Nail Your Next Job Interview with the Correct Body Language

Picture of Nail Your Next Job Interview with the Correct Body Language
Photo: CCO Creative Commons
By Cynthia Dalton
The body never lies. - Martha Graham

Body Language Can Make or Break a Job Interview

We all know better than to show up late for our job interview, forget our resume and references, answer our cell phone during an interview, or fib about where we’ve worked and our qualifications. Most of us also know to offer a firm handshake and to not fidget in our seat — these are obvious mistakes.

But there are other, less obvious mistakes, many of us make.

No matter the type of job, in addition to our demonstrated competencies, hiring managers are also interested in less tangible qualifications like honesty, straight-forwardness, respectfulness, accountability, and self-confidence. Much of this they glean from our body language during our job interview. They’ve interviewed a ton of prospective employees and they can read our body language as if it was a book. If our cover letter and resume, both say one thing, and our body language suggests another, the disconnect between the two sources of information about us can be lethal to our chances of getting the job.

And, a lot of these less tangible aspects about our character show up in our body language before, during, and after the interview. In other words, we need to enter and exit the building with the same manner we display during the interview, with attention paid to keeping our body language consistent throughout every stage of the interview process.

Body Language Tips We Can All Use

In her article for Business Insider, 12 Body Language Tricks to Use During a Job Interview, Rachel Gillett makes the point that there are plenty of don’ts when it comes to body language (after all, most of us know better than to roll our eyes or smirk during an interview) but body language can also work in our favor. According to Ms. Gillett good body moves include some things we might not normally think of such as:

  • Lean in slightly from time to time (shows your engaged in the conversation).
  • Mirror your interviewer (aligning your body position to that of your interviewer’s shows admiration and agreement).
  • Keep your arms and legs uncrossed (otherwise you look defensive).
  • Find a place for your hands (“… press the fingertips of your hands together to form a church steeple, which is a display of confidence.")
  • Nod (demonstrates interest and agreement)

Check out the full article with her complete list for more.

More Tips

Payscale.com offers some other suggestions that we might not think about in their article, 9 Tips to Manage Your Body Language at Interviews (although they only list 8 — oops):

  • Practice Power Pose: In her TED talk, social psychologist Amy Cuddy says, “Power posing — standing in a posture of confidence, even when we don’t feel confident can affect testosterone and cortisol levels in the brain, and might even have an impact on our chances for success.” She suggests taking this pose two minutes before the interview.
  • Observe your surroundings: Don’t blindly follow the recruiter or your interviewer into the interview room. Look around. If you see people looking at you, make eye contact, nod slightly and acknowledge their presence, break into a small smile or say hello. You never know who that person is — they could be your future colleague, manager, or the next interviewer! Even while waiting at reception, you don’t want to appear too self-engrossed and disinterested in the people around you. Many managers check with the reception staff about your behavior and interaction with them.
  • Make yourself comfortable: If you need some water, get it yourself or ask the interviewer to help you. You can’t continue an interview with a parched throat or a breaking voice. If you need something in your hands to keep you focused, consider holding a pen. You could also use the pen to take notes during the discussion if required — so keep a pad handy, too. If you are too fidgety, you will distract your interviewer, taking her focus off your reply.

Additional Tips

Writing for mashable.com, in her article, 9 Simple Body Language Tips for Your Next Job Interview, Yohana Destanov, offers some more useful tips that we might not have thought of in connection to body language in a job interview including:

  • Sit all the way back in your seat: Sit firmly and lean your back straight against the chair…. it’s an automatic signal of assurance and confidence. If you're a natural sloucher, pretend there's a string pulling you up from the crown of your head.
  • Show your palms: When your palms are up, it signals honesty and engagement. The limbic brain picks up the positivity, which will make the interviewer comfortable, Wood [Patti Wood, a body language expert and author of SNAP — Making the Most of First Impressions, Body Language and Charisma] says, "It’s one of the reasons we shake hands, to show the open palm," Wood says. "It’s so tied to survival instincts... If we don’t see open palm gestures, it puts us on our guard." In general, upward-facing body language, such as open palms, smiles and straight posture, also makes you look energetic...
  • Use hand gestures while speaking: If you're not sure what to do with your hands, go ahead and gesture while speaking. "When you’re really nervous, you tend to want to hide your hands because they express your anxiety," Wood tells Mashable. Keeping your hands hidden can be misinterpreted as distrustful behavior.

Practice Makes Perfect

Additionally, it’s a really good idea to work with a family member or friend to practice synchronizing your body language and your responses to job interview questions. If no one is available, practice on your own — it’s better than no practice. Needless-to-say, practicing in real time, while you’re nervous, in front of a hiring manager, at the actual job interview is a rejection waiting to happen.

None of these tips will guarantee that we will get the job for which we’ve applied, but at the very least, we’ll know we weren’t rejected because of body language miscues we could have avoided.

What do you think?

  • What’s your worst job interview experience and do you think it was related to your body language?
  • What’s your best job interview experience and do you think it was related to your body language?
  • Do you have any tips you’d like to share about handling body language during job interviews?

Do you have a question, comment or an idea for an article? Email: [email protected]

Leave a comment!

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