When you attend a job interview, it’s not just your words that are speaking for you. Your body language is adding a great deal to the conversation, too! What can you do to make sure your nonverbal interview is as great as your verbal interview? Here are 10 tips for showing your expertise, skill, and confidence with your body language as well as with your words!
- Prepare. Practice these tips so they feel natural. Role-playing, or even just putting them into practice while going out for coffee, makes this body language feel like your own. This is important to making it look natural. There’s NOTHING natural about constantly double-checking where you are placing your hands, or having to adjust your posture.
- It starts early. Before you leave for the interview, make sure you are giving yourself plenty of time to get there, so you don’t need to rush. Then, once you arrive, put on your confidence as you step off the train or get out of your car! You never know who is watching and taking note.
- Sit with style. Sit straight up, shoulders back, and try to sit in profile to the receptionist or secretary where you are waiting. This makes you look alert and ready, and allows the employee to observe you without discomfort. Make sure you don’t pull your arms or shoulders toward the centre of your body, which is a defensive posture that broadcasts nervousness. An open frame (shoulders back and hands in your lap or holding reading material) shows patience and confidence. Beware of “manspreading”, the habit of sitting with knees spread wide and/or throwing an arm over the back of the neighbouring chair. You don’t need to aggressively claim extra space to look coolly confident. No tapping of fingers or feet, please, this can look impatient and nervous.
- Lose the phone. Yes, we all carry our phones and tablets with us, but this is not the time to be sitting head down, hunched over a little screen. A hard habit to break, pulling out your phone may cause you to lose track of your body language and slump over the screen as you usually would. Review a paper copy of your resume, any information about your prospective employer the gatekeeper employee may provide, instead. If you must check your phone, make sure your posture stays upright, your shoulders are back, and that you raise the device or reading material rather than bending your body over it.
- Have a great handshake ready. Practice the perfect handshake and smile with a friend or family member. Practice introducing yourself or acknowledging an introduction while you shake hands to make it look smooth and effortless. You’ll use that handshake throughout your working life, so it’s a wise investment in time and energy. Return the favour and help your friends practice theirs when they enter the job market again.
- Follow the leader. When you follow your interviewer to the room or area where the interview is held, walk with good posture and mimic the pace of the hiring influencer so you keep up, but don’t run into them if they slow or stop to show you something.
- Set up for success. Once you reach the interview environment, you may place a slim portfolio, envelope, or resume on the table or desk; but a briefcase or purse should go on the floor. Your coat may be draped over the chair next to you, or folded and placed over the bag on the floor. Greet any other interviewers with your handshake (5) and sit in the chair with style (3).
- Gesture gently. While being interviewed, it’s fine to put your hands in your lap, or gesture gently, keeping hands between the table-top and your collarbone. You want your gestures seen, but keep them subdued. Even if you’re describing a chaotic work experience, gesticulating wildly with your hands above your head is too much. It should go without saying, never use rude words in an interview, in speech or body language.
- Nod. Nodding your head while listening to your interviewer is a sign that you’re engaged in this important conversation, although it’s important not to overdo it. You can also lean forward briefly in emphasis to agree strongly with a hiring influencer, but always return to an upright, open posture.
- Eliminate distractions. Any habit of body language that distracts from your message of confidence and competence should be noted and suppressed for your interviews. Invite a friend for coffee, or sit with your spouse, and ask “Do I have any distracting habits when I’m in conversation with you?” You might be surprised at the answers. Playing with hair, mouth, nose, or ears is a common habit, as are shaking your head while your conversation partner is talking, tapping feet and fingers, picking teeth, mouthing the words someone is saying to you, and rapidly bouncing your knee. You may not even be aware you’re doing these things, but they can distract and distress interviewers. Break those habits with some practice, and your interviews will all be the better for it!
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