Power. On the job search, it might be more important even than job performance. It’s related to your income, the ability to get things done and even to career longevity. Not everyone has it, but there are ways to develop power and, when demanded in a job interview, to summon power and persuasion.
Follow these steps to help you act — and speak — with power.
Sit and stand straight. The evidence shows that height is correlated with salary and with being perceived as a leader. No, you don’t need to put lifts in your shoes, but you should lean forward and exude as much presence as you can. Don’t put your arms in front of your chest or cave your shoulders in or slouch—all of which make it seem as if you are retreating and will make you look smaller.
Look people in the eye. Looking away conveys that you have something to hide, that you aren’t being honest or straightforward. Looking at people directly signals truthfulness and also that you are not “afraid” of them.
In responding to questions, use lists (as in, “let me make the following three points” or “there are four issues to consider”). Lists convey a sense of completeness, organization and thoroughness. Using lists implies that the speaker has thought about the subject deeply and has considered all points of view.
When possible, allude to what you share in common with the interviewer. Research shows that people are more likely to comply with requests or do favors for people with whom they share even incidental and trivially unimportant similarity, such as birthdays or initials. If you went to the same school, are interested in the same things, live in the same neighborhood—whatever it is that you share in common with the interviewer, find out and use those references to what you share in common as you talk. Similarity is one of the most important bases of interpersonal attraction. To utilize this strategy, you will need to do your homework. But with Facebook, Google and all the other social media, figuring out what you have in common with the people you will be talking to shouldn’t be that difficult.
Don’t use notes. As Jack Valenti, head of the Motion Picture Association of America for more than three decades, noted, not having or using notes connotes command of the subject matter. That sense of being knowledgeable about the material conveys power and also tells others you are prepared and in control of the subject matter.
Use vivid, emotion-producing language in your discussions. Use direct, clear sentences. People often use the passive voice and overly abstract, analytical jargon in presenting their ideas. Even complex ideas can be presented in a simple, direct fashion. Laura Esserman, director of the Carol Franc Buck Breast Care Center at the University of California, San Francisco, is engaged in a number of technically complex initiatives to enhance care and treatment. But all of the initiatives are easily explained as cutting the time to learn what works and thereby do something to help the 45,000 women who will die of the disease in the U.S. each year. People understand life and death, and they understand cutting the cycle time to learn what works and get it from the lab into the field.
Practice power and you will possess the ability to persuade and influence your job search to your benefit.
Jeffrey Pfeffer is the Thomas D. Dee II Professor of Organizational Behavior at the Graduate School of Business, Stanford University. His most recent book is POWER: Why Some People Have it and Others Don’t(HarperBusiness)