The Psychology of Interviewing

Part 1: Before the Interview

Interview season is upon us, and we all want to put our best foot forward to ensure we land the residency of our choice. I have laid out a few, science backed, ways to help you look your best in the eyes of the interviewer. While some of these things will seem like common sense, others may surprise you. Believe it or not, I tried all of these tips last year during my interviews, and I truly believe they allowed me to feel more at ease, more confident, and gave me an advantage during the interview process.

What to Wear

The first thing to address before interview day is what outfit to wear. Your outfit is usually the first thing a person notices about you, and it can leave a lasting impression on the interviewer before you even have a chance to introduce yourself, making it important to dress for success. The latest research shows that a blue suit is the best choice for men and women. Blue is a classic and non-threatening color that is seen positively by both males and females. It conveys trust and reliability with just the right amount of confidence. Black suits are another option; however, they can be more intimidating and convey a larger sense of power. Interviewers want to be in the position of power, so limit outfit choices that may stand out too much or be too authoritarian. For the dress shirt, it is best to wear a neutral color, such as a white or soft blue, as to not distract from the rest of the outfit. In terms of accent colors, use these to express your personality. Most accent colors are fine to wear to interviews (yellow, green, purple, orange) and can add personality to your outfit without compromising the overall feel. One exception is the color red. Use this color sparingly as it is a color associated with power and can subconsciously make some interviewers feel threatened.

Do Your Research

This should be common sense but get know as much as you can about those who are interviewing you beforehand. Research does two things. First, it allows you to pretend like you are “talking to a friend” and will decrease nervousness before the interview. It is much easier to talk to people that we know and feel comfortable with. By familiarizing ourselves with the interviewers and the program beforehand, we become naturally more comfortable when it is time to interview. In addition, research allows you to tailor your answers to the individual and find common ground with the interviewer. Discussing common interests is one of the easiest ways to do well in an interview and to get an interviewer to like you. It allows the discussion to be less question and answer and more of a conversation, which will make you stand out significantly from the other applicants.

“Our bodies change our minds, and our minds change our behavior, and our behavior changes our outcomes.”

Dr. Amy Cuddy, Harvard

Prime Yourself to Feel Powerful

After watching Harvard Professor Amy Cuddy’s TED Talk on body language, the power pose has been one of my favorite things to do before an interview. She found that taking up a short “power pose” can actually change body chemistry, increasing testosterone and lowering cortisol, and make people feel more confident. A power pose comes in a couple different forms, one with feet in a wide stance with arms held in a “V” shape above your head, and the other with feet in a wide stance with hands on your hips. The power pose can be used to get rid of pre-interview jitters and makes you feel like you belong and will succeed in the interview room. While this may seem silly, I’ve used it in many of my interviews to help me feel more confident and at ease. The research suggests that holding the pose for two minutes produces the full amount of hormonal changes; however, if two minutes is too long, start by posing for 30 seconds to one minute and work up from there. I would suggest doing the power pose in a private place, like the restroom, prior to the interview as doing this out in the open would probably have people questioning what you are doing.

I hope you enjoyed Part 1 of The Psychology of Interviewing. It is my hope that you can use a few of these tactics in your upcoming interviews. While we are in unusual times with the presence of COVID-19, many of these tips hold true for virtual interviews as well. In the words of Amy Cuddy, “Our bodies change our minds, and our minds change our behavior, and our behavior changes our outcomes.” Just remember, first impressions are very significant, so be well prepared, dress for success, and enter the interview with confidence. Part 2 of this series will come out shortly and will address psychology backed tips to help you succeed during the actual interview.

What have you done before an interview to feel more confident, prepared, or at ease? Comment below or contact us directly.

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