How To Ace An Interview (Part 1)

The First Impression and Setup

There are research proven techniques to help maximize your first impression.  I will assume that the standard proper dress, grooming and research about the company/position have already been done or understood by you.  In this first section, I will focus on those subtle non-verbal actions that form a subconscious connection and increase your charisma.

Before the Interview – Power Pose

Amy Cuddy from Harvard University has done extensive research on the effects of High and Low Power posing and its psychological as well as physiological effects.

She found that if participants do a High Power Pose for a few minutes prior to interviews, that those candidates were found by assessors to be more confident, have greater presence and overall more likely to be hired versus those who did Low Power posing.  Subsequent research on this showed that those who High Power posed actually increased their level of Testosterone (a confidence building hormone) and lowered their Cortisol (a stress hormone).  High Power posers also felt more confident and took 86% more risks compared to Low Power posers when they were asked to gamble after holding these poses.

Testosterone - CortisolThe graphic illustrates the difference between Low and High power poses.  Prior to your interview, e.g., in the bathroom, practice 2 to 5 minutes of High Power posing to relieve stress by lowering Cortisol and amp up your confidence

The Entrance – Trust Indicators

Turns out evolution has wired us to immediately check out others to see if they are friend or foe.  This helped in caveman times to see if others wished to do you harm.  Subconsciously, our minds check two things immediately – hands and face/smile.

The smile is the one expression that can be seen and recognized from 300 feet away.  True smiles are in the eyes, and create wrinkles or crows feet versus a fake smile which is easily recognizable.  They are hard to fake but if you want to practice put a pencil between your teeth and bite down.  The cheek muscles naturally rise similar to a real smile; notice how this feels and remember to smile this way when you enter (just forget the pencil).

Hands are also key because our subconscious looks to see what we have in them (back to cavemen who were looking for weapons or something being held in the hands that could do us harm).  So keep your hands open and inviting.  That is, no tight fists.  Keep them relaxed.  Once you sit down make sure they remain visible keeping them above a table and not underneath.  Studies with jurors found that they believed defendants who kept their hands under the table to be more untrustworthy and were subsequently more likely to find them guilty.

The Introduction

Three keys before you even speak are the Handshake, the Nod, and Eye Contact.


Haptics is the fancy word for touch, but it is key in forging and maintaining relationships.  When we have skin to skin contact through touch, the brain releases Oxytocin, the “connection”, “cuddle”, or “love” hormone.  Research shows that a good hand shake can create the same bound relative to Oxytocin as a 3 hour face to face meeting. The keys to a good handshake?

1. Firmness – not too firm, not to limp.  Impossible to describe so grab some friends who will be honest with you and test your handshake firmness with them.

2. Vertical – Keep the handshake up and down.  Don’t turn your wrist over the top of the person you are shaking hands with and don’t let them turn your wrist under.  This is a dominance move and you want a level playing field to start the relationship.

3. Dry – No sweaty palms.  When you are doing that power pose in the bathroom, dry those hands off.

The Nod

There is some interesting research showing that those who give a slight/subtle nod appear more credible.  In the 1960 presidential debate, those who watched it believed Kennedy won the debate while those who listened thought Nixon won.  The video below starts at the place where Nixon and Kennedy give nods to the audience.  Watch and see the difference and have your nod be more subtle and confident like Kennedy’s.

Eye Contact

Similar to touch, Research reported in Biological Psychiatry suggests that Oxytocin’s release causes prolonged eye contact.  But the opposite may also be true; in The Oxytocin Factor, Dr. Kerstin Uväs-Moberg, believes that eye contact can bring about oxytocin release as well.  This may be why appropriate eye-contact puts at ease with other people.  Make good c
ontact while shaking hands and using the Nod.

If you employ the High Power pose prior to your interview, instill trust subconsciously through your hands and smile, have an appropriate handshake with a Nod and good eye contact, you will maximize your first impression and in so doing put yourself in a strong position when interviewing.

The Right Words at the Right Time

Identical twins interview for a job.

They wear the same clothes.

They say exactly the same words.

They interview with the same people.

They match their mannerisms to be as much the same as possible.

But one of the twins gets offered the job 80% of the time over the other twin.


It may seem odd, but word order makes all the difference.

Starting positively sets the tone. It is the anchor all subsequent comments are judged from and what we know from brain research, once an anchor is formed, it is extremely hard to move away from it.

Bernieri et. al. found that whether it be 20 seconds or 20 minutes, those who watched videos of  interview candidates came to the same conclusion on who they would hire.

So a successful interview starts way before you walk through the door with no only preparation but all the nonverbal queues you send before those first words come out of your mouth.

When you do speak, make sure to set a positive tone.

Putting these together will result in differentiating you from your competition.


The Success of Failure

Living in Minnesota the winter lasts what seems like most of the year, so instead of falling victim to cabin fever, my wife suggested we learn to cross country ski.  Fortunately, there are number of local parks that offer the opportunity to learn.

One weekend we decided to head off to Coon Rapids Dam Park (yes, every time I go there I can’t help but think about Vegas Vacation Hoover Dam Park Ranger – Welcome everyone. I am your dam guide, Arnie. Now I’m about to take you through a fully funtional power plant, so please, no one wander off the dam tour and please take all the dam pictures you want. Now are there any dam questions?)  where they were offering to rent us skis as well as teach us how to ski.

After getting all the boots and gear, we headed outside where we spotted an small oval 30 foot track that we were all going to learn on – nice level, flat, ground.  After getting the skis on and waiting with the other ten or so people in the class, our instructor appears and asks us all to fall to the ground.  After some nervous laughter, he says “I’m serious, hit the ground.”

So we dutifully and clumsily get ourselves to the ground.

