How To Use Psychology to Help You Get Hired

Women at job interview

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While interviewing is more of an art than a science, you can employ tips from social, organizational, and personality psychology to improve your chances of interview success.

Explore ideas for how you can use tactics rooted in psychological research to increase your chances of getting hired. Giving one or more of them a try could up your chances of making it to the next round of interviews—or even help you land a job offer.

Key Takeaways

  • Principles from psychology can help you improve your chances of interview success. 
  • Think about your body language during an interview, since things like eye contact and smiling (or avoiding smiling) have an effect on an interviewer's perception of you. 
  • Listening skills matter—try to reflect the interviewer's needs when responding to their questions. 

Use 'Power-Priming' Tactics

Call it the power of positive visualization. Power priming, or recalling instances when you felt powerful and in control, may make a difference to your interview performance. 

In one job interview study, applicants were divided into two groups. One was asked to focus on a time in which they felt in control and empowered in their lives, and another group was instructed to reflect on a time when they felt disempowered. The first group—the power-primed group—was more successful in interviews, with interviewers choosing them over the other group at a significantly higher rate.

What to do: Before your next interview, think about a time in your life when you felt successful and empowered—work-related or personal—to potentially up your interview success. 

Don't Smile Constantly

You should always be friendly and polite, but be serious when you need to be. During a job interview, aim to smile—but not too much. 

In one study, candidates who smiled more at the beginning and end of the interview, and less in the middle—when they were focused on answering questions—did better than those who smiled continuously throughout.


For people applying for serious roles (say, an accountant) the study found that applicants who smiled less overall were rated higher. 

What to do: Use your personality to shine at a job interview, but be thoughtful about when you smile, and how frequently you do so. While you don't want to seem dour, smiling constantly might lead interviewers to take you less seriously as a candidate.  

Use Your Interviewer's Name 

There are a few reasons to use your interviewer's name during the job interview. First, saying a person's name will help you remember it. Plus, when you use someone's name, it helps them feel seen, known, and valued—all of this can make a person feel more positively toward you. 

What to do: Use your interviewer's name as you talk. 


While it's good to use your interviewer's name occasionally during the conversation, don't overdo it. Using a person's name too frequently can seem inauthentic.  

Be a Good Listener 

Reflective listening is when you repeat back your interviewer’s statement or question in your own words. Doing this in an interview setting shows your interviewer that you understand what they're trying to communicate—that may help them feel more positively about you. 

Here’s an example of how you can use reflective listening in a job interview:

  • Interviewer: “This position requires a writer who won’t have a problem covering a political story one day, a celebrity gossip piece the next, and can do both of them well, and willingly. How does this sound?”
  • You: “So, you’re looking for a versatile writer who’s enthusiastic and up for anything. That’s exactly how I would describe myself. As you can see from my clips, I’ve done everything from travel writing to investigative journalism, so I believe I’d be a great fit for this job.”

What to do: Look for opportunities to repeat what the interviewer has said in your own words.

Try Mirroring, But Stay Positive

Mirroring is when you mimic a person’s body language: they smile, you smile. They use hand gestures, you use hand gestures. 

People often mirror each other without consciously trying. It can help you feel a certain connection and closeness. That's a good thing during an interview, of course, where it's helpful to build rapport. 

However, be cautious. Mimicking someone who is unfriendly may make you appear less competent, according to research.

What to do: Look for opportunities to subtly mimic the interviewer's position, but be careful not to apply this tactic if the interviewer is aloof. 

Be Mindful of Body Language

It has been said time and time again, but study after study has shown just how important nonverbal communication is. One survey found that 30% of candidates used negative body language (think: fidgeting or avoiding eye contact).

When you’re in a job interview, use positive nonverbal behavior. Aim to:

  • Show a high level of energy and enthusiasm.
  • Keep a positive expression on your face.
  • Maintain a high level of eye contact.
  • Nod to show understanding.
  • Use subtle hand gestures when speaking.
  • Lean towards your interviewer, but maintain appropriate personal space.
  • Vary your tone of voice, so as not to speak in a monotone.

What to do: Be thoughtful about your body language. Avoid fidgeting. And, while making eye contact is a good thing, avoid getting into a staredown with the interviewer. 

Consider the Construal Level Theory 

According to the construal level theory (CLT), the farther away you are from an object, event, or person, the more abstract your thinking will be. The closer you are, the more concrete your thinking will be. An often used example is a summer vacation: six months out, in the winter, you’re daydreaming about sunshine and sand. Six days out, you’re planning specifics, like making restaurant reservations or nailing down your itinerary. 

Researchers tested the theory in an experiment where they had applicants sit either close or far from interviewers, and then either promote themselves in concrete or abstract ways. The results were in line with CLT: applicants who sat close and discussed specific attributes or instances were most successful, as were applicants who sat far away and emphasized more abstract qualities, like their soft skills.

What to do: What does this mean for your interview? Well, providing specifics is always a good thing to do in an interview. If you find yourself seated far from your interviewer, take care to mention some soft skills, too—for example, your “strong work ethic” or “superior time management skills.”

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  1. ResearchGate. "Power Gets The Job: Priming Power Improves InterviewOutcomes." 

  2. National Library of Medicine. "Smiling In a Job Interview: When Less is More." 

  3. Kentucky Career Center. "Reflective Listening." 

  4. Wall Street Journal. "Use Mirroring to Connect With Others."

  5. APA PsycNet. "When it’s an Error to Mirror: The Surprising Reputational Costs of Mimicry."  

  6. Robert Half Talent Solutions. "Is Your Body Language Costing You The Job?

  7. Ohio State University. "Construal Level Theory."

  8. Journal of Applied Social Psychology. "Where to Seat the Applicant? How Spatial Distance Influences the Effect of Self-Promotion on Interviewer Evaluations.”

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