Hosted By

Isaiah Hankel, PhD
Isaiah Hankel, PhD
Chief Executive Officer Cheeky Scientist

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9:35 Show Me The Data
23:30 Vanessa Van Edwards
45:13 Gabriel Villar, Ph.D.

Are you making employers uncomfortable with your awkwardness? 

You can learn how to be less awkward and win over your interviewers. 

This week on the Cheeky Scientist Radio Show we are joined by Vanessa Van Edwards, Lead Behavioral Investigator at Science of People and Author of Captivate: The Science of Succeeding With People. As a behavioral scientist and researcher, Vanessa will share science-driven tactics for how to improve your likeability quotient and decode human behavior in interview and networking scenarios to feel more in control, more authentic, and less awkward. We are also joined by Gabriel Villar, PhD, R&D Scientist at Becton Dickinson, who will discuss his R&D Scientist transition (and his second upcoming transition) and how other PhDs can pursue this career.

About Our Guests

Vanessa Van Edwards is Lead Investigator at Science of People. She is the bestselling author of Captivate: The Science of Succeeding with People. Vanessa shares tangible skills to improve interpersonal communication and leadership, including her insights on how people work. She’s developed a science-based framework for understanding different personalities to improve our EQ and help you communicate with colleagues, clients and customers.

Vanessa works with entrepreneurs, growing businesses, and trillion dollar companies; and has been featured on CNN, BBC, CBS, Fast Company, Inc., Entrepreneur Magazine, USA Today, the Today Show and many more. She regularly speaks to innovative companies including Google, Facebook, Comcast, Microsoft, and Penguin Random-House. Millions visit her website,, every month for her methods of turning “soft skills” into actionable, masterable frameworks that can be applied in daily life.

Gabriel Villar, Ph.D. is an engaging, entrepreneurial, and innovative mechanistic scientist with over 13 years of experience investigating the molecular and physiological basis of complex traits and behaviors across both traditional and non-traditional model systems (i.e. mice, honey bees). His work is highly interdisciplinary, spanning the fields of genetics, sensory biology, chemical ecology, conservation, animal behavior, infectious diseases, and public health. Much of his research has aimed to address one of the foremost conservation challenges of modern times, the decline of pollinators. He transitioned into his first industry role in March, 2019, where he works as an R&D Scientist at Becton Dickinson, an industry leader in health tech. In a few weeks he will make his second industry transition as he joins Koppert Biological Systems (Ag Tech Company) in a director capacity, to conceive of and drive new R&D and process improvement initiatives.

Key Takeaways

1. The ‘fake it ’till you make it’ idea is causing you to be overlooked and forgotten. 

2. During an interview keep a look out for the contempt microexpression, one-sided mouth raise, to know when you need to refocus on building rapport.

3. In industry, R&D is highly collaborative and interdependent where you are working alongside others toward a common tangible and time-bound goal.

Be Likeable, Not Weird, To Get Hired In Industry: A Conversation With Vanessa Van Edwards

Isaiah: So let’s say you identify that you’re being overlooked for jobs or not being able to close on interviews something. Where do you start to change things?

Vanessa: Yeah. In our research we found that one of the biggest problems is that most people learn people skills from extroverts. So if you look at all the resources out there on charisma or extroversion, you know, the quintessential how to win friends influence people. Dale Carnegie’s book, amazing. They were, most of those people are natural people, people. They’re naturally magnetic. They’re very charismatic, they’re extroverts. So they give advice very well meaning advice, like: just be yourself, be more authentic. But if you’re a recovering awkward person like me, I’m absolutely recovering awkward person, I am not a natural people person. So I would read these books and felt like, yes, I love these ideas, but how do I use this?

So what I found is that the worst thing we can do is pretend to be an extrovert. And that is the biggest problem for people who are getting interrupted or overlooked. They feel like they have to fake it till they make it and fake being extrovert to be heard. That’s actually the worst thing to do. And the reason for this is, the studies are very clear, is that our emotions are contagious. So if you’re faking it til you make it, all you’re putting out there is faking it, faking it, faking it. In fact, there was one study, it’s one of my favorite studies. It’s done by Dr. Barbara Wild and she she took people who were smiling and the first set of pictures were people who are genuinely smiling they we’re thinking about a happy moment and then the second set of pictures were people who are just fake smiling, they were told to smile.

