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You Can't Read the Minds of the Interviewer (or anyone else;)

29 February 2024

We all fool ourselves when we say (or think) things like:

  • I don't think James likes me...
  • I could tell Sian wasn't happy with the work I did...
  • I'm sure Elise doesn't want me to apply for the promotion...
  • Tim is sure to want to get me involved in this...
  • They didn't look me in the eye so I'm sure they didn't like what I said...
  • Una asked me so many questions that I'm convinced she doesn't believe what I said...

Mind reading is when we take a thin slice of someone's behaviour (their facial expression, the crack in their voice, their distractedness) and we make guesses about what it means is going on in their minds.  It is a very valuable skill and we wouldn't be able to function socially without it. But decades of research shows that we are actually terrible at doing it, especially when it is about something that is really important to us or when we are in ambiguous and emotional situations such as a job interview.



In a job interview we simply shouldn't listen to our wayward mind reading.

That they asked you lots of follow up questions does not mean they doubted your answers.
That a panel member doesn't make eye contact with you probably says more about them than you.
That they wrote lots of notes does not mean they are searching for the mistakes in your answers.
That someone didn't smile when you shook their had does not mean they had already decided you would not be a fit.
That the hiring manager yawns more likely means they had a late night rather than your answers are boring.
This list of mis-interpretations could go on and on...

The circumstances of a job interview mean that you will be more inclined to infer bad things - you can't help but bring a negativity bias. Please don't trust your faulty mind reading as it interferes with you being fully present and cognitively flexible.

Instead of mind reading get good at training your brain to get good at calling "bulls..." when you start inferring.  Practice getting stronger at this in your day to day interactions so you are better able to do it in job interviews.

As always, wishing you a flourishing career.


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