Eva Adam

Jan 04, 2019

9 Psychological Secrets to Crack Your Next Job Interview


New Year, New Job? Job interview tips often focus on what to say. Yet, the reality is, it’s often about how you say it. The trick lies in building up a good rapport and portraying confidence, enthusiasm and sincerity. If you do so, you’re halfway there. Easier said than done. As recruitment consultants, building relationships is our job. And to do it well we often rely on these psychological secrets…

1. Do some digging to find a common interest

The social butterflies of this world have a knack of quickly establishing common ground in interviews. They instinctively know what science tells us: doing so opens up the calm receptors in the interviewer, breaking down any potential barriers as they feel that they have warmed to the candidate much quicker.

"Once you have a little piece of information about someone being similar to you or different, you seem to take it and run with it. You may think they are similar to you across the board, even though you may not have much reason to think this. It is rather surprising."

Adrianna Jenkins, Department of Psychology at Harvard, reporting on their brain study findings via The Telegraph.

2. Work on your body language

Dr Albert Mehrabian’s oft-quoted Communication Model from Silent Messages says that 93% of communication is non-verbal, with 55% consisting of nonverbal elements (such facial expressions, gestures, posture, etc) and 38% consisting of vocal tone. Consider adopting the following positive body language:

  • An open-handed posture: This helps show a little humility and will be noticed.
  • Showing your palms: indicates sincerity
  • Smiling
  • Nodding to show agreement or interest
  • Mirroring the interviewer’s body language: This helps the interviewer feel that you are on the same wavelength.

And avoid these negative ones:

  • Downward facing palms: These indicate dominance (not a characteristic you want to portray in an interview).
  • Concealing your hands: This can look like you have something to hide.
  • Tapping your fingers: Shows impatience
  • Folding your arms: This creates a barrier and can also indicate disappointment.
  • Overusing hand gestures: can be distracting.

3. Make sure you SOUND enthusiastic

Remember how Dr Albert Mehrabian said that vocal tone accounts for 38% of overall communication? Your vocal tone can have a dramatic impact on your interview success. Jonathan Golding and Anne Lipert in Psychology Today point to a study which shows that:

“..candidates with higher affect, energy level, and pitch and amplitude variability are significantly more likely to be invited back for a second interview than applicants who demonstrate lower affect, energy level, and pitch and amplitude variability."

So go on, show a little enthusiasm!

4.  Watch for signs of interest or boredom

We all know the scene: the bore at a party who has some poor, helpless person barricaded into a corner of the room - the glancing eyes, yawns and polite ‘end of conversation’ starters being ignored. Don’t be that person in the interview room. Watch out for these signs by the interviewer:

  • Yawning or tapping fingers: You may be going off-track and talking for too long. Try to reign in your answers and limit replies to between one and two minutes.
  • Leaning away, crossing their arms or looking out of the door: They’re not interested in what you have to say. Try to say something that will grab their attention.
  • Head nodding, foot movements, agreeable ‘mmmms’, nods or other noises indicate interest. Capitalise on this.

5. Be candid: don’t adopt the humble brag

It can be tempting to dress up a strength as a weakness but research from Harvard Business School - indicates that humble-bragging can be a big turn-off.

6. ‘The Generation Game’: tailor your answers to the interviewer

A great tip from the book "Crazy Good Interviewing" by John B. Molidor, Ph.D., and Barbara Parus, is to emphasise certain factors in your responses depending on the interviewer’s generation. (However, be careful, as we all know somebody ‘old before their time’ or ‘young for their age’. You should try to establish what 'generation' they feel they belong to - if at all!)

Generation Y interviewers (between 20 and 30): This is the most tech-savvy generation, as they’ve been brought up with digital technology. They value the ability to deliver and process information efficiently. Bring along visual samples of work and highlight the ability to multitask.

Generation X interviewers (between 30 and 50): This generation is tech-savvy, creative and has a passion for what they do. They also believe in a good a work-life balance. Highlight these skills and traits in your answers.

Baby Boomer interviewers (between 50 and 70): Baby boomers believe that you get ahead in life through hard work and education. They also place huge importance on earning their respect. Demonstrate a hard work ethic and respect for their achievements in the interview.

Silent Generation interviewers (between 70 and 90): This generation values loyalty and job commitment.

7. Adapt how you communicate to different personality types

You may want to appeal to a Baby Boomer’s sense of hard work, but how you should convey this depends on their personality type. Here’s how to sell your experience, depending on your interviewer’s personality;


Traits: Goal-oriented, decisive, and competitive. How to communicate: Keep answers short, to the point and centred on the bottom-line results.


Traits: Friendly, calm and patient and may ask more personal questions. How to communicate: Build rapport, tell the story behind the results and pitch a vision of how you would help their business.


Traits: Enthusiastic, confident in beliefs, friendly and warm. How to communicate: Emphasise the human business elements of what you have done and indicate how you would help the team (and so them) get results. Give cases studies demonstrating the impact you’ve had.


Traits: Serious, direct, and formal. Unlikely to make expressive gestures or ask personal questions. How to communicate: Analysts love data, figures and facts. Provide as much detail to back up claims as possible and never overhype.

8. People love to speak about themselves

In the dating game, it’s common advice to ask questions as people love speaking about themselves. It’s the same for interviews. Your questions at the end should seek the interviewer’s input and opinion, such as:

  • What do you think is the biggest challenge in this role?
  • What qualities and values do you feel are needed to succeed in this company?
  • Why do you think the company has seen such high growth?
  • What do you enjoy most and least about working here?

9. Laughter is the best medicine

Laughter is a powerful way of connecting with someone. If you can throw in a witty or playful and relevant joke during the interview, it’s a great way to break down barriers and make the interviewer warm to you. For more job interview tips and advice why not head to our Candidate Tips and Advice Section?  

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