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

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What has body language got to do with it? You may ask. Studies suggest that “only seven per cent of your communication are the words you say, 38% are vocal elements like your intonation, but 55% is non-verbal – things like your facial expressions, gestures, and posture”.

Having the right body language in a job interview does not only make you more understood, it can be the factor that gets you the job.

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

What makes up good body language

  • Eye contact – Establish eye contact upon meeting your interviewer to show that you are interested and engaged. Look at different parts of the person’s face every two seconds so you don’t look awkward or too intense.
  • 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, take deep breaths to calm yourself before speaking. Don’t to talk too fast, take your time and enunciate your words well.
  • Handshake – Follow the establishment’s physical distancing protocol. If there’s none, wait for your interviewer’s cue. If a hand is extended, you have two choices: shake it (and don’t touch your face) or apologize and explain politely that you don’t want to endanger their health.
  • Posture – Drop your shoulders back and sit up straight. It may help to sit all the way back in your seat to keep your posture. Lean in towards the interviewer every now and then. This shows that you are engaged in the conversation.

Body language to avoid

  1. Slouching makes you appear unprofessional and lacking in 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 distracting gestures.
  3. Touching parts of your face while talking makes you look like you’re lying. Avoid touching your nose, ears or even scratching your head.
  4. Shifty eyes make you seem bored and untrustworthy. While talking, avoid looking up at the ceiling, at your feet or out of a window. For obvious reasons, it’s disrespectful to look away for extended periods while the interviewer is talking.
  5. Crossing your arms and legs makes you look defensive or guarded. It will be better to keep your arms to your sides and your feet flat on the floor.
  6. Hiding your hands makes you look like you are hiding something about yourself. Showing your open palms signals honesty and openness. It’s okay to make hand gestures while you talk. They can make your message more powerful.
  7. A sluggish walk shows that you lack energy. It can also make you look like you don’t want to be there. A good walk shows confidence. Let your pace be normal and follow the interviewer’s lead (if you’re walking together).

How to be less nervous during an interview

  • Be prepared – Confidence comes from knowing that you’ve covered all the bases and you’re prepared. Research on your prospective employer, practice your responses and think of possible objections to your career profile and history so you’re ready for the toughest questions. Prepare your outfit and know your route to the venue ahead of time. Make a checklist so that you don’t miss any important detail.
  • Practice – Practise your responses and body language in front of the mirror. Hold a mock interview with a friend if you have time.
  • Arrive early – There is nothing more nerve-wracking than getting lost and being late for an interview. Make it your goal to arrive 15-20 minutes early. This will give you time to go 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 positive – They already think that you are qualified for the job, that’s why they called you in for an interview. 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 do your best and stay confident. You’ve got this!

Article updated May 19, 2020.
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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