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Body Language During Job Interviews

Updated on June 11, 2014
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Negative Body Language

Negative body language is pretty much the opposite of positive body language (sorry if I am stating the obvious!) Here are some of the things you should avoid doing while being interviewed.

  • Touching your face
  • Swinging on your chair
  • Tapping your feet
  • Slouching
  • Picking at your clothing
  • Clicking a pen
  • Grumpy or evasive facial expressions
  • Non-direct eye contact
  • Crossing your arms
  • Biting your nails
  • Weak handshake

Positive Body Language

During a job interview, it is important to convey positive body language to enhance what you say. Your non-verbal communication can often say more about you than the answers you give, and can help the interviewer quickly establish how sincere you are, and if you are genuinely enthusiastic about the job role.

While positive body language during a job interview will be a contributor to your success, it is important to act naturally and not look staged. There's nothing worse than interviewing a candidate who is so conscious of their body language, they can hardly breathe!

Be yourself! Follow the guidelines in this article and practise so that you feel confident you are emulating a natural and confident demeanour.

You may find it useful to practise in front of a mirror, with a friend, or take a video recording so that you can play it back and see which areas need improvement. You never know, you may look great already!

A strong, firm handshake is vital.
A strong, firm handshake is vital. | Source

First Impressions Count

As soon as you arrive at the venue, you are on show. Be conscious that even in the reception area or holding room, there may be people who are watching you and reporting back.

When you first greet your interviewer(s), a handshake should be offered. You don't have to wait until the interviewer offers their hand - be assertive. Now, make sure that you offer a strong, firm handshake and not a limp wet fish! Look the interviewer in the eyes and smile.

First impressions really do count, so push your shoulders back, stand tall and look like you are confident, even if you are feeling like jelly on the inside.

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Free apps to help with your career | Source

How to Sit During a Job Interview

Sit up straight and don't slouch. Not only will you look more professional, you will find it easier to breathe calmly and rhythmically, particularly if you are nervous.

It's perfectly acceptable to cross your legs or ankles. Some people may argue that crossing is deemed as negative body language, but this is not so. Crossing your legs or ankles will eliminate toe tapping, which could convey anxiety, and of course, if you are a woman and wearing a skirt, crossing your legs will prevent too much being on show!

For the men reading this, don't raise one foot up to rest on the other knee. This is far too casual a posture for such a formal meeting.

Keep your arms and hands free so that you can use them to gesticulate. Never fold your arms or sit on your hands as this will make you look evasive, like you couldn't care less about being there.

Lean slightly forwards when you are talking. You probably do this anyway, but it is especially important at this time, as it will make you look more animated and enthusiastic.

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Don't Fidget

Don't pick at your clothes, nails or nose! Keep your hands away from fiddling with earrings, hair or anything else that may make you look edgy and nervous. All your focus should be on the interviewer and the answers you are providing to the questions. If you think you might fidget during the conversation, try to keep your hands placed together on your lap until you feel it is safe to let them loose again.

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Eye Contact

I hear so many times from my clients that they have previously been told to look at only the interviewer who is asking the questions (if there is more than one interviewer) and that they shouldn't look the interviewer in the eyes, but instead, slightly up from the middle of the eyebrows.

This is such bad advice!

If someone is talking to you, you should look at them - look them in the eyes. If you look above the eyebrows, you are likely to look cross-eyed and they are likely to become paranoid that they have something stuck to their forehead! Don't act weird - act normal!

Also, if there is a group of people interviewing you, look at all of them while you are talking. By all means start your eye contact with the person to whom you are replying, but make sure you include everyone on the panel as they would most certainly like to hear your answers and be included and engaged with the conversation.

A word of warning though. Don't stare into their eyes. Your gaze will naturally rise and fall as you think about what you are saying and move your body and arms. The last thing you want is to make your interviewers feel uncomfortable to the point they think you are a weirdo!

Facial Expressions

It's not just what you do with your eyes. Your facial expressions can tell a whole lot about you. You'd be surprised how many candidates don't smile during a job interview leaving the hiring manager wondering if they really want to be there.

A smile can work wonders. It will make you look interested, keen to get the job and good old fashioned happy! Smiling can also help to release tension in the face, so if you get nervous at job interviews; smile more!

The interviewer is more likely to engage with you if your facial expressions are animated. It doesn't matter what you say if your face looks like thunder. You could have the best answers in the world, but if you look miserable and disinterested you most certainly won't get the job.

Final Thought

Always remember that during a job interview, the hiring manager is not only looking for great, well thought out answers, but also to find out whether you are a good fit for the organisation and its team. In other words - do they like you?

By all means, practise your non-verbal communication prior to the interview, but only to the point where you look natural and not over rehearsed. If you look awkward and robotic, the interviewer may presume that you will be like that in "real life" at work. No one wants to sit next to someone who makes them feel uncomfortable.

If you make a non-verbal communication faux pas during the interview, don't worry! Just carry on regardless with confidence.

Good luck for your next interview. Please let me know how you get on.

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