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Using impression management to improve your interview technique

Impression management could help you get the competitive edge you need to secure your dream job

In an ever-changing and competitive market place, nailing your interview is becoming increasingly difficult. Although you have no control over the specific questions or format of the interview, you do have control over the way in which you come across. The importance of impression management is often overlooked when it comes to prepping for an interview. Of course, we all want to present ourselves in the best way possible, but how can we maximise our potential to impress? As human beings, we make judgements about individuals within five and thirty seconds of meeting. This is related to the psychological phenomena known as schematic processing, the way in which people form impressions and interpret information. Schemas are developed through our interaction and experience with various forms of information. This is also directly related to how people stereotype and form prejudicial thoughts. Although some factors that impact how others form their schemas are out of our control, we can optimise impression management through the effective use of body language, mirroring and matching, flattery and appropriate use of language.

Body Language

Whilst you might be feeling nervous and anxious about the pending interview, it is essential that this doesn’t come across in your body language. Having the ability to blag your confidence through your body language will undoubtedly make you stand out from the rest. Employers are looking for candidates who are engaging and exude confidence. According to Levine and Feldman, 2002, nonverbal behaviours such as smiling, eye contact, forward leaning and body orientation have been shown to positively affect interviewer ratings. Another study looking at the significance of having a firm handshake in relation to making a good impression found that hiring recommendations was affected by the quality of the candidate’s handshake.

Mirroring and Matching

The use of mirror and matching behaviours is one of the most powerful tools you could use to build rapport in an interview. According to this theory, people feel most comfortable when they are in familiar settings. Central to this technique is mirroring the body language and monitoring the speed and tone of your voice to your interviewer. If your interviewer is sitting with their right leg crossed, you should casually cross your right leg. If your interviewer is using hand gestures when they are speaking, you should begin to use hand gestures. Again, when you’re answering questions, you should try to match the tone and speed of your interviewer’s voice.

Flattery

A little bit of flattery goes a long way. However, you need to be careful not to overdo it as it may come across as insincere! Having the right background and experience is not the be all and end all when it comes to finding the right candidate. Employers are looking for people to join their company who are like-minded with similar values that are aligned with the company’s culture. Finding a common ground with your interviewer, complimenting their offices, or congratulating a recent award the company won can all be effective when trying to persuade an interviewer that you are the ideal candidate for the company. A study by Higgins & Judge, 2004 showed that students who praised the company, complimented the interviewer, discussed common interests, showed enthusiasm, smiled and maintained eye contact did the best interviews.

Appropriate use of effective language

A strategy known as reflective listening can transform your interviewer’s impression of you. The key element to this is listening to what they interviewer is saying, then paraphrase what they just said which in turn highlights that you are engaging and truly listening to them. Another effective use of language is using your interviewer’s name appropriately. Through acknowledging their identity, this indirectly massages their ego and boosts their self-esteem. However, it is important to note using someone’s name too often can come across as manipulative. ---

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