You only have a few seconds to make a great first impression, and your body language can say a great deal in that short amount of time. It’s worth practicing in order to emphasize the positive and delete the negative gestures and stances from your body language vocabulary!
Even after the first impression is made, and once the interview begins, your body language continues to have an effect. There are ways your stance and movement can distract and annoy hiring influencers, and there are ways to emphasize your skills, experience, and leadership qualities. It’s all in your body language.
DON’T shuffle when you walk. Walking with your head down or with a shuffling gait may be appropriate when searching for a book in the library, but it makes you look ineffective or nervous when you walk toward or beside a hiring influencer.
DO walk with confidence and with purpose. You can follow another person’s lead through unfamiliar hallways while still having your shoulders back, head up, and taking even strides.
DON’T slouch. Slouching is a posture with rounded edges, somewhat like looking down at your toes. Rounded shoulders, rounded back, head lowered…it makes a candidate look unsure, guilty, lazy, or uninterested.
DO stand and sit straight. It’s fine to lean forward a little, as it shows interest, but never lean back in your chair or so far forward that you’re leaning on the table or desk in front of you. The ideal stance is with a straight back, squared shoulders, and head up; alert, interested, and confident!
DON’T fold your arms. This is a defensive posture, as though you felt a threat from the hiring influencer. It suggests fear, dislike, and even dishonesty. Even folding one arm over your chest to hold your elbow so that you can rest your chin on your other hand is not a good look on a candidate. While it may feel like that stance says you’re listening closely, observers perceive it as uncertainty and insecurity. Shoving your hands in your pockets is not ideal.
DO stand and sit straight, with your arms relaxed at your sides or on the chair arms.
DO research how to perform a great handshake. There are far too many ways to create an unpleasant handshake to list here. If you are interviewing for an overseas job, be sure you research the proper handshake etiquette for the region you’re interested in. Handshakes differ from country to country.
DON’T fidget. Running your hands through your hair or twisting it, clicking pens, drumming fingers, tapping toes, it makes you look nervous and suggests YOU think you’re not qualified.
DO sit calmly, with your hands in your lap or on the arms of the chair, ready to gesture naturally as you talk.
DON’T freeze. Ironically, after telling you not to fidget, the next no-no is sitting TOO still. Shifting in your seat a few times, gesturing naturally with your hands, are normal, and when those little movements are gone, alarm bells sound. Sitting frozen is another side of fear and anxiety.
DO behave naturally, just without the constant shifting and fidgeting that can signal nervousness. Here’s where mirroring can come in handy, shift only as often as your interviewer does and you’ll be fine.
DON’T turn away from your interviewer. Even if your face is pointed in the right direction, an averted stance says you dislike or fear your interviewer.
DO sit so that your body faces your interviewer. An even more effective stance is to mirror your interviewer if you can do it subtly. Lean forward a little when they do, nod when they do, sit up straight again when they do. If you do it too obviously, it can seem as though you’re mocking the hiring influencer, so practice this one.
DON’T allow your gaze to wander. People equate a wandering gaze with nervousness, boredom, and dishonesty. Some candidates aren’t sure where to look, in order not to have a “shifty” gaze. The easiest solution to that concern is to choose an eye and look at that eye while you answer.
DO maintain eye contact. Look primarily at the person you are greeting or the one who asked the question. If you have more than one interviewer, glance at each during your answers, but focus mainly on the one person who asked the question. You may want to look down or up as you think of the way to begin your answer, that’s fine. It’s also quite natural to watch someone’s hands as they gesture. It’s a steady gaze, not a staring contest!
DON’T babble. Speaking too quickly is not only a sign of extreme nerves, it’s hard to understand. NEVER interrupt your interviewer, it’s not only rude, it makes you look arrogant and difficult to manage! Allow them to get the full question or comment out before offering an answer.
DO speak calmly, and at a measured pace. Answers during an interview aren’t a competition or a race. Hiring influencers are looking for someone who can think and speak under pressure, so give them your confident, measured, best. Listen to the whole question, then answer briefly and completely.