As part of Careers Prep in a Day, we delivered an Interviews & Assessment Center workshop. Inevitably, questions turned to what one should wear at interview and the importance of body language which triggered quite a discussion. This prompted me to write a blog post about body language in interviews and I decided to do a google search to see if there were any interesting views out there.
I was fascinated to come across 'the popular piece of advice that is sabotaging your job search' published by the Huffington Post two days ago. The writer Marianne Stenger suggests that a technique called mirroring, which is said to help build rapport and make us seem more likable in social situations such as job interviews may well have a negative effect; and if you're not careful causing you to inadvertently mimic negative behavior.
A study published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology suggests that whether you're doing it consciously or not, mirroring can lead you to mimic a person's negative behavior, which cancels out any positive effects it may have had.
To test this, the researchers had group of college students take part in a staged phone interview. Each student was asked the exact same interview questions; the only difference was that for some students, the interviewer's tone of voice was neutral, while for others the interviewer took on a more negative tone. Without even realizing it, applicants matched their tone of voice to the interviewer's. Those who had a negative toned interviewer ended up responding to the questions with a more negative tone of voice, and inadvertently lowered their performance rating.
So, should you mirror or not?
Our view here in Careers is don't discount the impact body language has in an interview all together! Afterall body language is a universal language that we all speak and there is plenty of research out there that backs this school of thought. The mistake we find a lot of students and graduates make is that they over think body language to a point that they are not 'present' in the interview! For example, if you are comfortable with mirroring; than this is OK as long as you don't go OTT about the whole thing. Don't be so focused on mirroring that you stop listening to the questions that the interviewer is asking. And remember your body language is one element of your overall interview performance.
Interviews are a solitary activity, it can be really helpful to seek out objective feedback. So before you go to your next interview, why not book a practice interview with one of our careers advisers? We can give you honest and constructive feedback so that you are confident on the big day.