The Mysterious Force That Could Land You Your Next Assignment …

John Wood here. Earlier this week, I focused on self-marketing through the social network LinkedIn. Today, I’m going to show you how to boost your chances of being successful in an interview, a key part of landing clients for your freelance business, whether you’ve connected through LinkedIn or some other means.

I've been reading Richard Wiseman's book 59 Seconds: Change Your Life in Under a Minute recently. In it, he talks about how to give the "perfect interview."

To uncover this mystery, first let me ask you a question …

What are the determining factors interviewers use when deciding whom to award a job to?

If you ask an employer, chances are they'll say they hire the person who has the best qualifications and skills for the job.

Most employers draw up a key list of attributes and expertise they want the successful candidate to possess. They look over the person's resume for evidence of the wanted skills and then use the interview process to discover more information about the person.

But is this how the process really works? Is it that cut and dried?

Research from Chad Higgins and Timothy Judge, from the University of Washington and University of Florida respectively, suggests otherwise.

They believe that there's a "mysterious powerful force" (Wiseman's words) that comes into play when a hiring decision is made. Higgins and Judge came to that conclusion after following the outcomes of more than 100 former students who were setting out to obtain their first job after college.

Here's what they did …

First, they examined every resume for each candidate’s qualifications and experience (the two factors thought to play key roles in the decision-making process).

Then after the interview, they had the students complete a standard questionnaire which touched on things such as how they believe they had performed … whether they made the most of their positive points … if they had demonstrated an interest in the company … and whether they had asked about the type of person the interviewer was looking for.

Higgins and Judge then asked the interviewers to provide feedback on several factors, including the candidate's performance, whether they thought the person would fit in well with the organization, whether they had the required skills, and most importantly, whether they would be offered the job.

Surprisingly (or not), they concluded that the most important factor in whether someone was offered a job was not their qualification or work experience.

In fact, the most important factor was whether the candidate was thought to be a pleasant person.

The interviewees who …

  • chatted about topics not directly related to the job (but were of interest to the interviewer)
  • made a special effort to smile
  • maintained eye contact with the interviewer
  • praised the organization

 … were the ones who, more often than not, were hired for the job.

They were offered a job because in the interviewer's opinion, their likeability and social skills would make it easy for them to integrate into their new company.

This is significant for a number of reasons.

In terms of applying for a job, it's a great thing to keep in mind if your resume is not quite as "stellar" as some other applicants' and you need some kind of edge to give you the upper hand.

Plus, it drives home the importance of being an easygoing, likeable person. Experience and skill are important, of course. And you should be able to do any work you are hired to do.

But when given a choice between a well-qualified candidate with a sour outlook and a somewhat qualified candidate with a smile and positive attitude … you can guess who gets hired.

It's something to keep in mind next time you're talking to a new client, at your next networking event, or introducing yourself to a speaker or vendor at AWAI's next FastTrack to Copywriting Success Bootcamp and Job Fair.

Have you had any notable successes that came about because of your sunny disposition? Do you have any tips to share? If so, please post your comments below.

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Published: January 26, 2012

2 Responses to “The Mysterious Force That Could Land You Your Next Assignment...”

  1. I once had an interviewer ask me several of the stereotypical interview questions. You know, "tell me about a time when you failed at something and how you handled it." I literally leaned across the table and asked him point-blank "What? Did you read a book on this stuff right before I got here?"

    I got the job.

    Jeff KonturJanuary 26, 2012 at 4:23 pm

  2. In my experience the primary purpose of the resume is to get the candidate to the top of the heap and chosen for a face to face interview. Once you are chosen for that interview you are now in "sales" mode, expanding on facts presented in your resume and convincing the interviewer that YOU are truly the right candidate for this particular job.

    Guest (BD)January 26, 2012 at 4:24 pm


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