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How to Interview Well: Use This Trick

How can you interview well?

If you are the interviewer, you probably want to make a good impression as part of your employer branding strategy. A positive impression can convince the best candidates to accept an offer from you, and not someone else.

And of course, if you are being interviewed, making a good impression will probably help to get you an offer.

What influences people’s impressions?

A group of researchers recently studied factors that can influence people’s impressions of you.

They confirmed a few things that seem fairly obvious:

  • Personality makes a difference—we tend to like people who are more agreeable and open to new experiences.
  • Intelligence makes a difference—we tend to like people with higher IQ scores.

But they found that timing makes an even bigger difference.

Mental speed makes people like you

The most charismatic, funny, and witty people can think fast.

Even after we account for a person’s overall IQ, and how agreeable and open they are, mental speed remains a major factor in how much we like a person.

If nothing else, being able to think faster allows you to consider the options before asking or answering a question. What is the most appropriate question? What is the wittiest response?

But mental speed isn’t directly what other people can observe.

All that other people can see is how quickly you can come up with a question, or respond with an answer. And of course, awkward pauses can make the opposite impression.

How to increase (observable) mental speed to interview well

What can you do to appear “quick on your feet” to interview well?

Practice and preparation can help. Candidates receive this advice often.

Interviewers should also know that preparing interview questions in advance tends to create a more positive impression on candidates. (Well-prepared interviewers are also more likely to collect enough relevant information and collect information more consistently, leading to smarter decisions.)

But here’s the trick for how to interview well that you might not know.  

Recent research suggests that eye contact takes up “mental resources.”

More specifically, eye contact slows down your other thought processes.

If you look a person in the eyes when trying to think of something, it takes significantly longer to do it. So if you’ve previously heard the advice that eye contact in an interview is always a good thing, you should know that’s not the whole story.

When you’re trying to come up with a question or respond with an answer, eye contact will probably slow you down. So if you want to interview well, looking away at the right times can speed up your responses and in turn might make you appear even more charismatic, funny, and witty.