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Interview Week: First Impressions

Published 11/24/2017

In today's episode, we continue interview week by talking about the importance and psychology of first impressions.

Check out the Beyond Bootcamp Interview Week Prep Guide at https://beyondbootcamp.io now!

Transcript (Generated by OpenAI Whisper)
I want you to take a second and imagine a villain and then imagine a hero. Both of these things probably conjured up specific images, perhaps related to villains that you've seen in a movie or in a TV show you've seen recently, or maybe it's something that has culturally been perpetuated as a villain. But there's an interesting reality that underlies all of this. While you have some contextually specific things, traits that your villain might carry, many of us share the same traits. A very simple example would be that a villain is usually kind of covered in shadows. You would normally see a villain that kind of looks like they're glowing, right? This is something that we all kind of agree on that a villain is a shadowy figure. Why is this? And more importantly, why does it matter to your interview? That's what we're talking about on today's episode. My name is Jonathan Cutrell. You're listening to Developer Tea. My goal in this show is to help driven developers connect to their career purpose. So they will be inspired to do better work and have a positive impact on the people they have influence on. What this means is if you care about the work that you do, you're going to do a better job. If you do a better job, then ultimately the things you create are going to impact the people around you positively. It's going to have a good change effect on the people around you, including yourself. If you do better work as a general rule, the better work you do, the better you're going to get paid. But the only way to consistently do good work, right? The only way to bring your best to the table is to find real motivation, find a real underlying purpose to keep doing what you're doing, to keep getting better, to keep learning. And that's what my goal is on the show, to help you find that and to inspire you to keep doing those learning exercises, inspire you to continue seeing yourself as a work in progress. So, in today's episode, we're talking about interviews. This is the final episode of the interview week. We've already talked about quite a bit of ways of answering questions, for example, having openness, ways to approach a job situation with Heather's question at the beginning of the week. In today's episode, we're talking about first impressions and framing. If you've never heard of this concept, I encourage you to do a little bit of research because framing is incredibly powerful. Specifically, there's some research that was done by Daniel Coniman and his colleagues, and you can read about it in thinking fast and slow. As you all know, this is kind of my recommended book of the year. But the concept of framing is incredibly important to our psychology. And framing is a very simple thing to understand. And if I told you that this car that I'm selling you, a hypothetical car that I'm going to sell you is $10,000. Then immediately, your only frame of reference is that it is a car and it costs $10,000. So, you create other anchors, right? You mentally are going to figure out how that fits into your existing frame of reference. If you create your own frame, then it's going to be highly dependent on whatever you have experienced. So if you only see that number and, for example, you've bought your own car in the past, then you might create your own frame of your own car versus that number. How much your car costs versus that car's cost? And you might start to even subconsciously compare the two cars. You may feel a sense of positive bias towards your car. Thinking that you got a better dollar's worth out of your car, for example. However, if I cast the frame, if I tell you that this car costs $25,000, but I'm going to give you a huge steep discount on this car. I'm going to give you a $15,000 discount on the car. Now the actual price of the car is $10,000. Then you start to get a different frame of reference. Now, of course, there are limits to this. And this particular example, it's obvious that a $15,000 discount, that's over 50% of the original price of the car, the original price never even mattered in the first place. Nobody's ever going to buy this car for that amount if anybody is selling it for $10,000. But here's the amazing thing. And the thing I want you to pay the most attention to. Even when you can recognize that the pricing of that car is fake. Even when you can recognize that the sticker price was never intended to be used in the first place, and that the discounted price now is probably the real price. That's what we can all kind of agree on. Even when that happens in your slow thinking as Daniel Connamen would call it, your fast thinking still sees and feels that discount. And this is the same psychological principle as first impressions. Fast thinking is exactly where your first impressions happen. And this fast thinking is informed largely by our instincts in harmony with our experiences. This might explain why villains are often cast as shadowy figures. A shadowy figure has a lot of mystery, for example. We can't see what's going on inside of a shadow. We can't see what's happening in the dark. And the unknown is dangerous. Our brains, because of our instincts, if you rewind back to the very early days of humanity, our brains are concerned about the unknown, we want to find certainties so that we can avoid the threats of the unknown. There's no telling what's going to happen if we're in the dark. So this concept of being in the dark, the concept of shadows, all of this plays into our initial instincts, our immediate response to a shadowy figure. And it's why it makes sense to cast villains in shadows. So here's why this matters. You may walk into your interview with your slow thinking mind engaged fully. Believing that the sum of the interview will be objectively measured by the interviewer. Unfortunately, this is almost never true. We're trained to think this way for many different reasons. One of the reasons is because the way that we do testing in schools is an attempt to base everything off of merit. In other words, you know the material, therefore you can get a good grade. But in an interview, we're using a lot of fast thinking to not only judge whether or not a person is competent, not only judge their hard skills, but also understand them as a person. And how well they're going to work with the team. So your first impression, the framing matters. Not just because it's a popular thing to say, not just as an excuse to dress well for the interview, but rather because at a core psychological level, your first impression is going to have an effect and impact on everything that happens after the first impression. And there's a hundred tips I could give you about making a good first impression. You know, there's plenty of research that's been done about good first impressions. I'm going to give you a few right now, but then I'm going to talk about this concept of active framing and how you can actively frame the