Mind Hacks For Job Seekers: How To Win Jobs And Influence People

As a job seeker, it seems like all you hear is bad news: the economy sucksno one is hiring (even when jobs exist), and you majored in the wrong thing. Want some good news for a change? As a Psychology graduate (one of those “wrong” majors), I often joke that I majored in the science of mind hacks. Here are some of the best ones to help you land that dream job:


Mind Hack #1: Be attractive. Don’t be unattractive. (Just kidding. Sort of.)

Due to the “beautiful is good” bias, people are more likely to believe attractive people have better personalities and are more successful in life than their less attractive peers. Research has shown that this beauty premium has tangible outcomes: Good-looking people can expect to make 10% to 15% more money over their lifetime.

Why it works: Researchers found that physically attractive employees were more confident and had better communication and social skills. These are the same traits employers look for in potential hires. Rather than invest in improving your looks, invest in improving your confidence and social skills. (But a polished, professional image never hurts either.)

Mind Hack #2: Power pose for the job you want, not the job you (don’t) have.

In one of the most popular TED talks ever, Harvard Business School Professor Amy Cuddy explains the power of “power posing.” In a fascinating experiment, she and her colleagues found that people who used “high-power” posing (hands on hips, putting your feet up, etc.) prior to a job interview were more likely to be hired.

Why it works: Through two simple 1-minute poses,” high-power posers increased their feelings of power and risk tolerance. So take 2 minutes out of your day to make yourself feel less stressed, more powerful, and more willing to take chances. Truly one of the easiest ways to “fake it ’til you make it.”

Mind Hack #3:  This blog post is brilliant, hilarious, and Nobel Prize-worthy (i.e., the charm of three).

The number three seems to hold a special place in our hearts: third time’s a charm, bad things come in threes, etc. It turns out good things also come in threes: A recent study found that when you’re trying to persuade someone, the optimal number of positive claims you should make is three.

Why it works: Adding even one more additional claim makes the other person skeptical of all your previous claims. Basically, it triggers their bullsh*t alarm. Make sure any descriptions you use of yourself is optimally persuasive by taking advantage of the charm of three. You’re more likely to win someone over with your dazzling personality, impressive smarts, and ambitious work ethic if you do.

Mind Hack #4: Be narcissistic. (Just kidding again. Sort of.) 

Research has confirmed what we all secretly believe to be true: Narcissistic self-promoters win in life. Specifically, the study found people who rated higher on a narcissism scale were considered more attractive as job candidates after a mock interview (i.e., they received more “definitely hire” ratings).

Why it works: Before you go rushing to google, “how to be more narcissistic,” let’s examine the findings in more detail. The researchers found that narcissists were judged to be better job candidates because they “tended to talk about themselves, make eye contact, joke around and ask the interviewers more questions.”

DING DING DING. They weren’t just self-promoting, they were confident, personable, knowledgeable, and funny. A killer combination for interviews and in life.

Mind Hack #5: Be the potential that you wish to see in the world.

What’s more persuasive to others: highlighting a proven track record of success or the potential for future brilliance? Surprisingly, it’s the potential. The caveat? The information about a potential superstar has to be considered credible, or it backfires and people end up liking the person less than the proven one.

Why it works: The researchers found that someone with the potential for success, compared to actual success, is more attractive because of the uncertainty involved. This uncertainty forces us to think harder and longer about the person to make sense of the information at hand.

You know how people always claim they hire for potential? Figure out how to showcase your potential for success based on credible information about your skills and abilities. One easy way: Get some (genuine) recommendations on your LinkedIn profile.

Mind Hack #6: 87% of people who read this blog post also donated to charity (i.e., provide the right sort of social proof).

One of the most famous studies on influence looked at the effect of social proof. The researchers examined what type of messaging was more influential for getting hotel guests to reuse their towels: focusing on protecting the environment or providing social proof. Specifically, guests were told one of four messages that most people in a following group reused their towels: people in general, guests who had previously stayed at the hotel, female/male guests who had previously stayed at the hotel, and guests who had previously stayed in their room. The results: 49% of the guests in the “same room” condition reused their towels compared to 43% of the guests in the other four conditions combined.

Why is works: Social proof – especially social proof of similar others – is a very effective influencing technique because it creates a behavioral norm guideline in our minds (i.e., tells us how others similar to us behave in the same situation).

Identify the right reference group for the employers you’re targeting and use the power of social proof. For example, if you’re looking for a sales job, hit them with something like, “Did you know that, with the exception of a face-to-face interview, sales leaders rate a sales assessment as the most productive evaluation tool for selecting entry level sales talent?”

Mind Hack #7: I’m so excited, I’m so excited, I’m so…scared excited.

Networking with strangers is nerve-wracking. Interviewing is nerve-racking. Research tells us that telling yourself to calm down in stressful times is actually counterproductive. So what to do instead? Tell yourself you’re excited and you’ll perform better.

Why it works: When you’re anxious, you’re physiologically aroused (sweaty palms, beating heart, etc.). It’s the same reaction as when you’re excited. The physical sensation of calmness, on the other hand, feels like the opposite. That makes it easier to “trick” yourself that you’re excited rather than try to convince yourself to calm down. So do yourself a favor and re-frame any anxiety-provoking job search behaviors as “exciting challenges.”

And if all else fails, there’s always pictures of kittens. Want to learn more? Read the godfather of influence research Robert Cialdini’s Harvard Business Review article “Harnessing the Science of Persuasion” here.

Looking for further tips on how to land a job? You may be interested in my post How to Get Hired for a Job in Sales Without Experience. Got a question? Ask me in the comments below! Or tweet @ideal.

Looking for a job in sales? I’m currently launching an app that looks to match talented salespeople with their ideal sales jobs. You can set up a profile and get early access here.

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Ji-A Min

Ji-A Min

Head Data Scientist at Ideal
Ji-A Min is the Head Data Scientist at Ideal. With a Master’s in Industrial-Organizational Psychology, Ji-A promotes best practices in data-based recruitment. She writes about research and trends in talent acquisition, recruitment tech, and people analytics.
Ji-A Min