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The Psychology of Hiring: What Are Employers Looking For?

psychology of hiringGoing through the hiring process can feel like you’ve run an assault course and that’s because it’s a mentally draining process. Hiring, especially the interview stage, is a rejection centered process, and you are scrutinized and assessed based on everything from your body language to the answers you give to the interview questions. But what is the psychology of hiring? What are the interviewers looking for and what can you do to increase your chances? 

The Psychology of Hiring: What Are Employers Looking For?

In the past, I’ve Googled how to interview well. I’ve used the techniques below and they have absolutely worked. Check them out, implement them, and give yourself a better shot at your dream job!

Related: 35+ High-Paying Jobs Without a Degree

The End Goal

To understand the psychology that goes on within the hiring process we first need to remind ourselves of the end goal from the employers perspective. It’s to find an individual with the skills and experience to carry out the role in question. And, who also fits well into the existing team and company culture.

Hiring is an expensive process, so HR wants to get it right the first time. This puts a lot of pressure on them to find the perfect candidate who not only fits the job description, but is going to be happy in their working environment. Otherwise, they’ll find themselves recruiting for the position again.

The Tools Interviewers Initially Use

To gauge the suitability of a candidate for a particular role, interviewers use a number of psychology tools. …One of which is the structured interview.

Structured interviews are a form of quantitative research method designed to be fair by asking the interviewees the same rigid, non-open ended questions. These questions could be behavioral or experience led and can be set up very cleverly to use positive psychology in order to reveal candidates’ strengths.

Although positive psychology is sometimes used in interviews by accident, interviewers can also be trained in it to give them a better chance of learning about a candidate’s…

  • resilience,
  • work ethic and
  • sense of personal fulfillment. 

Other psychological tools that could be used by interviewers include cognitive ability tests or work samples which are often regarded as the most reliable ways to assess a candidate’s ability and suitability for a role. 

Psychological Things You Can Use to Your Advantage  

Interviews can be structured to give an interviewee the best insight into the psychology and suitability of their candidates. But, there are also a number of more subtle entirely subconscious aspects to the interview process. Once candidates are aware of them, they can definitely use them to their advantage.

These include:

1) Risk aversion

As we have already mentioned, the hiring process is an expensive procedure for businesses. This costs them both time and money and as such the interviewer will be looking to hire the lowest risk candidate. …i.e the one who fits the job and is the least likely to leave or cause any problems.

  • Candidates can take advantage of this by positioning themselves as the least risk candidate,
  • being wary of the risks employers are worried about,
  • and then putting the interviewer at ease.

2) Friendliness

Subconsciously the human brain is wired to respond to facial expressions such as a smile. A smile is a non-threatening emotion that helps to put the other party at ease and will make you seem more likable and personable to the person conducting the interview. Smiling can also benefit you as the candidate, with even fake smiles releasing happy chemicals called endorphins that help to reduce stress.

This is one of the best hacks when it comes to the psychology of hiring – BUT, don’t over-smile…that’s just creepy. 😉

3) Mirroring

Mirroring is something many of us do every day without noticing it. In essence, mirroring means copying someone’s behavior to make yourself their equal. For example…

  • if the interviewer stands, you stand to,
  • if the interviewer crosses his legs, you cross yours.

These small behavioral actions mirror the body language of the person you are with making them feel ad affinity to you even as a stranger.

4) Visualization

Visualization is an important mental tool used by the world’s top athletes to help them achieve their goals and it can be used by you to prepare for your job interview. Visualizing yourself as a calm and confident candidate in a successful interview can help to relax you and give you confidence in the real interview. It will also help you to feel more prepared for any scenario that may occur.

5) Declaring weakness

That all-important interview question ‘what do you think is your biggest weakness’ can tell an interviewer so much more than just what you are less good at, it also reveals your honesty.

Honesty is a very important characteristic in the workplace and one which is highly regarded by interviewers. Be open and genuine about your weaknesses, but as always, try to put a positive spin on it!

What have you learned about the psychology of hiring? What will you apply?



My name is Derek, and I have my Bachelors Degree in Finance from Grand Valley State University. After graduation, I was not able to find a job that fully utilized my degree, but I still had a passion for Finance! So, I decided to focus my passion in the stock market. I studied Cash Flows, Balance Sheets, and Income Statements, put some money into the market and saw a good return on my investment. As satisfying as this was, I still felt that something was missing. I have a passion for Finance, but I also have a passion for people. If you have a willingness to learn, I will continue to teach.


  1. “The ability to manage time successfully is often demonstrated during the interview process,” Miles says. You can start your interview on the right foot simply by being on time. Beyond that, try talking about times in your life where you clearly had competing priorities and explain what you did to stay on top of deadlines.

    • Yup! Love it!

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