When it comes to landing a job we know that first impressions matter. As soon as you walk through the door, your interviewer will already be creating an idea of you in their mind.

It's your job to ensure that this is the most positive impression possible.

Amy Cuddy’s — a social psychologist at Harvard Business School — has dedicated her life to this subject. Her latest research revealed two core traits which can account for up to 90 percent of an overall first impression, regardless of culture, these are:

  • Can I trust this person?
  • Do I think they are capable?

Interestingly, the first question is more important than the second. In fact, showing signs of ability without trust can actually work against you. If people regard you as highly capable but don’t believe they can trust you, you instantly become perceived as a threat.

With job interviews and applications becoming so competitive, knowing how to navigate these two questions can put you at a serious advantage. Here are the top takeaways from Cuddy's research:

Let them lead

Cuddy notes that during business conversations we tend to try and gain the upper hand. We talk a lot, we express our opinions and we negotiate. However, this can be a fast-track to destroying trust, especially during a first meeting.

Instead, Cuddy suggests letting the other person lead, asking good open questions and actively listening to their responses. She notes “People need to trust you in order to be themselves. If they don’t feel listened to or understood then they will quickly become defensive or uncomfortable."

Act happy

We’ve all heard of ‘positive body language’ but what does that actually mean? The way we talk, the way we sit and the way we react are all sub conscious cues of how we really feel. In fact, words only account for 7% of communication. The other 93% is all nonverbal.

Therefore seeming as positive and welcoming as possible is key (even if you're secretly nervous). This means smiling often, uncrossing your arms and maintaining steady eye contact.

Put the phone away

There’s nothing worse than a noisy phone alert. Not only is it rude but it makes it seem like the other person isn’t worthy of your time. Make sure your phone is on silent and put away before you walk in to the interview.


Cuddy's research proves that 5 minutes of chit-chat before a meeting or interview can drastically improve the value of the conversation. Even simple ice-breakers such as asking how their week has been can put the other person at ease and make them trust you more.

Do some research

An instant way to foster trust is relatability. Doing a bit of homework before you meet someone (in a non-creepy way) allows you to bring up common interests or interesting facts about them. Use LinkedIn or the company website to find out any recent projects they've worked on or where they studied. We tend to like people more if they share a common interest, so if you can use this to your advantage.

Want to learn more? Our interpersonal communications course focuses on nailing verbal and nonverbal communication.

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