Everything about your body language sends a message to the person you are talking to. It is particularly important to understand the impact of body language in an interview, because it could make or break your success. Body language includes everything from eye contact to posture, and these signals help the interviewer gain a deeper understanding into your attitudes towards the job.
Body language encompasses all forms of nonverbal communication – everything about our feelings, emotions, thoughts and motivations is usually expressed through changes to our body. These changes include our facial expressions, posture, eye contact, hand gestures and general body position and movement.
The technique of “reading” people by watching their body language is an age old technique. It’s used across many situations including when an interviewer is sizing up a candidate’s suitability for a particular role. Many psychologists believe that non-verbal communication can reveal more about what we are thinking than what we actually say. For this reason, it is essential in an interview situation to pay close attention to your body language so it supports the story you are telling. Here are our tips for success:
1. Smile – greet the interviewer with a smiling hello which will create a warm and inviting engagement straight off the bat. Attempt to maintain a relaxed smile throughout the interview but don’t try too hard because it could look like you’re faking it.
2. Watch Your Posture – sit up straight in a neutral or slightly forward position to show you’re interested. Leaning back can be portrayed as being arrogant or too relaxed and slouching just appears lazy. Leaning too far forward can be seen as aggressive.
3. Maintain Eye Contact – eyes that dart around a lot are a sure fire indication that someone is lying or not sure of themselves. It is important to maintain eye contact with the interviewer when either of you are talking in order to convey confidence.
4. Don’t Stare – following on from tip # 3, while it is important to maintain consistent eye contact with the interviewer, if you ‘lock eyes’ or stare at someone, this can be perceived as aggressive or even worse – creepy. Staring at someone is often used as a way to distance yourself or assert authority and this is definitely not something you want to do in an interview! Try to maintain a balance by breaking eye contact momentarily every so often.
5. Don’t Do Too Much Talking With Your Hands – many people ‘talk with their hands’ and it is fine to be expressive in this way, however try not to use sharp hand movements that can be construed as ‘aggressive’. These include excessive pointing or hand chopping.
6. Don’t Cross Your Arms – this can indicate that you are defensive, resistant, unfriendly or simply not engaged with the process. Open arms resting comfortably in your lap will portray a much more approachable nature.
7. Make Sure Your Expression Matches Your Response – if you’re talking about something that you’re excited about like your dreams and passions and your facial expression is deadpan – this is simply not going to translate as authentic to the interviewer. Likewise if you’re talking about something serious – maintain that expression throughout, and then try to smile soon after.
8. Avoid Fidgeting – it will just distract the interviewer from what you are saying and could make you appear disinterested. Biting nails, playing with hair, squirming around in your chair, tapping your fingers or feet, or scratching are all no no’s. Apart from being a distraction, it could make you appear as someone who can’t properly focus – even for just a few minutes.
Remember, it is an interview – much of your body language that is construed as negative comes down to a lack of confidence so make sure you prepare. Do your research on the company and job and practice answering potential questions beforehand. Remember the old adage, “It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it,” and focus on communicating your worth in both verbal and non-verbal ways.
Do you struggle with nerves and negative body language during interviews? If you would like assistance from an Interview Coach to help you prepare for a job interview, to maintain positive body language throughout, build confidence and increase your success rate, see our Interview Skills Training service.