All athletes pump themselves up just before competing… and now there’s proof that job-hunters can benefit by doing the same thing before making a cold call, writing a covering letter, or heading into an interview.
A new study shows candidates perform better when they give themselves a pep talk before any interaction with hiring managers.
But there’s a trick to psyching yourself up, says psychologist Joris Lammers from Holland’s Tilburg University who led the study. The key is not to just punch the air and tell yourself you’re powerful — but to give yourself proof.
How? Take a few minutes to think back to a time when you felt sure of yourself, and happy. It doesn’t have to be a work situation. You can recall any peak moment in your life to help you rev up your confidence when you need it.
The study followed a group of people who – just before they met with interviewers or wrote a covering letter – wrote about an experience when they felt powerful. The researchers compared the results of this group to another group who wrote about a time when they felt powerless, and to a third group who didn’t write anything.
Sure enough, those who recalled a time when they felt great scored the highest with independent “blind” interviewers (who didn’t know what the study was about).
The interviewers said they would like to hire:
- 68% of the people in the power group.
- 28% of the non-power group.
- 47% of people who didn’t write anything before their interview.
- Also, the covering letters of the power-group were consistently preferred over the others.
At The Bagg Group, we interview candidates every day for full-time, contract or temporary placements with the best companies in the GTA and beyond. We know, first-hand, that when a candidate conveys a sense of optimism and self-belief, their confidence is contagious.
Unfortunately, self-doubt and pessimism are equally infectious. When a candidate feels ineffective and powerless, the hiring manager senses it, and typically takes a pass.
So next time you prepare to write a covering letter, make a tough call, and go for an interview, try the following exercise — or come up with your own way to way to power up. Just a few minutes spent remembering how strong and sure of yourself you can be may help you hit the ball right out of the park.
How to power up:
- Think about a time when you felt truly alive, joyful, engaged.
- What were you doing at the time?
- What did you most enjoy about what you were doing?
- How did this experience connect you to your personal value? A personal value is something that’s important to you. For instance, perhaps this experience put you in touch with your value of learning, or adventure, or fun, or honesty, or independence, or collaboration, or friendship.)
- Was anyone with you at the time? If so, what was your impact on them?
Finally, don’t forget that a peak moment doesn’t have to be a “perfect” moment. For instance, if running a marathon was a peak experience for you, you could have finished last and still felt powerful.
By the way, if you want to know how the pro athletes psych themselves up, one of the most popular examples is that of the All Blacks, New Zealand’s national rugby team. The All Blacks have won over 75% of their matches since 1903. They’re famous for their pre-game ritual that involves a Maori war cry and dance. They do it on the field, in full view of the opposing team. By all accounts, it’s intense and intimidating. Whatever works for you is great…but if it’s a ritual that involves a lot of stomping and yelling, we don’t recommend that you do it in front of a hiring manager!