“The first thing we are going to learn is how to get up,” he said.  “It’s the most important lesson to learn. Once you know how to do this, you won’t be afraid to fall.”

And he was right, it took a few times of practicing but soon I could get up from a fall expertly.  Suddently, I felt confident in my abilities to ski and I hadn’t even moved from the spot I started from.

He knew intuitively what researchers Lorenzet and Tannenbaum reported on in their article “Benefiting from mistakes: The impact of guided errors on learning, performance, and self-efficacy”.  In their research, they had 90 people go through a software training program – half were taught to prevent errors from occurring and the other half were guided into making mistakes during their training.  They found those who made mistakes had greater feelings of self-efficacy and were also far faster and more accurate in how they used the software later on.

The lesson is counter intuitive but real – mistakes give us confidence and avoiding them actually makes us fearful.

Can You Spot A Liar Part 2 – Take the Test!

So in yesterday’s post we talked about how Richard Wiseman tested over 40,000 people to see how accurate they were at determining the veracity of Sir Richard Day’s stories.

We learned that there were significant differences between those who read, listened, or watched him tell these stories.

Today, you get your opportunity to see how good you are at telling truth from lies.

Use the information from Richard’s experiment to help guide you.  Maybe just listen, maybe just watch, or both. Do all and compare your answers before you choose your answer.

There are ten videos in all.  Choose carefully!

Can You Spot a Liar?

Known for his creativity, Richard Wiseman of the University of Hertfordshire, conducted one of the largest psychology experiments at the end of the UKs National Science Week in 1995.

In this experirment over 41,000 people participated in answering a simple question – which story was true and which was false.  You see, Wiseman interviewed a well known commentator, Sir Richard Day, and asked him to share with the audience one true story and one false story about his favorite Movie.  After telling two stories claiming describing why each movie was his favorite, participants could then vote on which story was true and which was false.

The result?

One Easy Memory Trick

Growing up one of my favorite memories is of visiting my uncle Manuel and Aunt Rose’s house for a summer family picnic. He was 100% Portuguese and she, 100% Italian. Their backyard had a Madonna statue shrine. As I look back, it was like taking a trip to what everyone called “The Old Country” but was just across town.

One particular characteristic of their household was that every conversation was passionate, full of intense vocal variance complete with large animated gestures as they spoke. The joke was that my aunt and uncle would be unable to speak if we held their hands in check.

How To Soften Difficult Negotiations

Joshua Ackerman from the Sloan School of Management at MIT, Christopher Nocera from Harvard University, and John Bargh from the department of Psychology at Yale University reported their research in Science magazine on the power of haptics or touch.  They ran a series of six different experiments, one of which I will highlight and that you can apply in your next difficult negotiation.

In this experiment, 49 participants were invited to a magic act where they would then be asked to guess what the secret of the act was.  The 49 were randomly asked to examine objects that would be part of the act to ensure there was nothing unusual about the objects.  Part of the group were asked to examine a hard piece of wood, the other half were asked to examine a soft plush blanket.  After their examinations were complete, they were informed that the act would be postponed but while they waited they were asked to give their thoughts on a made up scenario involving an interaction between a boss and employee.  After hearing the description of the scenario they were asked to rate the employee’s personality traits.

Increase Your Persistence And Resolve With This Simple Action

Have you ever had the feeling that you gave up too quickly on a difficult task or maybe found yourself beat down by others in an argument and wished you hadn’t given in?

Then you would be interested in the research done by Ron Friedman and Andrew Elliot at the University of Rochester.  They conducted two fascinating experiments regarding persistence and body language.

In Experiment 1, they randomized 46 participants to two groups to solve three anagrams; the first two anagrams had solutions but the third did not.  The researchers then timed how long the participants took before they gave up on the third anagram.  The two study groups were identical with one exception – their arm positions prior to solving the anagrams.  One group crossed their arms and the other group placed their arms on their thighs.

Instant Willpower

Have you ever woken up in the morning, full of energy to take on whatever the day throws at you only to find as you overcome obstacle after obstacle that as the day draws on you feel less and less motivated, more depleted and your willpower gone?

You aren’t alone.

Research has shown that we only have so much willpower to use in a day before it needs to be replenished through sleep.  For example, one study showed that the best time for an inmate to be in a parole hearing is first thing in the morning or right after lunch.  Judges were repeatedly shown to grant parole at these times than later in the day when they were tired and depleted in which case it was just easier to say no and move on.

But there is a way, even late in the day, to call up willpower reserves and strengthen your resolve.

One Awesome Non-Verbal Phone Tip

Real vs. Fake Smiles

For years, body language experts have know that there is a difference between a real and a fake smile.  French physician Guillaume Duchenne, did research in this area studying the various facial muscles involved with these two types of smiles; subsequently, real smiles are referred to as Duchenne Smiles in research circles.

What is the difference?

Real smiles are in the eyes – crows feet form. Basically the eyes close up as the cheeks move upwards.  The image below shows the difference with the fake smiles on the left and real on the right. (Tip: if you see a lot of bottom teeth in a smile, it is likely not real as well).

Create Your Own Vulcan Mind Meld In One Easy Step

Back in the original Star Trek series, Spock would occasionally pull out all the stops and create the Vulcan Mind Meld.  Sometimes this was to extract information that someone would rather not give up, other times to help others work through some issue that only linked minds could solve.

For those unfamiliar with this, the “Vulcan mind meld is a telepathic link between two individuals, allowing for the exchange of thoughts, thus in essence allowing the participants to become one mind.”

But research shows that getting two people on the same brain wavelengths is not science fiction.  Stephens, et. al., in their research “Speaker-listener neural coupling underlies successful communication” demonstrate that when communication is at its best, our brain patterns mirror one another and synchronize.