‘The Pratfall Effect’ and how it can help you.

According to Professor Richard Wiseman companies recruit people they like.
Mentioned before, and well worth repeating, but naturally when attending an interview most of us will be nervous and this will affect the way we come  across. Being nervous is likely to amplify our natural tendency to be on either ‘transmit’ or ‘receive’. Thus the naturally reserved person may become even quieter in an interview situation, or the normally outgoing may rattle on endlessly regardless of whether the interviewee is listening or not.
I genuinely believe that one of the most important things we can do in an interview situation is engage with our audience. The tendency mentioned above can obstruct this engagement quite seriously. So how do we do it?
The first thing to be aware of is that the little mistake we are afraid of making can in fact be to our advantage.
In his book, ’59 Seconds,’ Prof Richard Wiseman refers to this as, “The Pratfall Effect,” and gives some interesting examples of how it can work. The conclusion he arrives at as a result of various admitting-a-mistakestudies is that a minor gaff can make us appear more human and likeable, particularly if we recognise the mistake and don’t try to recover inappropriately or by blaming somebody else.
Don’t rely on studies and research though – observe the effect in operation for yourself.
When you meet somebody for the first time consider what makes a person more likeable. Is it the individual who appears perfect in every way and never makes any errors, or has never got anything wrong in their life? Or is it the individual who has done a lot of good things but who, nonetheless, is prepared to accept that sometimes they get it wrong?
Certainly, from my point of view, I have always enjoyed people who are able to recognise their own blunders and laugh at themselves – especially when they have dropped some huge clangers. Of course this has to be kept in proportion. You are unlikely to succeed at interview if you come across as accident prone or incapable. Equally it would not be wise to admit to mistakes or incapabilities which would directly affect your ability to do your job. At its most obvious it would be unwise in an interview for a role in finance to admit to a difficulty with numbers.
Nonetheless the fact remains that a little human frailty can make us more attractive to other people. My own view would be that this can be even more important in what would normally be regarded as a formal situation. From a personal point of view I have always found that a little humorous self-deprecation can be effective in a selling situation.
It may be worth bearing in mind that our attempts to come across as ‘perfect and flawless’ in an interview situation may actually be working to our disadvantage. For most people it may be easier said than done but I think that in an interview situation it is important to relax: enjoy yourself, don’t be afraid of the occasional mistake, or of admitting to some in your history. You are likely to better engage with your audience.


Who am I? A chap living in Nottingham, United Kingdom who perhaps has a much higher level of enthusiasm than ability leading to an interest in many things but mastery of none. A father of three no longer dependent children, or so they tell me, and husband to a one-time nurse who now works with me (or rather I work for). I attempt to take photographs and occasionally fluke half decent shots though thank goodness I no longer have to buy film. I endeavour to practice karate but with advancing years spend more time instructing them participating but actively participate in the more gentle tai chi. Professionally I have spent the last twenty years in recruitment – not always the most highly regarded ‘industry’. For my part I take great pleasure in helping companies to find the right people and a lot of satisfaction out of seeing them thrive and succeed. More recently I have spent a lot of time helping people who have, or fear they may, lose their jobs. For many putting a CV together is so difficult and then finding opportuniteis can be a major challenge. Interviews can be a different problem altogether but with a little help most people can perform a lot better than they otherwise would.

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