With graduation and summer break around the corner, competition for summer internships and full-time jobs is on the rise. Associate Professor of Psychology Carol Toris and psychology alumna Molly Hatch ’14 offer tips to give you an edge in your interviews and help you stand out from other candidates.
Hatch’s bachelor’s essay and research experiment with Toris focused on how observers formed an impression of a candidate based on the candidate’s head and eye angle during a job interview. She suggests that whatever you do, don’t make these five common mistakes:
1. Keep your head and eyes angled up or down
Hatch’s research showed that holding your head and eyes angled down, or holding your head and gaze up can result in a poor impression on a number of critical dimensions, such as competence and motivation. Instead, concentrate on maintaining a level gaze and head orientation during your interviews – the study reveals, “The best thing you can do is keep a level head orientation and eye angle while speaking with the interviewer,” Hatch said.
Don’t do it! Sit up straight and lean forward slightly to show that you’re confident, alert and engaged in the conversation. If your posture is too relaxed you might accidentally communicate that you’re not interested in the position, or that you’re overly confident.
3. Fill silence with “um,” “uh,” “like,” and so on
While it’s important to think about your answers before you respond to questions in an interview, try not to fill a pause with unnecessary sounds or excessive stammering. If the answer doesn’t immediately come to mind, take a few seconds to compose yourself before speaking.
This is a big-time don’t. Touching your face, twirling your hair, bouncing your foot nervously under the table – these behaviors are what psychologists call “adaptors.”
“An adaptor is a behavior that some researchers have speculated may originate as an adaptive effort to satisfy a need,” Toris said. For instance if your leg is bouncing up and down, you could be inhibiting a desire to run away – even if you’re not, you may still give that impression to the interviewer. Touching your face or your hair, or “self-grooming,” may give the impression that you’re self-conscious, nervous, or protectively trying to shield your face.
Instead, if you’re someone who fidgets, focus all that energy into something an interviewer won’t notice, like slightly tensing and relaxing one leg.
5. Stress out over little mistakes
It’s ok to be less than perfect, even in a high-pressure job interview. “If you have strong credentials and your interview is going well, a slight blunder or sign of nervousness might actually make you more likable and relatable to your interviewer,” Toris said.
Alternatively, if you think you said or did something to give the wrong impression, concentrate more on not making mistakes moving forward. Focusing your energy on slip-ups you’ve already made will only distract you from the remainder of your interview. Until the interview is over, you still have the opportunity to make a positive impression.