Body language do’s and don’ts for a job interview

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You have done your research, practiced your responses and pressed your outfit. You’re all set for the job interview. But do you know the proper body language to bag the job?

“What has body language got to do with it?” you may ask. Studies suggest that “only seven per cent of your communication are the actual words you say, 38% are certain vocal elements like your intonation, but 55% is non-verbal – things like your facial expressions, gestures, and posture”. Demonstrating the right body language is not only important during a job interview. It can be the crucial ingredient that gets you the job.

This is mentioned in this video below from Cognitive Group Microsoft Dynamics Recruitment:

Other body language tips to remember for your job interview:

Elements that make up good body language

Communication begins even before you open your mouth to speak. When you meet the interviewer, be mindful of these five elements:

  • Eye contact – establish good eye contact upon meeting your interviewer. It is an effective way to show that you are interested and engaged. Maintain eye contact during the conversation. You don’t have to look directly at the person’s eyes to do this. Some suggest looking at different parts of the person’s face every two seconds so you don’t look awkward or too intense. By the way, it is okay to blink.
  • Voice quality – experts say that a lower pitch makes you sound more authoritative and confident. This can be hard to achieve when you are nervous. To have better voice quality, it is suggested that you try and breathe deeply to stay calm. Don’t talk too fast. Enunciate your words clearly.
  • Handshake – extend your full hand and establish a firm handshake. Extending only your fingers can result to a half-hearted, limp grasp. Don’t hold the handshake for too long (two-second rule). Also, don’t cover the other person’s hand with your left hand. This signals over familiarity or that you are establishing your authority over the other person.
  • Content – of course what you say has to make sense! However, the meaning of what you say is greatly enhanced and emphasized when you pair it with the right body language. Imagine, if a person you’re talking to looks away often, or scratches his nose while talking. Whatever he is saying, it will look like he is lying.
  • Posture – drop your shoulders back and sit up straight. It helps to sit all the way back in your seat to keep your posture. Every now and then lean in towards the interviewer. This shows that you are engaged in the conversation. Also, nodding while listening to the interviewer is good body language. It shows that you understand and agree with what he is saying.

Body language to avoid

  1. Slouching – makes you appear unprofessional and unconfident. It shows that you don’t have energy.
  2. Fidgeting – makes you look nervous and impatient. Twiddling your fingers, or drumming them on the table, shifting from your seat, or crossing and uncrossing your legs are very distracting gestures.
  3. Touching parts of your face while talking– this makes you seem like you are lying. Avoid touching your nose, ears or even scratching your head.
  4. Shifty eyes – makes you seem bored and untrustworthy. While talking, avoid looking up at the ceiling or down to your feet. Don’t look out of a window. Don’t look away for extended periods while the interviewer is talking.
  5. Crossing your arms and legs – experts say that this makes you look defensive or guarded. It will be better to keep your feet flat on the floor, or cross legs at your ankles.
  6. Hiding your hands – makes you seem like you are hiding something about your personality or work experience. Showing your open palms signals honesty and openness. It is okay to make hand gestures while you talk. They can make your messages more powerful.
  7. Sluggish walk – shows that you don’t want to be there and that you lack energy. Nobody wants to work with a sluggish person! Always walk with purpose using confident strides. Let your pace be normal, just follow the interviewer’s lead.

How to stay calm and be less nervous during the interview

A lot of our body language is affected by nerves. Many times we trip up because we are too nervous. Here are some things you can do to manage and minimize your nervousness.

  • Be very prepared – confidence comes from knowing that you have covered all the bases and have done everything you can do to prepare. So do your research, practice your responses, think of possible objections to your career profile and history, get your outfit ready, get a haircut, know your route to the meeting place, etc. Do all of these ahead of time. Create a checklist if you have to.
  • Practice – say your responses out loud. Even practice your body language in front of the mirror.
  • Arrive early – there is nothing more stressful than getting lost and being late for an interview. So plan ahead and arrive 15-20 minutes early. This will also give you time to have a quick visit to the restroom, freshen up, and take several deep breaths to calm yourself. You can even do some quick power poses to lift your confidence.
  • Think positively – they called you for an interview so they already think that you are qualified for the job. You are more than halfway there. Remember all the preparation you have made and be strengthened by the thought that you have done your utmost. Everything will turn out fine.
  • Breathe deeply and speak as you exhale – when nerves get to you, take a deep breath. Pace yourself when you speak.
  • Give yourself allowance for mistakes – don’t beat yourself up when you make a mistake. Just pick yourself up and move on. Often times, we are our own worst critics. We can over magnify small mistakes and punish ourselves for them. Don’t do this. Just do your best and stay confident.

Sources: 12 body language tricks to use during a job interview, Rachel Gillett, Business Insider; 9 simple body language tips for your next job interview, Yohana Desta, Mashable; Body language that gets the job, Forbes. All accessed on May 2, 2017.

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