The science of manipulating recruiters into giving you a job

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If you really want a particular job and you make it through to interview stage having done your preparatory power poses, equipped with a set of sensible questions to ask and ready with some pointers on charisma, you may think you stand a good chance of getting through. Maybe so. But you could probably improve your chances of gaining an offer by overlaying all this with the tactics of 'impression management.'

What is impression management?

In a new paper published in the journal Applied Psychology, academics from the University of Technology in Taiwan define impression management as a, 'conscious or unconscious attempt to control images that are projected in social interactions.' They point out that impression management plays a key part in job interviews.

Impression management is partly body language. But it's also psychological manipulation. And it works: in a study of 221 applicant-recruiter relationships across 50 companies in Taiwan, the academics found that the applicants using impression management techniques were more likely to be recommended as hires.

The science behind the recruiter mind

When recruiters evaluate candidates in interviews, the academics said they look at three different dimensions:

  • Whether the person fits with the job
  • Whether the person fits with the organisation
  • Whether the person fits with the recruiter (in other words whether the recruiter likes them)

Using impression management to make recruiters think you're a great fit with the job 

If you want recruiters to think you're perfect for the job in question you first need to employ 'self-focused impression management tactics'. Emphasize your personal competence, emphasize your past achievements, emphasize the extent to which your skills are a good fit with the job description. Direct the conversation towards subjects which will particularly highlight your areas of expertise.

This is not groundbreaking stuff, and most interviewees will attempt it anyway. But it's only one factor in recruiters' hiring decisions.

Using impression management to make recruiters think you're a great fit with the organisation 

For success, the academics argue you will also need to make recruiters think you're a wonderful fit with the organisation that's hiring. For this, you'll need to engage 'other-focused impression management tactics'.

Here, you need to make the recruiter think you're similar to the organisation in terms of your beliefs, attitudes and values. Agree with whatever the recruiter says about the organisation. Echo anything the recruiter says about the organisation's outlook. Be aware of the organisation's beliefs and values. Express your agreement with these in your own language. You are going for 'norm activation' - defined as 'the social triggering of an interviewer’s cognitive structures, including associations, beliefs, and values about the ‘right type’ of candidate.'

Using impression management to make recruiters think you're a great person

Finally, if you want to get hired you will need to make the recruiter like you personally.

There are different ways of doing this. You can opt for overt sycophancy: flatter, praise, compliment them. Or you can go for 'non-verbal' methods of ingratiation. Smile a lot. Make and maintain eye-contact (although not for so long that you appear to have a personality dysfunction). Mimic and synchronize your facial expressions with those of the recruiter. Synchronize your posture and movements to match the recruiter's. Nod when the recruiter speaks and generally use the sort of body language that makes people think well of you.

If you make the recruiter like you, you will benefit from 'emotional contagion' say the academics. This occurs when a recruiter's positive mood spills over into the hiring process. A recruiter with contagiously positive thoughts about you is more likely to judge you're a good fit for the job and the organisation than one who suspects you of being a bit boorish.

Related Links:

Six dumb things not to do during a video interview 

The three secrets of successful banking interviews 

The body language that is making you unemployable