If you have been selected for an interview, you have obviously impressed your potential employer, your next challenge is to maintain their positive perception of you in the interview stage. A good interviewer is trained to make an informed assessment of a candidate based not only on what they say but also on how they present themselves, and body language may prove to be a key factor in their decision-making process.
Let’s say you give a friend a present and they say that they loved it. Yet, you notice that their facial expressions twist and their body contort and their tone of voice quiver.
Would you believe them? Of course no.
Just like you can pick up on the body language of others, others can pick up on yours.
Some hiring managers claim they can spot a possible candidate for a job within 30 seconds or less, and while a lot of that has to do with the way you look, it's also in your body language. Don't walk in pulling up your tights or readjusting your tie; pull yourself together before you stand up to greet the hiring manager.
Using effective non-verbal communication techniques, including appropriate interview body language, in your job interview is essential to your success.
Remember that saying “A picture is worth a thousand words”? Turns out it isn’t just about photographs and essays. People believe what they see over what they hear.
Non-verbal communication accounts for over 90% of the message you are sending in your job interview!
Your verbal content only provides 7% of the message the interviewer is receiving from you.
As you can see your non-verbal signals, both your body language (55% of the message) and the way you speak such as voice tone (38%) are as important as the actual words you use in your job interview answers!
Make sure you’re sending the right message when you interview for a job by taking a crash course on body language:
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Be prepared. The best way to show positive body language at an interview is to be natural, comfortable and confident. Often the best way to look natural is to practice, why not ask a friend to run through some interview questions with you.
The interview starts the moment you step into the room. Walk in tall, with a smile on your face. Make sure your hand is free and you offer it to the interviewer. Make the handshake strong and firm.
When the interviewer offers you a seat at the start of the job interview, sit upright but not too stiffly in your chair. This indicates that you are comfortable and feeling confident. Hunching down in your chair gives the impression of nervousness and low self-esteem. A sloppy posture indicates a careless attitude and a lack of energy. Sitting on the edge of your chair can come across as being nervous and tense.
Relax and lean slightly forward, about 10 degrees, towards your interviewer. This gives the message that you are both interested and involved. Leaning back makes you appear too relaxed and casual. Leaning to the side can be perceived as not feeling comfortable with the interviewer.
How you position your head also sends a message. Tilting your head very slightly to one side comes across as friendly and open. Keeping it straight comes across as self-assured and authoritative.
It is also important to pay attention to the posture of your interviewer. Sometimes you can establish rapport by adopting the same posture as the other person. This is called mirroring. If they have adopted a more formal posture do the same until you see that the interviewer has relaxed and become less formal.
Do not fidget. Avoid playing with your hair, clicking pens and the like.
Be an active listener. Forget about the windows, your feet any noise. Dedicate yourself to the interviewer.
What to do with your Hands
If you are unsure of what to do with your hands, rest them, loosely clasped in your lap or on the table. Control your hands by being aware of what you are doing with them.
Having your hands above the neck, fiddling with your face or your hair, is unprofessional and conveys nervousness and anxiety. Keep your hands away from your face. Interview body language experts will tell you that touching the nose or lips can indicate that the candidate is lying. Holding a hand behind your head is often a sign that you are annoyed or uncertain.
Folding your arms across your chest suggests a closed and defensive attitude. Waving your hands and arms around can be perceived as uncertainty and a lack of professionalism. Common wisdom is that the less you move your arms and hands about the more confident and in control you are. Practice a comfortable way to loosely place your arms and hands while you are sitting, both at a table and in a chair on its own.
Be aware of the interview body language message your legs are giving. A lot of leg movement is both distracting and indicates nervousness. Resting one leg or ankle on top of your other knee makes you look too casual and comes across as arrogant. Crossing your legs high up conveys a defensive attitude in the one-on-one context of a job interview. Crossing them at the ankles or placing both feet flat on the floor conveys a confident and professional look during the job interview.
Maintain eye contact but do not stare. If the interviewer is talking and you want to show that you are actively listening, you need to instigate direct eye contact and maintain it. Moving your head every now and then, such as giving a small nod can help.
Interview body language experts suggest that when you are doing the talking you need to hold eye contact for periods of about 10 seconds before looking away briefly and then re-establishing eye contact. Overusing direct eye contact when you are speaking can come across as lecturing or challenging the interviewer. Typically the listener maintains direct eye contact for longer than the speaker who breaks it off at intervals.
With panel interviews it is best to look at and direct your answer to the person asking the question, with a glance periodically at the other interviewers.
Eye contact is essential interview body language to establish rapport with your interviewer. Not making eye contact makes the interviewer feel disconnected from you. Eye contact should be a positive aspect of interview body language, if it is not used properly however it can quickly become negative.
Speaking in a clear and controlled voice conveys confidence. Avoid speaking in a monotone by varying your tone and pitch, however don't overdo it and come across as overly excited or emotional.
Breathe and pause before answering a question, this gives you time to react in a considered way and it ensures that the interviewer has finished the question.
You should interact with the interviewer as an equal, not a subordinate. Ensure that your voice tone is not apologetic or defensive.
The questions were brutal. The interviewers scowled the entire time. The job wasn’t what you thought it would be. No matter. Finish the interview the way you started it – with energy and confidence. Shake hands while you thank the interviewer for the opportunity, and walk away with your shoulders back and head high. You’ll never regret leaving a good impression.
No matter what happens, an interview is an opportunity to learn. At the end “ask yourself what you did right and how you could improve.
There are a number of positive actions that can be used successfully in interview situations and these include:
- Eye Contact - this is essential when trying to convey trust and confidence but should not be overdone as this can create an uncomfortable atmosphere and suggest over familiarity.
- Firm, Friendly Handshake - not too hard as this implies arrogance and not too limp because it suggests weakness.
- Keep Your Chin Up (literally and metaphorically!) - smile with open lips and tilt your head slightly to show that you are attentive.
- Palms Visible - this indicates openness and sincerity.
- Touching Fingertips Together - this conveys a sense of authority.
Here are some obvious - and some not so obvious - examples of negative traits and how your body language can give them away:
- Defensiveness - crossing your arms.
- Boredom - feet tapping, looking down, slouching, head resting in hands.
- Nervousness - locked ankles, fidgeting, playing with hair, biting nails.
- Arrogance/Over Confidence - brisk and erect walk, hands clasped behind head.
- Aggression - postures such as hands on hips and pointing with the index finger.
- Doubt - rubbing eyes or nose.
And finally limit your application of colognes and perfumes. Invading aromas can arouse allergies. Being the candidate that gave the interviewer a headache isn't going to do anything in your favour.
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