“Emotions have no place in business unless you do business with them.” — Friedrich Durrenmatt, Swiss author.
You may have heard the saying, “People buy on emotion and rationalize with logic.” This consumerism adage is also true for how employers hire. Hence, there is an unspoken hiring truism you need to navigate when job hunting, which is all hiring decisions hinge on a single factor: Gut feeling. (aka intuition)
Typically, ‘gut feeling’ during the hiring process refers to the hiring manager’s judgement of the candidates’ characteristics, such as their interests, motivation, attitude, work ethic, and self-presentation during face-to-face interviews. However, ‘gut feeling’ also applies to your resume (e.g., typos, grammar mistakes, font style), your LinkedIn profile and your digital footprint.
From the moment your application is read to when you get an offer letter, you will be judged, usually by several people involved in the hiring process. Much of that judgment will be based on ‘gut feeling.’
Research has repeatedly shown that psychological factors, such as emotions and feelings, greatly influence hiring decisions.
Emotions dominate human behaviour more than logic. In addition, it is also human nature to like people similar to us. (I drive a Mustang. The candidate drives a Mustang. Therefore, I like the candidate.) For better or worse, emotions guide every decision you make. Thus, in every interview, emotions and feelings are omnipresent.
I will admit my ‘gut feeling’ is a significant factor when deciding whether to hire a candidate. If something about a candidate does not feel right, I will go with my feeling and pass on them. On a related note, listen to your feelings if you feel something is not right about the employer.
As a job seeker, you can only control your emotions, not those of your interviewer. Therefore, let us look at how a candidate’s emotions can influence the outcome of an interview.
You are about to interview for your dream job. Understandably you are excited and enthusiastic, but you hit traffic unexpectedly. Even though you are not late for the interview, you walk into the boardroom, agitated and angry. The answers you give are abrupt, almost rude-like. How do you think your interviewer will assess your character? How will they assess your ability to interact with your colleagues? What do you think your interviewer’s gut is telling them about you?
Obviously, you are not angry with your interviewer or the job. However, the emotions you express, irrespective of what sparked them, will profoundly impact how your interviewer perceives you and how they assess your suitability.
Truism: People have little imagination when it comes to other people. What you show them is the only thing they will know.
Do not think your social skills are not being assessed to determine if you will get along with coworkers and be able to build relationships with clients.
Now suppose you walked into that interview with a huge smile, radiating confidence and happiness. Your handshake is firm. It is evident from your body language and mannerisms that you are grateful to have been invited for an interview.
What happens to the mood of the room, then? Well, for one thing, we all like being around happy people, thus your interviewer will lean into you. However, more than that happens; you influence your interviewer’s mood. Happiness, enthusiasm, passion and excitement are “yawning” emotions. In other words, when you the person you are interacting with is displaying a particular emotion, you tend to mirror it. (All emotions are contagious.)
Therefore, when you exude positive emotions, your interviewer will “most likely”—human psychology is not an exact science; therefore, there are no guarantees how someone will respond to the emotions you display—respond positively.
The excitement you demonstrate when discussing how you landed a 6-figure sale for your last employer will “most likely” translate into your interviewer having positive emotions about you, hence they are “more likely” to subconsciously see you as a fit.
I have said it before, throughout your interview, your interviewer is asking themselves one question: “Do I like this person?”
In one form or another, I often get asked the following question: What is most likely to get you hired, emotional restraint or exuberance? What is the relationship between enthusiasm intensity and perceived job suitability?
The importance of positive communication cues in forming a positive first impression cannot be overstated.
Is it possible to be over-enthusiastic? Yes! A fine line exists between genuine enthusiasm and sounding too eager, which often comes across as desperate and is unattractive.
Then there are emotional displays you should never display, such as anger or crying. (Believe it or not, tough interview questions can make some people cry.) Employers tend not to hire candidates who cannot control their emotions. On the other hand, I believe “raw” emotional expression demonstrates authenticity and genuineness, but that is just me.
In my next column, I will discuss developing a charismatic personality trait, thereby increasing your likeability. (Remember, your interviewer is asking themselves, “Do I like this person?”) As I have mentioned in a previous column, being likeable trumps your skills and experience.
Nick Kossovan, a well-seasoned veteran of the corporate landscape, offers “unsweetened” job search advice. You can send Nick your questions to email@example.com.