4 Lessons From Psychology for Job Seekers

Last Updated Aug 25, 2011 7:43 AM EDT

With competition so intense for jobs at the moment, job hunters can use every leg up available. From nailing your interview outfit to crafting the perfect, attention-grabbing resume, job seekers need to pay careful attention to every aspect of their search -- including their behavior.

Business experts have plenty of tips to offer on how to present yourself, but they're not the only go to guys when it comes to tuning up your performance when meeting a prospective boss. Psychologists have plenty of advice to offer as well, according to a recent post on PsyBlog.

The psychology blog offers ten pieces of advice along with a blurb for each explaining the research behind the tip. Here are four of the best:

  • Schmooze but don't self-promote. One study looked at 116 students just out of college trying to get their first job (Higgins & Judge, 2004). The students who did best at interview were the most ingratiating: they praised the organization, complimented the interviewer, showed enthusiasm, discussed common interests, smiled and maintained eye contact. In contrast blatant self-promotion was surprisingly ineffective. It made little difference going on about skills, abilities and the positive events they'd been responsible for. So, although employers often say that work experience and qualifications are the most important factors in choosing the right person for the job, this study begs to differ. What most predicted whether they were considered a fit for the company was their ability to schmooze
  • Talk to yourself. Most of us talk to ourselves from time-to-time to aid performance in many areas of our lives. It's often said that talking to yourself is a sign of madness or certainly that you've been reading too many dodgy self-help books. Well, it may be a bit cheesy, but in the context of job interviews--and when it's called 'verbal self-guidance'--it does seem to work (Latham & Budworth, 2006). You can say things to yourself like "I can enter the room in a confident manner," and "I can smile and firmly shake the interviewer's hand." And you can implement other points mentioned here or elsewhere in the same way. Just don't talk to yourself out loud and in front of the interviewer.
  • Cut out the fake smile. All the usual positive body language can help make a good impression: smiling, eye contact, forward lean and body orientation. All of these nonverbal behaviors have been shown to positively affect interviewer ratings (Levine and Feldman, 2002). That said, try to avoid too much fake smiling. False smiling during an interview results in less favorable evaluations than does genuine smiling (Woodzicka, 2008).
  • Be defensive (if required). Often interview advice is to avoid being defensive. People say you shouldn't make excuses for holes in your experience or apologize for your shortcomings. This isn't always true. In fact some research suggests you shouldn't worry about being defensive if the situation calls for it. When problems emerged in a simulated job interview, applicants who made excuses, expressed remorse and promised it wouldn't happen again, were rated higher than those who avoided being defensive (Tsai et al., 2010).
Check out the complete post for the rest of the interviewing tips. Or, if you're not on the job hunt but are interested in what psychologists have to say about other aspects of office life, check out the posts below.

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    Jessica lives in London where she works as a freelance writer with interests in green business and tech, management, and marketing.