Now the pictures look the same. If you were to say, which is the real smile, which the fake smile participants could not tell, which was the real and fake smile. However, when they looked at the real smile, they themselves felt happier. When they look fake smile, they felt nothing. Well, when we talk about being forgotten, when we talk about being overlooked, we’re like, why? Why are people not remembering me? It’s often because we are faking it till we make it. We don’t catch that emotion. We can’t catch that fake. We don’t, we don’t feel that, it doesn’t grip. So what I would say is the very first thing to do is self diagnosed. Are you really an extrovert? What’s your real brand of charisma?

Isaiah: Let’s say you’re going to an interview or other high stakes situation, and you’ve read the body language stuff, the face stuff. You know the working knowledge, but it’s really hard for you to call it up when you need it. So, what do you do to trigger yourself to actually call it up when you need?

Vanessa: Yeah, you ask a really, really good question because it’s usually I get asked how do you read faces? And that’s only part of it, right? The second part is how do you practically remember all the different facial expressions? So there are seven universal facial expressions. They’re called micro expressions. They’re actually 10,000 different facial expressions, but there are seven universal expressions of emotion. They were discovered by Dr. Paul Ekman and they’re great. You can memorize those seven. The second piece is what you mentioned is more important and that’s how do you practically use them?

Sample. Let’s say I’m in an interview as the interviewer, I’m usually very attuned to fear. I really want to see, because every interview everyone says they’re good with everything. Yeah, I can do that. I’m confident with that. I’ve had experience with that. So the emotion that I’m actually really looking for is fear. So that way I have one goal. I’m really looking for one emotion that I really think is going to tell me the most. Now fear, it’s a very easy emotion. So if you want to try this with me, I want you to raise your eyebrows as far up your forehead as they can go and then widen your eyes. That’s a micro expression of fear. Yep. By the way, if you do it for too long, you will begin to feel anxious.

If you actually hold that expression, you begin to feel anxious. The telltale sign of fear is the vertical lines on the forehead, right? So you can see them, those vertical lines that tie in. I got fear and the whites of the eyes. Wow. That’s it I don’t need to remember everything about the face. All I’m looking for is the whites of the eyes with those lines. If I see the whites of the eyes of those lines, I know I got fear. That’s all I’m looking for. So I tuck it away in the back of my head.

So, on the other hand, if I was being interviewed, I would actually probably be looking for contempt. So contempt is the simplest of the micro expressions. It’s a one sided mouth raise. Either side. I would just sit in that for a second. So everyone watching it, you can just sit in contempt.

You kind of begin to feel  kind of like smug, like snarky. Yeah, little snarky. It’s a very, very dangerous expression. It’s most often we have a huge body language quiz on our website where we’ve had 25,000 people take this quiz. Contempt is the one that people most often get wrong. Most people think it’s boredom or apathy. So at an interviewer I would be looking for contempt because most people think it’s boredom. But actually you’re seeing a little bit of “I’m better than” a little bit of scorn, a little bit of superiority. And that’s when I would make sure if I saw it in my interviewer’s face, I would make sure I go right back into rapport building, get them back, figure out what is the issue here that’s making them feel like, Nah, I’m better than them.

R&D Scientist Career Track: A Conversation With Gabriel Villar, Ph.D.

Isaiah: Coming from a research background, what are some of the differences that you noticed right away after transitioning the differences in doing research in industry versus academia?

Gabriel: A great question. I mean, I was actually quite shocked, at first when I first transitioned. I mean, there was almost no no overlap in what I was experiencing. Collaboration is huge in Industry. As academics where we are used to a different style of collaboration where it’s okay, we’re collaborating now, but really it’s, you are going into your corner and you’re doing a part of a study independently by herself and then eventually you’ll share an authorship with somebody else. And that’s, that’s what the kind of a collaboration you see and academia but in industry, it’s quite different. You are many times interdependent on other people to drive projects forward. So really what you bring to the table and what others bring to the table need to be complementary. That’s how you end up moving projects forward and getting anywhere in industry. So it’s, it’s a much different version, a much more intense version of collaboration. 

Isaiah: In terms of the interview and what did they ask to see on the presentation they wanted to see?

Gabriel: Yeah, a lot of my competencies, not necessarily technical. I mean they wanted me to be able to demonstrate that I had technical competency, but they wanted to see basically how I functioned as an innovator, as a leader. How I dealt with complex problems and issues and process them. You know, what mechanisms still are employed to drive projects forward. How do I deal with a failure? And also, of course, interpersonal skills. I mean, I cannot stress enough, how much that is a part of my day to day job right now. Just working with people, learning to collaborate, influencing people that I don’t have direct authority over all that is critically important. The day to day analysis. I think all those things were tested during that interview process.

** for the full interviews check out the video above

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