Hacking Your Next Job Interview: The Real Secret to Getting Hired

This post is for my oldest niece, who told me she had an interview for a job, and wondered if there were any “psychological tricks” for doing well in an interview. I thought about it, and realized she wanted help with some Jobhacks™.

It turns out that there are some tricks. These are written about in a wonderful new book called 59 Seconds: Think a Little, Change a Lot by Richard Wiseman. I’ll be blogging more on the book, which is a concise, science-based set of tips for improving your life, and being happier, healthier, and more productive. I highly recommend the book. It’s a fun, easy read, full of great research and life tips.

(Full Disclosure: If you click on the link, and buy, PsychologyLounge will get a small payment, so you’ll be supporting this blog. If you don’t want to support this blog, just log into your own Amazon account, and search for the book.)

So let’s review conventional wisdom first.  Job interviews are based on academic training and work experiences, right? The candidate who gets the job is the one with the best academic credentials and the most impressive work history, correct?

That’s what most people think and they are wrong!

Chad Higgins and Timothy Judge did research looking at factors that influenced interviewers decisions about job candidates. I won’t bore you with the details of their research, but I will tell you what they found. First, they found that the qualifications and work experience of the candidate didn’t matter.

It turns out that the most important predictor of who will be offered the job was a magical and mysterious quality: the pleasantness and likability of the candidate!

So now you’re thinking: “Great, I need a personality transplant in order to become nicer and more likable. Thanks, Gottlieb, years of therapy for that one no doubt!”

No, you don’t need a personality transplant. You just need to follow a simple set of behavioral guidelines.

What were the behaviors that communicated likability? They were very simple:

1. Small talk. Talk about something that interests both you and the interviewer, even if it’s not about work. You notice a picture of them fishing, and you share fishing tales.

2. Praise. Find something you like about the organization they represent and compliment it. Or praise or compliment the interviewer in a genuine way.

3. Enthusiasm. Show your excitement about the job being offered and the company.

4. Connection. Smile and make eye contact.

5. Involvement. Show interest in the person interviewing you. Ask smart questions about the type of person they are looking for, and how the job fits into the organization.

That’s it. Do this and you will greatly increase your likability, and with it, your chance of getting a job. I suspect this would work pretty well in other interview situations too, like blind dates, but that’s more research…

P.S. Two more quick tips from 59 Seconds. If you have weaknesses that will most likely come up, bring them up early in the interview, that increases your credibility, and gives you time to use likability to your advantage. If you have a particular strength, share it later in the interview, in order to look more humble, and end on a strong note.

Copyright © 2010 Andrew Gottlieb, Ph.D. /The Psychology Lounge/TPL Productions


Dr. Andrew Gottlieb is a clinical psychologist in Palo Alto, California. His practice serves the greater Silicon Valley area, including the towns of San Jose, Cupertino, Santa Clara, Sunnyvale, Mountain View, Los Altos, Menlo Park, San Carlos, Redwood City, Belmont, and San Mateo. Dr. Gottlieb specializes in treating anxiety, depression, relationship problems, OCD, and other difficulties using evidence-based Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). CBT is a modern no-drug therapy approach that is targeted, skill-based, and proven effective by many research studies. Visit his website at CambridgeTherapy.com or watch Dr. Gottlieb on YouTube. He can be reached by phone at (650) 324-2666 and email at: Dr. Gottlieb Email.