Nervous about a job interview? Your body position counts

Dear Dr. Phil,

I’m really nervous about a few upcoming job interviews. I need a job and find myself questioning why anyone would hire me.

Al in Reno


The job interview is a scary situation. You want something and the interviewer has the power. This tends to cause all sorts of mind games to pop up in anticipation of the interview.

But, let's keep perspective. I advise that you interview the interviewer as much as they interview you. They get to offer you the job, but you get to accept the job. I advocate making sure that you want the job. I know you want the income, but do you want the job? I work with a lot of patients that like the money but hate their job. Thus, a lot of people choose the wrong job.

More than the money, it is important to be on the lookout for opportunity. Is this job leading down a path to a better you?

Brain research can help in job interviews

The journal Psychological Science published a paper by Dana R. Carney, Columbia University, Graduate School of Business; and Amy J. Cuddy, Harvard Business School. The researchers were looking at how your pre-interview posture influences your brain chemistry.

For example, if you prepare for your interview standing in a high-power posture, will your brain produce more testosterone which helps one to feel more powerful and less nervous?  And inversely, if you prepare, as I have seen many do recently, by sitting in a closed up, small posture (usually looking at the phone), does this body posture produce more cortisol in your brain that increases your feelings of danger and weakness?

The researchers looked at both men and woman and found that:

High-power posers experienced elevations in testosterone, decreases in cortisol, and increased feelings of power and tolerance for risk; low-power posers exhibited the opposite pattern. In short, posing in displays of power caused advantaged and adaptive psychological, physiological, and behavioral changes, and these findings suggest that embodiment extends beyond mere thinking and feeling, to physiology and subsequent behavioral choices. That a person can, by assuming two simple 1-min poses, embody power and instantly become more powerful has real-world, actionable implications. See Power Posing Brief Nonverbal Displays Affect Neuroendocrine Levels and Risk Tolerance (PDF)

What is a high power posture?

Imagine the posture of a person who just won a race. In all cultures a winning posture is arms up, wide open eyes, and a nice smile. Pumping the arms into the air is a super power posture. When you see it you know that person is a winner. When you take this posture your brain produces the brain chemistry of a winner. When you sit closed in, shoulders slumped forward, and eyes down, your brain produces the the brain chemistry of a loser.




So, before the interview find a private place to pump your arms up to the sky, or at least stand tall, chin up, and use your self-talk and posture to bring out the winner in you.

And, any teachers out there, before a test have your students posture a wining position.

Thanks for the great question Al, and good luck in the job hunt.


See Amy J. Cuddy's TED Talk on page: Changing your body position can change your feelings


Read more about self-talk. Your internal dialog counts