Employers rely on nonverbal cues more than verbal ones to gauge your intelligence, confidence and power. When you’re on the job hunt, use these tips to get your “body talk” in great shape — no gym membership required!
Mind Over Matter
As you prepare for your interview, get yourself in the right mindset. Rehearse all your interview answers, read over your resume, and tell yourself how much you deserve this position.
Your confidence starts inside and exudes through your appearance and attitude. Getting mentally prepared to display your best manners and professionalism will allow you to demonstrate just how great a candidate you are.
Right or wrong, first impressions do matter. And they start well before the interview!
Before you walk into the building for your appointment, arrange your possessions, double-check your appearance and put on a smile. People who see you when you first arrive (i.e., receptionists or other employees) may be asked for their opinion of you. If you spend your first few minutes frantically looking through your briefcase or picking something out of your teeth, their opinions may leave something to be desired.
Try to sit facing where your interviewer will be coming from, with your belongings neatly at your side. That way, when you see him, you can swiftly stand to greet him like the interview pro you are. If you are sitting in the opposite direction, or are covered in coats and bags, standing up may cause awkward fumbling and put your appearance at an immediate disadvantage.
A Fair Shake
Sweaty palms, long fingernails, and limp hands can all add up to one job interview deal-breaker — a bad handshake. Your handshake says a lot about you before you ever speak a word, so make sure it’s as confident as you are. To give your interviewer a fair shake, grip (don’t crush) his hand firmly and shake it up and down once.
Although this seems obvious, the way you manage personal space communicates a lot about your personality. Leave about three feet of space between you and your interviewer, so as to not make him uncomfortable or feel crowded by you. And when heading into the interview room, do not try to lead the way. Simply walk behind to acknowledge that you can follow someone else’s lead and instruction, which is important in an interviewing situation.
Trying to appear disinterested or aloof? Didn’t think so! But your interviewer may interpret your slouching, folded arms, or twiddling fingers as signs of boredom, and will dismiss you mentally (if not physically!).
Try to sit as upright as possible, or lean in slightly with a straight back. This shows interest without seeming stiff. If you must gesture with your hands, keep them in the area between your belly button and your collar bone. Anything higher or lower seems frenzied and can be a distraction to you and the interviewer.
Also, be sure not to drape your arms and legs across furniture. Or shrink up to the middle of the chair. Sitting with legs or ankles crossed, back straight, and arms folded in your lap will help you appear confident and well-mannered.
All Eyes Ahead
Eye contact is important, but can easily be overdone. Don’t glare at the interviewer, or stare at him so intently that he gets uncomfortable. Relax your gaze and look him in the eyes as much as naturally possible. Avoid staring at the ground or ceiling while he’s talking, since these signals could be taken as disrespectful or disinterested.
At the Desk
Presumably, you will be interviewing in front of a desk. In this case:
- Place your resume or portfolio on the desk.
- Keep bags and other items at your feet. Piling your personal items on an interviewer’s desk is poor interview etiquette.
- Don’t cover yourself in clutter, which closes you off from the interviewer.
If you’re ever unsure of the atmosphere of the interview, try “mirroring.” This tactic involves making small, subtle reflections of the interviewer’s body language. Copying movements such as the direction he leans in, or smiling while he’s smiling, lets the interviewer know you are attentive and similar to him — factors which will work in your favor.
But use common sense. If the interviewer is slouching, making wild gestures, or just plain unprofessional, then it’s best to stay away from mirroring and stick to your interview best practices.
Play it Cool
Everyone gets nervous at an interview! The trick is to stay in control of your nerves. Panicked breathing, chewing your nails, or twirling your hair may comfort you during a stressful situation — but these behaviors cannot come out at a job interview.
When you feel nerves creeping in, control your breathing and listen to your interviewer. The more you pay attention to the moment, the less you will worry about the next question they might ask.
Thank your interviewer for his time and be genuine. Shake his hand again, and then leave cool and collected (don’t rush off!). Follow him out of the building, or however far he leads you. If possible, shake hands with and thank anyone else who was a part of your interview process. This is the last impression you will leave on interviewers, and being genuinely grateful will make you memorable.
Whatever you say to an interviewer, your body will be saying something louder. So be sure that your body talk is confident, expressive, and professional from the moment you arrive.