The Power of Posture

With the uprising surge of job competitiveness in America, people have been going to great lengths to get even the slightest advantage they might need in order to prove themselves as more qualified than somebody else. What’s one of the most grueling parts of applying to a job? The interview. Unless you’re extremely confident and comfortable with your ability to speak intelligently on the fly, the interview can be a short but anxiety-provoking period where you must do everything in your power to make the best impression of yourself possible. People dread situations in which their credibility and capabilities are being monitored and judged, but as stressful as it is, the interview is a crucial part of the job-finding process. Job applicants have difficulty preparing for interviews because they don’t know what questions to expect, and are simply uncertain about how they’ll appear to their interviewer.

There may however, be a simple resolution. Did it ever occur to you that something as simple as your body positioning could have a direct impact on your performance? Before a stressful social evaluation, such as an interview, people often hunch over, slouch in their seats and perform other contractual nonverbal postures that amplify one’s sense of powerlessness. However, recent research has been conducted on the effects of performing “power poses,” simply stretching and expanding one’s body to take up more space, in improving performance within a variety of situations. It is for this reason that social psychologists Amy Cuddy, Dana Carney and Andy Yap explored the effects of engaging in power poses versus low-power contractual poses, on the performance of participants in a mock interview setting.

The researchers hypothesized that engaging in powerful postures before a mock interview would lead to better performance, and that the improved performance would be mediated by an increase in nonverbal presence in the interview. In order to test this hypothesis, the researchers recruited sixty-six college students, each of whom were randomly assigned to engage in one of two standing poses prior to a mock interview. Half of the participants stood in a power pose: hands on their hips, elbows pointing out with feet spread out at least a foot apart, while the other half stood in a low-power pose: hands and arms wrapped around the torso and fee squeezed together. Participants were asked to imagine that they were about to interview for their dream job, and prepared a 5-minute speech that detailed their strengths and qualifications for the job. Participants maintained these poses for 5-6 minutes while preparing for the interview, which was videotaped and later coded for overall performance and hireability. After each interview, participants also reported how dominate, in control, powerful, and leader-like they felt on a scale of 1 to 5.

The experimenters found that individuals who performed power poses prior to their interview experienced a significant impact on their presence while delivering a speech to interviewers, which then positively influenced judges’ evaluations and hiring decisions. Participants who power posed were found to be more composed, enthusiastic and confident during the interview, which led to higher overall performance scores.

These findings are quite substantial considering the fact that performances were enhanced from a simple, 5-minute pre-interview posture exercise. Whether or not a participant enacted a high or low power pose before the interview did not affect participants’ posture during the interview, and perceivers were blind to which participants performed a high power or low power pose. These results indicate that in any interview or public speaking situation, everyone has the opportunity to improve his or her performance by capitalizing on a nearly effortless exercise that subconsciously transitions one’s mind into a more powerful and assertive position. Perhaps you are thinking that the “transition” is too miniscule to make a difference. But Olympic Gold medals are won by inches and milliseconds, not by yards and minutes. So, next time you’re nervous for an interview, power posing could mean the difference between getting the job and not.


Cuddy, A. J. C., Wilmuth, C. A., Yap, A. J., & Carney, D. R. (2015).Preparatory Power Posing Affects Nonverbal Presence and Job Interview Performance. Journal of Applied       Psychology.

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