9 Body Language Tips at Interviews
Body language makes up the majority of your communication, so no matter how good your spoken answers are, if your body language isn’t appropriate you might be conveying the exact opposite of what you want to. Mixed verbal and non-verbal messages imply a lack of credibility, and this can cause an interview to crumble. As they say, you might be able to talk the talk, but it’s no good if you can’t walk the walk!
It’s really important that you are consistent in your positive body language throughout the interview, from the moment you enter the building (or even before!), treating everyone you meet professionally and with respect. When you are waiting to be called in, try to avoid checking your phone – not only does it look a bit unprofessional if you’re scrolling through Face book, but it can put you on the back foot if the hiring manager suddenly appears, and you have to find the pocket for your phone before you can shake hands.
Keep a professional distance when communicating – don’t stand too close, as this can come across as intrusive, though obviously, you have to be close enough to shake hands! Also, don’t forget to practice a good, firm handshake (though, not too strong, as this can seem aggressive). Follow the interviewer’s lead when entering or leaving a room. Take a seat when invited to, not before, and stand up to shake hands.
Sit up and stand up straight throughout your time at the interview, as this projects confidence. However, you want to try not to be too tight or stiff a relaxed but alert pose is best. Don’t slump in your chair, or cross your ankle over your knee this is obviously a professional setting, and being overly casual can make it seem like you don’t care.
Be aware of what your hands are doing if you know you tend to fiddle with something when talking or when you’re nervous, make sure you have a pen handy this can stop you messing with clothes or biting fingernails, and is easier to pass off as casual. Although you might be tempted, forcing your hands to be still by shoving them in pockets or holding them behind your back can make you seem stiff and unapproachable. Work with what you’ve got if you know you struggle with relentless hand-fidgeting, turn it into something productive.
Be aware of unnecessary movements, such as fidgeting, tapping, jigging a leg, or frequently touching your hair or face. These can make you look nervous, bored, or even like you are skirting the truth! It’s a good idea to show attentive listening (as we will come to shortly), but you need to find a still, calm centre, and keep yourself there.
There is a relatively fine line to walk between keeping good eye contact and staring someone out. Try to maintain a good level of eye contact, look the interviewer in the eye while they are talking, and at least some of the time when you are responding. If there are multiple interviewers, make sure to include them in your gaze, and acknowledge each one, especially whilst talking.
Tone of voice
Keep it calm and polite, and be aware of how loud you are. If you know you tend to speak quietly, make an effort to up the volume and make sure you come across as quietly assertive, rather than timid. Likewise, if you know you’re a bit of a boomer, make an effort to regulate this as it can seem aggressive or overbearing.
Show that you are paying attention to what the interviewer is saying by nodding at the right times, smiling, and agreeing (without interrupting). And actually listening of course! A lot of the time, people mirror automatically – leaning in at the same time, smiling, etc. but try not to overdo it. It can really freak someone out if it looks like you’re intentionally copying them. Don’t just keep on nodding at everything they say – no interviewer wants to see a nodding person instead, reserve considered agreement for the really valid points that you want to pick up and respond to.
When you’re paying attention to all of these things and concentrating on getting the right words out and giving the right answers, it can be difficult to remember to let your personality shine. Depending on the context, it’s okay to crack a few jokes or show you have a sense of humour. Playing it cool can take precedence in your mind, but an interview is also about whether you would fit in with the company, so you’ve got to let them get to know you a bit too. If they ask what you’re interested in, or passionate about, it is important to let that passion come out. Be sincere. This enthusiasm can be especially difficult if your interview is the latest in a long line of unsuccessful ones, but that is all the more reason to make sure that you’re thinking about what your body language is saying this time. It might be the one thing that swings it in your favour!
Azhar Ahmed (Director-Training)