Your Job Interview Can Hang On Body Language

careers Jan 21, 2019

So, this could be it. The SECOND job interview. The recruitment agency has told you it’s between you and two other people.

They like you, they’re considering you. But, at this point, they’ve ranked you on your competencies and qualified, they believe all 3 of you can do the job, and they just need an extra something to tip the decision to offering one of you the job. The final decision between 3 great choices could be swayed by intuition, a hunch, how they feel. And there’s not much you can do about that, is there?

Actually, there’s a lot you can do a lot about that – It’s all in the way you move it, move it!

Move Your Body:

The Importance of Body Language in Job Interviews

Up to 60% of the impression you make is through your body language (Mehrabian & Wiener, Mehrabian & Ferris, 1967) – and this effect is more intense in a job interview situation. How you dress, sit, move and talk will strongly influence the person facing you – on a conscious and subconscious level.

1 – Choose where to sit in the job interview

At a job interview, you often will be directed to a seat – but if you’re in an oversized room (e.g. a meeting room with a table for 10 when there are 3 of you) you should choose where you sit wisely! Choose a seat where you can easily see everyone without turning your head too much – so it’s often best to hover and see which chairs your interviewers pick before making your selection.

If there is a window, sit facing it so that your face is lit. If you sit with your back to the window, the interviewers might see you in silhouette.

2 – Maintain a good posture in the job interview

If you are sitting at a table, here’s a Goldilocks test – let your arms fall loosely on the table in front of you. If your elbows are on the table, you are too close. If your elbows are more than a few inches away (or you have to lean forward a lot to put your hands on the table) then you are too far. If you put your hands on the table, keep yourself upright, relax your shoulders and slant forward slightly – that’s just right.

If your hands are hidden, it often sends the signal that you have something to hide.

If there’s no table, such as an informal interview on a sofa, then rest your hands on your lap.

3 – Own the space in the job interview

Job interviews are nerve-wracking mostly because you feel you are under scrutiny, and that can cause people to recoil. But a sign of confidence is to stand or sit with your legs slightly apart. Visualise yourself ‘owning the space’.

4 – Have open body language (don’t cross your arms!)

Moving your arms and hands is perfectly normal, and shows enthusiasm on the topic you’re talking about. However, practice in front of a mirror or – even better – a friend and see if those movements are distracting and take away the focus from what you’re saying.

If you tend to fidget, clasp your fingers and rest your hands on the table to prevent that as much as possible.

And don’t cross your arms – it gives the impression that you are guarded, unreceptive and lacking in confidence even if you aren’t. I am most conmfortable with my arms folded, so be mindful of this one.

5 – Smile

No one wants to recruit Grumpy.

Good interviewers will understand you’re nervous, and should make attempts to put you at ease. Nerves are understandable, but respond to your interviewers with an easy smile – even a nervous smile is better than a frown. When you’re introduced to each person, smile and nod directly at each person to start to build a good rapport. If something is light-hearted, laughing is acceptable – but try not to crack jokes just to force a laugh into a serious conversation!

6 – Make eye contact

This is another case for Goldilocks – avoiding eye contact comes across as insecure, while staring at people too much will make them insecure! There’s two possibilities – you’re interviewed by one person, or you’re interviewed by more people. If you’re interviewed by a panel, try to mostly look at the person who asked the question, but glance at others – they will notice and appreciate the effort to involve them, even if they didn’t ask the question.

During structured Competency Based Interviews, the interviewer will be taking notes and this may prevent them from giving you constant eye contact.  Simply ensure when they do look up at you, your eye contact is consistent and you’re engaged in the conversation.

7 – Beware of the props

A job interview represents the most important meeting with a client – that’s how the job interviewers are assessing you. They want to know how engaged and focus you will be – and not distracted every minute.

If you have a pen, don’t fiddle with it or click it throughout the interview. If they offer you a drink (tea, coffee, water) – make sure you don’t need the toilet. Avoid picking up the drink too much – and you don’t want it to end up down your shirt. If you’re very nervous, it’s best to avoid a drink – they’ll certainly notice if your hand shakes when pick it up. Oh and definitely don’t look at your phone! Put it on silent/turn it off – it’s just rude.

These can all be part of the hidden tests at job interviews, too – make sure you know them!

And, relax…

At the end of the day, you can’t spend all your energy focused on body language. There is no point having good body language if you are talking rubbish. Body language is a reflection of your level of confidence; it’s more important to build your confidence up through good preparation and go to the interview relaxed. You will be surprised of how much of the above you do naturally, when you feel confident, rested and prepared.

Good luck!



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