How to Manage Your Body Language in Interviews

People waiting to be interviewed

You’ve probably heard about the study that showed that 55% of communication is body language, 38% is tone of voice, and only 7% is based on the words spoken. Whether or not these numbers hold up, we all know that the subconscious mind is skilled at detecting non-verbal cues and that these cues can significantly impact the way an interviewer perceives a job candidate. With this in mind, it’s worthwhile to pay close attention to the cues you might be sending out during your next job interview, so we’ve provided a few tips below to help you make a great first impression.

It Starts in the Waiting Room

Assume the interview began the moment you entered the office and treat everyone you meet or see with respect and a friendly, calm demeanor. As you await your interview pay attention to your posture and don’t get too comfortable – if you settle in and unpack items from your bag onto your lap you’ll only appear awkward when you have to rise to greet your interviewer. Put your bag to your left so that when you rise to shake hands with your interviewer your movements are fluid. Calm your nerves with some deep breathing, and some subtle power posing by sitting with your shoulders squared, chest open, and feet planted firmly on the ground.

The Handshake

We know handshakes play a significant part of forming first impressions – both positive and negative. The key is to shake with a firm pressure, but not a finger crushing one, if in doubt match the pressure of the other person. Shake hands with everyone in the room and make direct eye contact and smile as you shake.

Sitting Etiquette

If offered a choice of seats, wait for your interviewer to invite you to sit and take whatever seat they indicate. If they don’t indicate a seat and you have a choice choose a firm chair, directly across from the interviewer(s).  While it’s fine to have a small portfolio or notebook on the table place the rest of your belongings on the floor to your left. During the interview, sit straight (imagine a string attaching the top of your head with the ceiling), keep your chest open, and don’t cross your arms or legs. If you are being interviewed by a group it’s natural to slightly angle your body towards one individual at a time when listening to or answering a question but make sure you do not angle away from others, as this can cause them to feel dismissed or disrespected.

Effective Listening

While an interviewer is speaking, make eye contact, lean in slightly, and nod occasionally (but not so much that you look like a bobble head doll). Feel free to jot down notes and make small sounds of verbal assent or understanding. Don’t cut the interviewer off, and pause slightly before answering, this will indicate you are answering thoughtfully and not coughing up canned answers. If you need clarification, ask for it rather than trying to internally decipher meaning during the course of your answer.

Calming Nervous Habits

If you are a chronic nail-biter, knuckle cracker, hair twirler, or leg tapper, avoid allowing these habits to surface during the interview. They will convey your nerves and make you appear unprofessional. Try not to touch your face or hair and keep your hand gestures moderate and at chest level. If you tend to fidget with your hands allow them to come together on the table into a steeple pose with fingertips touching. Breath deeply throughout the interview, and speak slightly more slowly than you normally do to balance out any nervous rushing impulses.

Eye Contact

Good eye contact is crucial to making a positive impression, it fosters trust and indicates engagement. Ensure you make eye contact while someone is speaking and, when you answer, make eye contact with all of the interviewers, not just the individual who asked the question. Eye contact is not the same thing as staring and should be intermittent and balanced across the room, not constant and focused.

Leaving the Room

When the interview concludes, calmly stand, gather your belongings and then smile and shake hands with the interviewers. Make eye contact and smile again as you thank them for their time.

Pro Tip: If interviewing on the phone stand up and smile while you answer questions, it will make you sounds energetic, confident, and positive.