our stance is that you should 100% of the time send a followup thank you.
Psychologically, this does two things – 1. Reminds your interviewer who you are and your conversation 2. Shows that you are a gracious person.
Although you may think your followup thank you note is unnecessary, especially if the interview went well, some hiring managers simply will not hire people who don’t write thank you letters.
How to Write an Interview Thank You Letter
Now that we’ve covered why you need to write a thank you letter, let’s review how to write one. There are many ways to say thank you – emails, mailed letters, texts, and phone calls. We recommend that you stay way from text messaging (may appear unprofessional) and phone calls (can interrupt and annoy the hiring manager), so let’s stick to email and letter writing.
If the company that you are interviewing with leans more traditional, then send a letter. We find that handwritten letters are more impactful than typed ones, but only if you have good handwriting. If you know you have terrible handwriting, writing a handwritten letter can work against you because it shows sloppiness. In the case of poor penmanship, type, print, and mail out your thank you letter.
If the company leans more modern, then send an email. Emails are quick, easy, and don’t require a stamp.
Regardless of which method you use, letter writing or emailing, send out your message within 24 hours of your interview and the sooner the better.
Job Interview Thank You Letter Template
Here is a interview thank you letter sample that works in most situations:
Hello [Interviewer Name],
Thank you for meeting with me today. It was such a pleasure to learn more about the team and [the position you’re applying for] and I’m very excited about the opportunity to join [Company Name] and help [bring in new clients/develop world-class content/anything else you would be doing] with your team.
I was especially excited to learn that I would be [something specific about the position].
I look forward to hearing from you about the next steps in the application process, and please contact me if I can provide additional information.
Although you may choose to format your interview thank you note a little differently, generally the interview followup thank you letter should have these parts:
- The hiring manager’s name
- The title of the position
- Specifics of the interview or important items discussed
- Interest in the position
- Appreciation for their time (the “thank you” part)
- Recognition of the next steps in the hiring process
- Contact information
And there you have it! The final interview tip based in psychology.
- Calmness is Key
- Don’t Lie
- Control What You Can
- Ask Questions
- Write a Thank You Letter
If you follow these 5 simple steps to prepare for your job interview, you will increase your chances of getting hired!
If you are still in the beginning stages of your job hunt, please see our modern resume templates that will help you stand out from the crowd of applicants! And please download our free resume writing guide to gain more insight on how to write a great resume!
Best of luck in your career!