Your interview body language isn’t something all of us consider when going into an interview. It can be involuntary, and hard to change even when you make a conscious effort. But your body language, and the message you convey with it, can make or break your interview. Let’s look at a couple of examples:
Tom walks into the interview room and sits down in the chair waiting for him. Tom says hello and stares out the window with his arms crossed. Tom makes eye contact when the interviewer says “Thanks for coming in today.” and then proceeds to stare down at the floor.
All of this screams to anyone watching that Tom would rather be anywhere else in the world. Meanwhile we have Amy.
Amy strides confidently into the room, shaking hands with the interviewers and introducing herself before she sits down. Amy’s posture is relaxed, open, but learning forward slightly, eager to get started with the interview. Amy makes casual small talk, before the interview starts in earnest.
Which of the above examples give you an impression of someone who wants the job? Which do you feel is more likely to have a successful interview, before the interviewer has even asked any questions?
Your interviewers and hiring managers will be well versed in what non-verbal cues and body language really says. Because your job interview isn’t just about what you say. It can be about how you say it, or if what your body is saying, agrees with what comes out of your mouth.
These are the most common interview body language mistakes you could be making in your interviews, and what your interviewer really thinks when they see them:
The majority of these tips are fairly obvious and self-explanatory. But our body language is often unintentional, and it can take conscious effort to implement these tips below. So it’s worth running through this checklist before a big interview, and practising them by yourself before the big day.
Good posture such as keeping your back straight and chin parallel to the ground shows you’re paying attention and receptive to what they’re saying. And by slightly leaning forward you show a genuine interest. Meanwhile, lounging in your chair and leaning back might show you’re a bit too relaxed.
And studies have shown that a good posture leads to increased testosterone, which has links to social dominance.
Sounds simple, but when you’re filled with nerves it can be easy to forget. But a warm, natural smile helps to make the interviewer feel more comfortable. As well as helping to make yourself feel more at ease of course!
And the interviewer is looking for someone they may potentially be working with for years to come. And they will want to work with someone who is friendly and approachable. Not the interviewee who didn’t smile once…
The saying goes “You can tell a lot about a man by his handshake”. And while old-fashioned and slightly gender discriminate, the saying still rings true to an extent. Some employers couldn’t care less about your handshake, but for others it can be a deal-breaker.
Not that you need it, but we’ll give you the quick run-down on a proper handshake: A firm handshake that doesn’t crush their fingers, but not so limp it’s like they’re holding a wet fish. Because your handshake shows that you’re confident and excited to be there.
Eye contact is essential in an interview. It conveys your confidence in yourself and in the answer you’re giving. And when you’re not speaking, it shows you’re attentive and have an active interest in what the interviewer is saying.
And eye contact is a foundational core of making connections and building relationships. And your aim in an interview is to make a lasting impression so they will remember you in a positive light.
And conversely, you want to avoid not making eye contact. Because the interviewer will notice. And what it shows them is that you don’t have confidence in what you’re saying. Body language expert Patti Wood says:
“If you’ve been making great eye contact the whole interview and suddenly start blinking rapidly when asked a question, this can indicate stress and a desire to avoid the truth.”
Additionally, you want to avoid too much eye contact. Nobody wants to feel like they’re being stared at…
Interviews can be long and mentally exhausting. And if you’re interviewing for a position, you’re likely interviewing for other roles simultaneously. So it’s understandable that you may find yourself exhausted by the end.
But your interviewer will absolutely notice if your attention waivers significantly. And you never know what the next question or opportunity for you to speak will be. So some non-verbal responses such as nodding, smiling and leaning forward at appropriate moments can let your interviewer know you’re actively engaged.
Similar to your entrance, you should have a strong exit. You should smile, as you give the interviewer a firm handshake and thank them for their time. While you thank them for their time, it’s also a great idea to say how much you enjoyed meeting them, and reiterate your interest in the position and in hearing from them further.
You want to keep your energy up as you leave, but don’t run out of the door as you leave. While you’re most certainly glad the interview is over, that’s not really the impression you want to give.
Not all of these interview skills and body language tips come naturally to everyone. Especially in an interview situation when stress is high and you’re busy concentrating on giving the correct answers to their questions.
But the best thing you can do is ask a friend or family member to run through a mock interview with you. Give them this list of things to look out for and make sure that you’re not excessively fidgeting or avoiding eye contact etc.
Remote interviews are becoming more and more commonplace. And while helpful in organising interviews and certainly more convenient, they can add layers of difficulty for both parties. Fortunately, the majority of the body language tips we have mentioned remain applicable. But there are a few other things for you to consider
Do a quick run through of the interview making sure that your camera works, focuses on you and that you are in the frame appropriately. Whatever your location, you want to have appropriate lighting, and to make sure your video conferencing software is working.
For a video interview you should (if possible) be in a calm environment without much noise. If you have a home office or a desk with peace and quiet is perfect. What we don’t advise is taking your interview in a busy coffee shop: It happens more than you think!
Not only is it unprofessional, it reflects in your body language. In a calm environment, you’ll be more relaxed and confident. Whereas if you’re out of your comfort zone, you might spend less time focused on your interviewers and looking around at distractions in your environment.
Having an untidy background full of clutter isn’t a great first impression to give. So having a clean or plain background is the most professional look you can go for. Additionally, most video call software have the option to blur your background, though you may have to set this up beforehand.
It can be easy for attention to wander, especially when you’re in your own home with distractions all around. But it’s pivotal to remain focused on the interviewers on the screen. So it can be good to remove any potential distractions like your phone, or even silencing your doorbell if possible.
You may think that your posture doesn’t matter as much when they can’t see you. After all, you could have your legs crossed with no trousers on and they would never even know.
But when you’re not physically in the room, you don’t have as many tools at your disposal to show your interest and engagement. So remaining upright and sitting straight will still show you’re giving them your undivided attention, while helping to give you confidence.
For more tips on video interviews and how to prepare yourself, have a look at our guide here.
After these tips you’ll be ready to crush any interviews you face. But if you’re looking for more interview tips including questions to expect and how to prepare questions of your own, we’ve got our complete guide to interviews here, for more helpful advice on crushing your next interview.
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