How body language can make or break your next job interview
You can confidently and concisely answer every common interview question. You’ve put together the perfect, professional outfit and even left home early to allow for unexpected traffic. It sounds like you’ve done everything right to prepare for a successful interview – but you could still blow it with the wrong body language.
The subtle conscious or unconscious gestures and movements that make up your body language are just as important as what you say. If they leave the right impression, they can help you land the job (and earn more in tips after, as well). Consider the following 6 suggestions and you’ll avoid the most common body language gaffes at your next interview.
1. Your interview may begin before you even enter the building. If the hiring manager happens to be watching from a window, you could be evaluated from the moment you arrive on the property. Your actions in the reception area are certain to be observed by potential co-workers, so if you need to adjust your hoseiry, re-tuck your shirt or fix your tie, go to the restroom to do so. And when you take a seat to wait, place your belongings to your left. This will enable you to gracefully retrieve them, stand, and prepare to shake hands when the hiring manager finally appears.
2. Don’t blow the handshake. It shouldn’t be limp, nor should it be a death grip. It also shouldn’t appear reluctant. Offering your hand first shows confidence, so extend yours when you’re about four feet away from the hiring manager. Make eye contact, smile warmly and hold his or her hand for a few seconds before releasing it. If you have little handshake experience, consider attending an industry networking event or two before you begin going on interviews. These offer a perfect opportunity to practice.
Note: If your palms tend to sweat excessively when you’re nervous, consider applying an antiperspirant to them the night before your interview. The International Hyperhidrosis Society has some helpful recommendations.
3. Look your interviewer in the eye. Steady eye contact shows you're engaged and actively paying attention. It also conveys confidence and honesty. You can keep it from coming across as creepy or aggressive by meeting your interviewer’s gaze for about 10 seconds at a time. If you find yourself in an interview with more than one company representative, make eye contact with the person who asked the question, then shift your focus to the other (or others) for a few seconds before returning it to the first.
4. Perfect your posture. For best results, you need to strike a perfect balance between erect and relaxed. Too much of the first and you’ll appear tense; too much of the latter and you’ll come across as too casual. To do this, avoid slouching whether you’re standing or sitting. Don’t sprawl in your chair but arrange your arms and legs neatly. Leaning forward slightly when speaking will show you’re enthusiastic and engaged.
5. Mind your hands. If you tend to gesticulate, you’ll want to rein that habit in for your interview. While mild gesturing is okay, wildly waving hands can come across as nervous and erratic. However, you shouldn’t clench your fists or tightly cross your arms, which can make you appear tense and defensive. Instead, allow them to rest loosely on the table or in your lap
Note: If keeping your gestures subtle is difficult for you, bring a notebook and pen and ask if you can take notes during the interview. Doing so will keep your hands suitably busy and show you’re taking the interview seriously.
6. Avoid all fidgeting. Hair twirling, nose rubbing, pen tapping, foot swinging and other fidgety motions are distracting in any setting. Even worse, they’re likely to be interpreted by your interviewer as signs that you’re either nervous and lack focus or are bored and disengaged. If you generally find it difficult to keep your legs still, keep your feet planted on the floor throughout the interview.
Note: Practicing quiet stillness through meditation prior to going on interviews can also be helpful.