When you’re preparing for an interview, it’s easy to psych yourself out. The internet is full of interview tips for hopeful new employees: be polite, bring copies of your resume, practice what you want to say beforehand, etc. These are great interview tips, even though they might come across like common knowledge. The truth is, many people let this simple advice fall by the wayside—and that can be a costly mistake.
If you want to knock the socks off your interviews and stand apart from other candidates, do more than your basic preparation. Showing your interviewer that you are uniquely qualified to solve a fundamental business problem is essential. Whether you’re interviewing customer service, marketing, product development, or support, you’re auditioning to solve a problem.
But interviewers also have biases. And consciously or not, most interviewers are likely to recommend individuals that they like. It’s an open secret that we try to deflect. Hiring managers and recruiters want to believe that we hire based on job fit, culture fit, and skills. But the truth is even simpler than that: we hire people we want to work with. People who are like us. People we relate to.
To make yourself more attractive to interviewers, you can employ a few psychological tricks. By helping your interviewer identify with you, you give yourself a huge leg up to make it to the next round. Or better yet—get the offer on the spot!
Match Your Answers to Your Interviewers Age
A pervasive mistake people make while interviewing is unintentionally alienating their interviewer. Perhaps you made a joke about a favorite TV show. Or you mentioned the fact that you’re fresh out of college, or you referenced looking up information in an encyclopedia. By dating yourself or placing yourself solidly in a particular milieu, you may distance yourself from the interviewer. They may not think you’re much like them or that they don’t have much in common with you. And that limits your chances of advancing.
Before you walk into that interview room, know who you’re meeting with. You can easily find out information about this person on LinkedIn or other social media profiles. Use that information to your advantage. You can usually get a bead on someone’s age by looking at photos, looking at their earliest job experience and title, or looking at their college graduation date.
Consider mapping your interview to someone you know who is close in age. Talk to your interviewer similarly to how you might speak to a colleague of the same age. What references might they use? What values are important to them? For example, baby boomers might value hard work, dedication, and company loyalty, whereas Millennial interviewers might value flexibility, social activism, and creativity. Depending on your interviewer’s generation, you might choose to emphasize your work ethic, your loyalty, your innovation, or your commitment to the team culture.
Find Common Ground with Your Interviewer
You probably already know to check your interviewer’s LinkedIn profile before you meet. This is a good way to see if you know people in common or have worked in the same office or industry.
But you should also be checking any public social media presence. If you can discern that you interviewer loves dogs or modern art, for example, that’s golden information to take to the interview table.
Whatever you do, however, do not let your interviewer know you’ve been stalking them. Walking into the room and saying, “Hey, I saw your sister had a baby last week! Congratulations!” is a surefire way you never get called back ever again.
As soon as you meet with your interviewer or enter their office, take notes. Are they wearing a video game t-shirt? Do they have a coffee mug sporting a character from a TV show or movie? Do they have a collection of elephant statues on their desk? Doing a quick “cold read” of your subject can help you find common ground that you can build on. Remember: humans tend to be attracted to people similar to them. So if you suspect your interviewer is big into rollerblading, find a way to weave that into your conversation.
One caveat here is to be wary of potentially taboo topics. For example, it’s illegal for an interviewer to ask you if you have children. While this might seem like a natural point of commonality if you notice drawings or photographs on their desk, it could make your interviewer uncomfortable because they don’t want to accidentally stray into illegal territory.
Compliment Other People
While you may be thinking that a golden ticket at an interview is to say nice things about the company or team you’re interviewing with, that method can sometimes backfire. It may come off as insincere or sucking up. A better choice is to compliment other people.
Perfect times for this is any time you’re asked about your current or previous employer. Take that opportunity to say kind things about your boss, your coworkers, or even your clients or customers. People are drawn toward positivity, and people who speak kindly about others are seen as very positive.
When asked the reason you’re leaving, leave your manager or boss out of it. Even if they’re the real reason you’re leaving (and research suggests people tend to leave jobs because of bad managers), you don’t need to let your interviewer know that. You can always say something like, “My boss is very creative and very capable. She did the best she could to give me projects that would help me grow, but the right challenges for me aren’t currently available in this role. To develop the muscles I need for my own career development, it’s time to find a new environment.”