The Power of Body Language in a Job Interview

If you asked a person on the street to rank their most uncomfortable, high pressure, stressful life experiences chances are that one or more job interviews would score at the top of the list.  A great job can make all the difference in financial, personal and professional happiness. It’s no wonder then that so many interviewees let a case of the nerves get to them in the interview room.  And while many job-seekers prepare mentally with lists of questions, facts, and figures, far fewer realize the importance of physical preparation as well.

When you’re sitting across the table from a hiring manager who holds your career in their decision making hands, it’s easy for many candidates to let their body language get the best of them.  Slouching can show a lack of confidence while things like shrugging or crossing your arms can unintentionally have you come across as combative. Neither trait is going to score you bonus points when it comes to interviewing success.  With that in mind, we’ve prepared a handy list of common physical interactions and actions you may encounter during an interview, along with some handy do’s and don’ts for coming out ahead in the body language game.

  • Handy Handshake Tips: The universal polite meet and greet gesture isn’t the time to test out your grip strength.  Keep handshakes firm, but not crushing, and be sure to make confident eye contact to appear cool, calm and confident.
  • Perfect that Posture: There’s a reason your mom always used to harp on you to keep those shoulders back and eyes up.  A slouching posture isn’t just good for long-term spinal health, it also makes you appear taller, confident, and in control.  Strength is a big plus in a candidate so roll those shoulders back and stop your slouching in the interview room.
  • Modulation is Good in Moderation: When it comes to tone and volume, be sure to keep things cool, calm and collected to avoid letting nerves show.  Vary your pitch to show excitement when appropriate to avoid coming across as lacking enthusiasm for the potential gig.
  • Stop that Fidgeting: Fidget spinners may have been all the rage a few years ago but candidates know to leave these catchy toys at home if they want a successful interview.  Similarly, candidates should avoid tapping their foot, drumming their fingers, or other similarly distracting habits while trying out for a new position.  Confidence is key and a heavy case of fidgety nerves is definitely going to leave the wrong impression on a potential employer.
  • About those Arms: Whether on a first date or in the interview room, few gestures convey as much negative meaning as crossed arms.  Avoid this offputting gesture to come across as approachable and engaged.
  • It’s all in the Eyes: Eye contact is a big part of a positive social interaction.  This applies in the interview room just as much as it does at the dinner table. Make eye contact when speaking with the interviewer and be sure to move your gaze to each participant in meetings with multiple people.
  • Not so Grand Gestures: Using your hands for gestures is a normal part of most polite conversations until things get out of hand that is.  Avoid grand gestures or wild gesticulations to avoid appearing nervous or out of touch. At a loss for what to do instead? Try gently resting your hands on the table or clasping them in a normal manner.
  • Not a One Way Street: Just as body language is important for the job-seeker, successful candidates should be equally aware of their interviewer’s reciprocal signs.  Read the body language of your hiring counterpart carefully so that you can correct missteps, misstatements, or clarify any confusion.

In closing thoughts, it’s important to remember that the interview room is the best shot to make a good impression and convince the company representative you’re the right person for the open position.  Using all of the verbal and physical body language tools at your disposal will set you up for success from the beginning. Conveying strength, confidence and enthusiasm for the opportunity is half the recipe for success.  Use our tips above to ensure that your body language matches your resume strength and you’ll be that much closer to scoring the job offer and career-making opportunity.

Article Updated from the Original on August 17, 2018