Mumbling, crossing your arms, looking scared stiff … you might be the perfect candidate for the job on paper but don't let your body language spoil your chances at the interview.
What is body language?
Body language is any gesture, posture or mannerism by which a person communicates with others. Sometimes referred to as "non-verbal communication", it includes facial expressions like smiling and frowning and the messages radiated from the way a person is sitting or standing. The message may be intended or may be an involuntary gesture or response.
These non-verbal communicators account for a large part of how people perceive us. After all, as the saying goes: actions do speak louder than words.
Body language basics
What to do…
At an interview, there are some things you should always do. These include:
- Maintain eye contact at all times. Doing so indicates interest in that person and the position on offer.
- Address all people in the room.
- Look interested and show that you are listening by using appropriate cues like nodding.
- Have a firm handshake.
- Be comfortably seated and breathe easily.
- Smile, and appear friendly and approachable.
- Adapt your body language to suit the situation.
- Keep your hands steady (and relaxed) and your posture strong but not stiff.
- Lean closer; reducing the distance between two people, particularly when the other person is speaking, indicates your interest is up.
What not to do
You want your body language to project confidence, enthusiasm and belief in your own skills and experience. Therefore, avoid:
- Crossing your arms.
- Sitting rigid or slouching.
- Nervous gestures like tapping your feet, playing with your hair or crossing and re-crossing your legs. These can all be taken for boredom, nervousness or impatience.
- Using your hands too much when talking.
- Bitting your nails or lips.
- Shrugging your shoulders, frowning or yawning.
- Fiddling with pens or paper or anything else.
- Touching your face.
- Appearing distracted. i.e looking around the room or outside the interview area.
Preparing for an interview
Test your body language by holding a mock interview with your partner or friend. Get them to note how you react to certain questions, paying particular attention to your facial expressions, movements and posture throughout the interview. Videoing the interview, so you can watch it back, is a great way to observe your own body language.
Think about how your body behaves in nervous situations. Do you bite your nails, play with your hair? Once you know your weaknesses, you can try hard to avoid them.
The perfect handshake
Tools and resources:
> Find your dream job > What are you worth? > Interview confidence boosters
Firm or light? Most body language experts agree that a firm grasp while maintaining good eye contact is vital when it comes to sealing a job interview.