Coburg Banks | Multi-sector UK recruitment agency

6 Psychological Interview Tricks You Can Learn From Salespeople

By Anthony Hughes | Mar 25, 2015 | Candidate Tips

You already know that a job interview is the chance to sell yourself to an employer, but have you thought what that really means?

Rather than seeing your interview as a gauntlet of nerves that you have to get through, it’s actually an opportunity to utilise an arsenal of tricks that Sales people have refined over many years to boost your chances of securing your dream job.

Neuro Linguisting Programming or NLP, created by Richard Bandler and John Grinder in the 1970s, has turned the sales process into an art form.

We’d like to show you a few of the tricks you could adapt to make your interviews fly.

The simple pathway for sales is as follows:

  • Establish rapport
  • Establish a need
  • Pitch to the need
  • Overcome objections

You can use the exact same model, just slightly adapted for your interviewer:

  • Establish rapport:  Be friendly and approachable with your interviewer, come across as someone they will want to work with
  • Establish a need:  Listen to the role requirements in detail, asking any questions where necessary
  • Pitch to the need:  Tell the interviewer how you can do the job, using real life examples of your experience for proof
  • Overcome objections:  If there are any question marks about your ability, listen and clearly explain how you would overcome them, again with examples

There are some specific psychological tricks you can use in your interview to help you achieve all of the above.  Here are 6 of the best techniques that you can use right away.

1.  Speak their language

If you listen to your interviewer’s speech patterns, you’ll discover something really important.

Everybody thinks in either visual (seeing), auditory (hearing) or kinesthetic (feeling) speech patterns. Depending on what kind of person they are shapes the kind of language they use.

Sounds like scientific mumbo-jumbo?  Well if somebody has ever seen eye-to-eye, struck a chord or touched a nerve with you, then you’ve already been exposed to this probably without already knowing.

Typical phrases will include:

Visual People:

‘Can you see what I’m saying?’

‘Let me paint you a picture.’

‘Look at this.’

Auditory People:

‘Can you hear what I’m saying?’

‘I like the sound of that’

‘That rings a bell’

Kinesthetic People:

‘I feel this is the best course of action’

‘Let’s touch on this subject.’

‘That hits home.’

The vast majority of people are either visual or auditory thinkers.  Kinesthetic people are less common, but people obviously combine them.

Everybody has their preferred way of speaking and thinking, so if you can, identify the interviewer’s primary speech pattern if you can and try and mirror it.  It will go a long way towards establishing rapport and making the interviewer feel like you’re connecting.

2.  Physical Mirroring

This one is a risk and you shouldn’t break it out for the first time in an interview.  If you’re nervous anyway, it can look awkward and forced.

At its worst it can look like you’re mocking them, but if you pull it off then you will be well on your way to establishing rapport.

So if you’re going to practice these techniques, try them on a friend first to give yourself some confidence.

Physical mirroring is exactly what it says on the tin.  You possibly do it without even realising it.  Remember a good date, and how your heads both tilted to the side at the same time, or you both leaned in at the same time?

That’s physical mirroring, and this is exactly the same – only it won’t feel quite so natural, unless of course you really are in rapport with your interviewer!

Don’t just copy the interviewer and don’t treat the situation like a candlelight dinner.  Just take visual cues from the way they’re sitting, their posture, and reflect it back to them.  If they lean back casually in their chair, do the same, if they lean forward and stare you straight in the eye, move towards them, gently.

If the interviewer sees themselves in you, you can once again improve the sense of rapport and strengthen the bond that the relationship.

You can take this one as far as you want, first with pacing their movements, following them, and then by taking the lead.

Once you feel an interviewer has relaxed and you’re in tune, try your own movement, a subtle cough or a change in posture. If they follow you then you’re in tune, and the interview is going well.

Just make sure you don’t force it or it will look unnatural.

3.  Ask questions to establish the primary need

This will involve turning the tables and asking questions, to find out just what the interviewer values most both in the role and the ideal candidate.  The answers might surprise you.

