What you do in the two minutes before your job interview could help you get the job. That’s the finding of Harvard Business School professor Amy Cuddy, a leading expert in body language.
People who spend just two minutes standing or sitting in a high power position before they enter the room are more likely to get hired, according to her research.
To get into a high body position make yourself big, and open up your body. Put your hands on your hips, or behind your head, or up in the air. Stretch out. If sitting, extend your legs in front of you. If walking, stride tall and swing your arms.
Professor Cuddy explains that changes in body position have an impact on the brain. Laboratory studies show two minutes in a high power position increases the power hormone testosterone and decreases the stress hormone cortisol
As a result, people walk into the interview feeling stronger and convey a greater sense of confidence and optimism that wins over their audience.
Speaking at a Ted Talk, professor Cuddy detailed an experiment that proves her point. Job candidates were instructed to spend two minutes in either a high power or low power position before an interview.
The interviews, which were taped, were especially stressful. Interviewers were trained to not reveal emotion during the exchange. An expressionless face that doesn’t react is more unsettling than even heckling, explained Amy Cuddy.
Hiring managers, who didn’t know anything about the experiment, reviewed the tapes. In every case, they chose to hire those who had been in high power positions before their interviews. Not a single one selected a candidate who had spent two minutes in a low power position.
Asked why they chose the candidates they did, the hiring managers all focused on qualities related to a person’s presence, such as confidence, passion, enthusiasm.
Yet it’s common before an interview for most of us to get into a low power position. That’s one in which you make yourself smaller. While waiting, many of us hunch over our phones or a magazine, cross our legs and arms, collapse into ourselves a little.
And that’s a huge mistake, insists professor Cuddy. Make yourself smaller and by the time you walk into the interview, you have sent your brain the message that you don’t feel powerful. And as a result, your stress increases.
We all pick up on non-verbal cues. Stressed people convey anxiety and uncertainty — not exactly a good first impression.
That’s why the experts in body language urge candidates to find a space, even if it’s a bathroom stall, where they can make themselves as big as possible. Or walk up and down the corridor for two minutes, swinging your arms.
At The Bagg Group, we think it’s worth trying. We place candidates successfully in full-time positions, contract work, or temporary placements with the best companies in the GTA. Our candidates have the right skills, but it’s not just talent that wins the day. It’s also attitude.
So consider experimenting by adopting a power position for two minutes before any kind of difficult situation, even making a cold call, and see how it feels.
As professor Cuddy says, “it’s a tiny tweak for a big effect. Such tweaks to body language can change the way your life unfolds.”
But remember, get into a high power position before the interview, not during it. You don’t want to sit in an interview with your legs stretched out on the interviewer’s desk, and your hands behind your head. That would be taking power a little too far.