conversation at the beginning of an interview so that the rest of the interview kind of uses that as a reference point. But first, a few tips for making good first impression. Smiling is important. It's incredibly important. A smile at the instinctual level suggests friendliness and a lack of threat. But there's an important aspect to smiling that you may not understand. I encourage you to do a little bit of Google research, but there are many different types of smiles. And it's kind of intuitive if you think back on someone who was smiling, they were forcing a smile versus someone who was smiling out of excitement or adrenaline versus someone who's smiling because they're about to laugh at something that they think is amusing. That is funny. And versus someone who's smiling because of a sentimental moment, maybe a loved one just gave them some affirming words of encouragement. There are so many different types of smiles and it's important to recognize that the genuineness of your smile is actually important. People can actually pick up on the genuineness of a smile. This is one of those things in our fast thinking. We can very quickly size up someone's intentions based on their facial expressions. Even when we're wrong sometimes, we actually tend to be right about this. And you can read about this in Dale Carnegie's book How to Win Friends and Influence People. Even though he's not doing a bunch of psychological, you know, clinical research, the idea is that people have a pretty good gut intuition about your intention. So if you walk in and you force a smile, then people are going to know that you're forcing a smile. Instead, what I encourage you to do is to develop a favorable desire for the company. In other words, before you walk into the interview, remind yourself that you want for the people you are talking to to succeed. You want for them to walk away from this interview feeling like they hit a home run. You want for the company you are interviewing at to succeed. You want the best for the people who are in that company, both at a personal level and at a professional level, developing and exploring these real feelings and these real perspectives on the company that you are interviewing for is going to help you approach that conversation with a genuine smile that communicates trust. It communicates a connection, a positive connection between you and that company. If instead you walk in and you display a smile on purpose in order to succeed for yourself, then it's possible and perhaps even likely that the interview is going to be able to detect that manipulative technique. Don't do this in a manipulative way. Any of these first impression techniques, they need to be genuine. I want to move on and talk about this idea of framing the conversation. There's only so much you can do to control your first impressions, the most important factor being, having a positive attitude and presenting yourself in a non-threatening way. For example, dressing similar to the people in the company that you are interviewing for, this communicates that you're not going to come in and cause a bunch of turbulence. There's a lot of things that you can work on for your first impression. We're not going to talk about all those specifics. I do want to spend a moment talking about framing the conversation. Wherever you start the conversation is going to be an anchor for where the conversation goes. The beginning of the conversation is critical. I have a very simple suggestion for people who are walking in interviews and you don't have a way of framing that interview initially. What I want you to do is ask the interviewers and you can phrase it this way. Before we start this interview, I'd love to know in three months or six months from now what a successful outcome would look like if I were to get this position. What this is going to do, it's going to create in the interviewer's mind a vision that they may not have already had for the future. In their response to this question, they're going to formulate connections to that vision. Because you've asked this question with you in the frame, because you've asked, how can this look successful in six months with me still here? Then they are envisioning you in that job. Whether or not you fit in that job is yet to be determined. You still have to go through the interview and they still have to determine whether that picture was valid or not. This process of envisioning you in the job is extremely important because it's very possible that you are the fifth or the 50th or the 500th candidate that they have interviewed. It's very possible that your interviewers are walking through the steps, moving through the motions rather than really trying to envision you in that spot. By prompting them with this framing question, you have evoked that future possibility. You have forced this image to be created in their minds. From here on out in the interview, they're going to use that image of a successful future as their framing point, as their frame of reference for the rest of the conversation. Of course, this episode and every other episode of Developer Tea, all of this stuff is experimental. All of this is not guaranteed to get your job by any means, is not guaranteed to succeed in your interview. You may even have an interviewer respond by saying, we're not going to talk about that right now, but we want to get into these questions. Don't be discouraged if that happens. You cannot control what happens in that interview. You cannot control what questions you get from your interviewer. The only things that you can control are your responses. The only thing you can control is your actions, your preparation. I encourage you to focus on the things that you can control in that situation and allow the other things to happen as they will. Being prepared for those moments is the most important thing you can do, preparing for the difficult questions, preparing for the difficult people. Your interview may have had a bad morning. They may have woken up on the wrong side of the bed, gotten cut off in traffic. Whatever it is, they may walk in in a bad mood. You have to be prepared for the reality that that may affect your interview. In fact, their bad mood, depending on the interview structure, their bad mood could prevent you from getting this job. You have to prepare yourself, but not consider those things as factors that you can control. Thank you so much for listening to Developer Tea. If you are preparing for a job interview, go and check out my interview prep guide. I talk about some of the techniques that we talked about in this episode. In that interview week prep guide, you can find it beyondbootcamp.io. It's totally free to you. And it has tons of practical advice, just like what you got in this episode. I hope you will go and check it out once again, beyondbootcamp.io. Thank you again for listening to today's episode. If you connected with this episode. If you found value in it. If you want to continue working to become better in your career, better as a developer, as a professional and as a person. Then I encourage you to subscribe to this podcast and whatever podcasting app you're listening to right now. Thank you so much for listening and until next time, enjoy your tea.