Job interview psychology

In this article we are sharing the most useful psychological tips for a successful job interview. Best kept secrets revealed by clinical psychologist and international recruiter Effy Malfa!

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job interview psychology

Beyond the resume:
Job interview psychology

Having set the best date for a job interview the universe has to offer, you may start wondering: “Okay, and what am I supposed to do when I am there?”. Indeed, there are a few things to consider: what to wear? where to look? how to speak? how to move?.

Our inhouse expert Effy Malfa will help us out! Effy is a clinical psychologist and international recruiter at Exactpi. In today’s edition we are sharing the most useful tips for a successful conversation. Best kept secrets revealed!

Ready in body and mind

It is of course nice to be prepared in terms of possible questions, motivation and self-presentation. There’s though something else we would like to highlight – the right mindset. Grounded, confident, inviting are the characteristics that are often sought after. Anxiety and/ or excitement do kick in sometimes, especially if the opportunity really means a lot. There are simple, quick and effective ways to get back to your best self.

PMR (Progressive Muscle Relaxation) is a technique to consciously release tension by first  flexing all muscle groups and then relaxing. Physically relaxing muscles helps activate parasympathetic nervous system, which lowers heart rate and blood pressure. PMR can be done seated or lying down. You work with a small specific body area, one at a time, starting from the top of the head and moving to the feet, or the other way around.

Here’s how to do it. Eyes closed. A few deep slow “belly” breaths. Inhale and squeeeeeze one muscle group as hard as you can. Do your best mind-muscle connection, imagine the muscle flexing. Exhale, let it go and feel the muscles relaxed. Get onto the next muscle group until the entire body is squeezed and relaxed. Feel free to go for another round if needed. Can also be done to just one muscle group that needs attention urgently.

PMR helps to beat anxiety, sleep better, relieve stress and headaches. Even better to make it a habit. Special breathing techniques are also amazing for better focus and less stress. Paying attention to our own breath is the first step in order to take things around under control.

Breathing Exercise 1

Here are a couple of exercises to try out and see what works best.

Count to 5. 1 – long inhale through the nose, 2 – long exhale through the mouth, 3 – in, 4 – out, 5 – in.

Breathing Exercise 2

Try to consciously lengthen exhales. Making exhales longer than inhales helps to slow down the heart rate, become more present and rational. Breath in on counts 1 and 2, breath out on counts 1, 2, 3 and 4. Make it 3 and 6 or 4 and 8 if this is what your body is asking for.

These tools combined will a healthy amount of good food, sleep and hydration will definitely help beating pre-interview fear or worry.

Note: you know your body best. Not sure if something is compatible? Ask a professional.

Your true colors

Having set the vibe right, it’s time to get onto the next step. Appearance. Of course, we don’t judge a book by its cover. But subconsciously, we do. And why don’t use it to our advantage? The right job interview outfit is perfectly matching your personality and professional environment, boosting your confidence at the same time. It’s also giving the correct signals to the person you are meeting. Every color is sending its own message.

Someone wearing blue, black or gray is perceived as loyal, stable and dependable. Might be a good choice for a “traditional” job in banking, law or finance. Blue means integrity and honesty. Black is timeless, universal, strong. Grey is intelligent and logical. A fun bight accessory as a pop of color can still add a personal touch.

Someone wearing green, purple or yellow may be perceived as creative. Green is all about balance, prosperity and well-being. Yellow is lively, energetic and optimistic. Purple is sophisticated and artsy.

White is actually universal, it signals attention to details, organization and pureness.

Orange has been proven to be perceived as an unprofessional color and brown as too simple and stagnant. Red is seen as fiery, self-assured and bold.

In general, the higher the role, the more saturated the color hue could be. Lighter colors are perceived as more relaxed and approachable, while darker shades tell about more authority and confidence. Whatever you’re wearing must feel good and 100% you.

Acting out

Okay, you’re finally there. Let your face and do body do the talking. Here’s what better NOT to do. Folded arms, little to zero eye contact, no facial expressions or a completely turned away body signal unhappy, sad, uninterested. Nail biting and neck touching along with crossed ankles is a sign of stress and anxiety. When excited, some tend to speak loud and/ or fast, control your volume and speed. Restless fingers and hands show distraction, impatience and boredom. Constant hair or face touching signals someone is lying.

Open posture is the key in order to appear calm, knowledgeable and stable. No slouching! Shoulders back and down, head high, arms along the body when standing or in front of you if seated. If this is something you are struggling with, start practicing in advance. Good eye contact for a few seconds at a time says sincere and confident. Better not make it too long though, creepy is not what we normally want. Tilted head shows attention and sincere engagement. Something that always works – a relaxed natural smile. Breathe (revisit the first part of this article if needed). Feel free to moderately mirror the body language of the person you speak with or paraphrase their words – that shows you are on the same page.

Body language matters even if it’s a video call. The only difference is that you usually have limited body areas to work with. Set the camera on the eye level, look into it, use your natural hand gestures and facial expressions.

Reading your conversation partner

It’s great to consider all these cues not only to control and adjust your own behavior, but also to better read your conversation partner, understand their moods and intentions. They are looking away, doodling, fidgeting,  yawning, playing around with objects? Try to engage them by asking a question, inviting them to participate in the discussion. Lean slightly forward, as if you are about to make a confession. Try speaking a tiny bit quieter – that helps to draw attention. Your conversation partner is playing around with their hair or scratching their nose non-stop? Be aware! Better double check and be critical about things they say.

Also, some body and face cues can have the opposite meaning in different cultures, so catch on up that too to avoid confusion.

Make sure to have a great time during a job interview. Remember, it’s always both parties making a choice. Make it a pleasant and learning experience. The most amazing job opportunities are right here as usual!

Meet the author

Anna Nasonova

International Recruitment Consultant Amsterdam

Anna Nasonova is Russian but also speaks English, French and basic Dutch, so she is a true international. And she loves to write about it. She knows better than anyone what you encounter when you start living and working in the Netherlands and is happy to help you with this in her role as international Recruitment Consultant.

Meet the psychologist

Effy Malfa

International Recruitment Consultant The Hague

Effy Malfa, a Greek national, decided to stay in the Netherlands after completing her studies in Clinical Psychology at Leiden University. Embracing the vibrant Dutch culture, she ventured into the realm of recruitment. Fluent in English, Sandra is also diligently learning Dutch. Drawing from her own journey as an expatriate, she possesses invaluable insights to assist you in your quest for employment in the Netherlands.

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