Interview in a Snap: Best of reCareered

May 21 2010 in Featured, Interviews, reCareered Blog by Phil Rosenberg

30 Seconds…

That’s the maximum time it takes an interviewer to form a first impression of a job seeker according to a number of experimental psychologists. Some have found that it’s all over with the handshake in the first few seconds. Keep in mind that not everyone interviews this way … it’s just the vast majority that make decisions based on first impressions.

How can you use this information to make a great first impression that quickly?

The Research:

Two Harvard researchers, Nalini Ambady and Robert Rosenthal studied nonverbal aspects of teachers, by having observers rate instructor effectiveness from 10 second silenced video clips. When Ambady ran a second 15 item personality rating based on just 5 second clips, the ratings were the same. They were the same when she showed just 2 second clips. And they were the same as end of semester teacher evaluations. Ambady found that we make snap personality judgments in just a couple of seconds – literally in a snap.

Frank Bernieri, a University of Toledo Psychologist trained grad students to act as job interviewers, and taped the interviews. He then showed the first 20 to 32 seconds to observers – just enough to show the handshake and greeting. The observers then used the same 6 page evaluation as the interviewers to rate each applicant. The surprising results: “On nine out of the eleven traits the applicants were being judged on, the observers significantly predicted the outcome of the interview,” Bernieri says. “The strength of the correlations was extraordinary.”

“In social psychology, there is an amazing amount of literature and research that show that once we have any expectation, once we have any working theory, any working hypothesis, we are biased in the way we process information,” Bernieri said. “We go out of our way to seek confirming evidence. However, in our minds, we think we’re being analytical and processing the whole time. So by the time we finish, we think our judgments are based on the data.””People do judge books by their covers,” Bernieri concluded. “First impressions are going to predict final impressions.”

Do these findings floor you?

So how do you take this information to make it work for you?

The Easy, Basic, Obvious Stuff That Everybody Does:

But most job seekers already know these tactics … so most serious candidates do the same thing. What can you do to stand out?

If everyone uses the same methods, what can give you an edge?

5 Tips To Give You An Edge In The First 30 Seconds:

  1. Expressiveness: People with animated expressions and vocal variances are seen as more easily read, so hiring managers feel they are seeing the real person, with less guessing involved. This trait makes the interviewee more naturally likable. So leave your “Poker Face” at home.
  2. “Interaction Synchrony”: Mirror postures, gestures, and non-verbal communications of the interviewer. In a way, it shows the interviewer subconsciously that you understand and speak their language. Every hiring manager wants someone who “gets them”, can almost read their mind, avoiding additional explanation and miscommunication.
  3. Eye Contact: Practice your eye contact. Use video with mock interviews, paying attention see if you look at the interviewer while they are speaking, and if you maintain eye contact while answering. Lack of eye contact can give the non-verbal impression that you’re not interested, a poor listener, even that you might not be telling the truth. Have someone else evaluate your eye contact, and give you feedback.
  4. Preparedness: Always go to an interview prepared with a pen and portfolio for note taking.
  5. Posture: Sit forward, never back, with your hands in your lap. Keep both feet on the floor, and sit straight and still. When answering, lean forward slightly. Don’t slouch or kick back, even if the interviewer does (this is one non-verbal cue that you shouldn’t mimic). Some interviewers will lean back as a test…to see if the candidate mimics.

All of these non verbal cues take place in the first 30 seconds. Your non-verbal cues, along with the first impression your resume already gave the interviewer typically determines the hiring manager’s decisions.

Candidates, Recruiters, and Hiring Managers – Any tips to add about how to make a great non-verbal impression in the first 30 seconds?

What will you do differently during your next interview to make a non-verbal first impression?


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Author: Phil Rosenberg

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