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Walking into a job interview is a notoriously disempowering experience. Essentially, you’re there to sit and be judged on everything from your outfit to your apparent intelligence.
But it helps to know that you have some control over the way your interviewers perceive you. The key to winning over the person on the other side of the table is to come across as self-assured, while at the same time respectful of their knowledge and experience.
That’s according to Maurice Schweitzer, Ph.D., and Adam Galinsky, Ph.D., authors of the new book “Friend and Foe.” In the book, they argue that success – in business and in life – is a matter of competing and cooperating with others, often at the same time.
In the case of the job interview, demonstrating confidence is a form of competition, while showing deference to the employer is a form of cooperation. Employing both tactics simultaneously is usually a winning strategy.
For example, Galinsky told Business Insider, when he was being interviewed by professors for jobs at universities, he would say something like, “I loved your research on ____. It reminds me of my research on ____.”
Taking the initiative to guide the conversation is generally a good move, Galinsky said. “You’re showing confidence in the sense that you are proactive.”
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Moreover, Schweitzer added, confidence creates a positive feedback loop: When you act self-assured, your interviewer will likely respond encouragingly, leaving you more self-assured and relaxed going forward.
Of course, you don’t want to get carried away and seem overly confident in your abilities or achievements. By showing interest in the person interviewing you (instead of talking all about yourself), you’ll seem respectful and deferential.
As long as you don’t seem too fawning, for example by gushing about all the wonderful things your interviewer has accomplished, you’ll strike the right balance.
“You never want to go too far in one direction,” Galinsky said.