You can do your absolute level best to sell yourself according to the job description.  That’s reasonable, it’s all you can do with the information at your disposal.

But that means you need more information, because you might find that this particular interviewer’s driving force, the main thing that will influence his decision and decide if you get the job or not, has nothing to do with the job description.

They may be looking for someone who is a particularly good fit with the company’s culture for instance, regardless of your technical skills and abilities, so you’ll need to demonstrate that in the interview.

You can only do that, if you know that’s what they’re looking for, which in turn requires questions from you.

Be careful with the way you word your questions, make sure the interviewer doesn’t think you’re trying to take over.

A safe introduction is always: “Do you mind if I ask…”

By asking open-ended questions about the job, the company and the last employee (who, how, why, what, where and when) and listening intently to the answers, though, you’ll discover the interviewer’s driving force.

They’ll tell you that they’re looking for a dynamic team player, or a self-motivated hard worker.  Stuff basically you can’t get from a job advert.  Knowing it means you don’t have to guess.

Then it’s down to you to tailor your pitch to meet the specific need, rather than the general job requirements.

4.  Use emotive language

Everything from toothpaste adverts to mortgage applications have been infused with the language of sales:  Emotive terms that have been researched to the death to ensure they touch the right buttons and evoke the perfect emotional response.

They’re known as ‘power words‘.

What if you can use that to your advantage?  You can.

You need to be careful, don’t go overboard or you’ll come across like a loon, but choose the right words and you can paint a picture of positivity, success and drive.

That’s pretty much always going to help in a job interview situation.

Good words to use include: ‘believe’, ‘instant’, ‘sharp’, ‘change’, ‘energise’, ‘healthy’, ‘overcome’, ‘thrive’, ‘success’, ‘refresh’ and ‘happy’.

5. Overcome objections

This is straight out of the sales playbook and takes a cast iron nerve, but if you can actually encourage the interviewer to voice any concerns they might have, you’re 50% of the way to overcoming them.

Of course most interviewers will deal with their objections organically during the course of the interview, but they might not mention that nagging doubt that will actually cost you the job unless you ask.

So, at the end of the interview, the interviewer might ask if you have any questions, and hopefully you’ll have a list of prepared questions to ask to really impress them.

However, if you don’t, and even if the interviewer doesn’t ask if you have any questions, one question you must find a way of asking is:

“Do you have any reservations about me and do you think I’m right for the role?”

Ask them if there are any concerns about your specific skillset, and if they think you’d be a good fit for the company and get ready to deal with the objections.

Inevitably there might be skills required in the job that you have, but for whatever reason you haven’t sufficiently covered in the interview.

This is an ideal chance to put their mind at rest.

Alternatively there might be genuine gaps, in which case you can bring up the subject of in-house training to show your willingness to learn and also highlight the skills you do have, which can compensate for some missing skills and swing the balance back in your favour.

Either way, you stand a better chance of securing the job if you know and overcome the objections there and then as opposed to never addressing them.

6.  The Close

You’ve probably heard the sales term, ‘closing’, but have you ever tried it in a job interview situation?

This is the final bit of the interview where you need to know where you stand.  It can be linked to the overcoming objections part, especially with the question about reservations they might have about you, but it is a bit more than that.

With the close, you will attempt to establish what happens next, when you can expect to hear from them, and if there’s anything else they need from you in the meantime.

So make sure you ask those questions and you’ll sound professional and you will impress the interviewer.


So there you go.  6 psychological tricks that will really help you in an interview and make you stand out from the rest.

If you can, practice on a friend before trying these techniques in a real-life interview situation.

But above all, remain calm and confident, listen effectively and demonstrate fully why you would be the perfect person for the job.

Good luck!

- Anthony Hughes

Anthony Hughes

Anthony is a recruitment veteran of 18 years and is also one of the original founders of Coburg Banks. He now trains recruitment consultants on the best methods to utilise when sourcing and assessing applicants for their clients. 


> More blog posts by Anthony Hughes

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