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15 body language tips to ace your interview

Posted on October 06, 2016

Like it or not, your body language says a lot about you. It’s no exaggeration to say that things like posture, gestures and facial expressions can make or break your interview performance. Here are fifteen body language tips that will help you seal the deal come interview time. Because sometimes it’s not what you say, it’s the way that you say it – and that’s what gets results!

Does body language at an interview really matter?

Yes. During an interview, the words you speak are only part of the communicative tapestry. They perform a constant dance with your body language and your paralanguage - things like tone of voice and speed of speech - to convey meaning. That’s important. Because when what you say conflicts with how you say it, people naturally believe the non-verbal signals. It’s how we’re wired.

The sense that your body language is revealing secrets about your feelings is unnerving - especially come interview time. But it’s important to relax. Your interviewer isn’t going to decode your darkest secrets by glancing at how your legs are crossed. The thing to note is that your body language can help to reinforce your words and show your interviewer that you are cool, calm and confident.

Here are fifteen tips.

1. Your interview begins sooner than you think

A quick note before we get stuck in. Your interview begins as soon as you leave your house. You never know who might see you on the bus, walking to the interview premises or loitering in the smoking area. (Don’t loiter in the smoking area.) Some interviewers liaise with their receptionists to find out how candidates behaved on arrival. Worth remembering.

2. There are few things worse than a floppy handshake

Some recruitment experts reckon that interviewers form most of their opinion on a candidate within the first 90 seconds of meeting them. First impressions count. You can get off to a flyer with the right type of handshake. Not too firm and most definitely not floppy. Pro tip: turn your palm upwards slightly. It’s deferential and shows respect for your interviewer.

3. Adopt a confident posture

Do you think slouching your shoulders and standing with all your weight on one leg projects the image of a dynamic, confident candidate? Probably not. Whether sitting or standing, keep your back straight with your shoulders relaxed and your chest out. Not only will it make you look more confident, it will make you feel more confident.

4. Head up!

It’s one of the most visceral pieces of body language of them all. So much so that it’s embodied in spoken language with phrases like “keep your head up” and “hold your head high”. It’s all about projecting confidence - and keeping your head up is a power play. Oh and while we’re conversing on the cranium, nodding your head occasionally while listening to your interviewer will show you are engaged and attentive, without breaking the speaker’s flow with verbal interruptions such as “okay”, “yeah” and “mhmm”.

5. Stop staring like a maniac

Eye contact is important. But don’t take it to the extreme. Fixing a wide-eyed gaze, locked onto your interviewer’s irises, will likely make both of you feel a little uncomfortable. Hold eye contact for a few seconds at a time and vary your gaze around the face: eyes, nose, mouth and so on. If it’s a panel interview, try to vary eye contact with each person equally.

6. Keep your fingers off your face

Humans have a habit of touching their head, hair, face and neck when they feel a little nervous or insecure. Self-touch is darn reassuring and sends a message to your brain that - hey - everything’s okay here. Trouble is it will also make your interviewer think you most definitely nervous. Ditto for resting your chin on your hand. So keep wandering paws under control. Sit on them if you have to. (That’s a joke.)

7. Stop talking like your old physics teacher

Everyone had a teacher at school whose voice used to send them to sleep. The fact is that things like intonation, tone of voice and pace matter. Vary your tone. Don’t talk too fast. Don’t mutter. If you sound calm, you will feel calm.

8. A good smile goes a long way

Interviewers want to hire someone they like; someone they feel comfortable with. And have you considered that maybe they might be feeling a little nervous too? Smiling is a great way to boost rapport between you and your interviewer. It communicates confidence and energy. Just remember to keep it genuine and don’t overdo it.

9. Caution: do not cross

You already know this, but remember that crossing your arms is a no-no during an interview. It’s defensive, stand-offish and pretty much everything you want to show you’re not.

10. Keep your feet on the ground. Literally.

Everything about the orientation of your body, from head to toe, should be facing your interviewer. It shows they have your total attention. Some experts also recommend keeping both feet planted on the floor. The belief is that it helps you to think more creatively and rationally when tackling difficult questions. Can’t hurt to try.

11. Jettison the jiggles

Sometimes nervous energy just has to find a way out - whether it’s leg-jiggling, hand-wringing or fiddling with the buttons on your shirt. Stop it. It makes you look over-agitated and could seriously annoy your interviewer.

12. Mirror, mirror on the wall...

...who’s the best candidate of them all? Well that’s up to your interviewer to decide. But mirroring their body language can go a long way to boosting rapport with them and making them feel that they have a genuine connection with you. Find out more about the power of mirroring body language here.

13. Lean to show you mean it

Lean inward, towards your interviewer, when considering an important question or to reinforce an important point. It’s authoritative, confident and serves to highlight what’s being said.

14. Remember the power of goodbye

Lots of focus is put on the importance of your interview’s opening moments. Rightly so. But don’t switch off as soon as the interview is over, because goodbye matters too. Breathing a huge sigh of relief and racing for the door could undo all of your good work. Smile, thank the interviewer for their time and make a calm, controlled exit. Not just from the room, but from the building. That sigh of relief and celebratory fist-pump can wait for the bus home.

15. Don’t overthink it. Be yourself.

Finally, remember to be yourself. You don’t obsess about body language when you are buying a pasty and a cup of tea from your favourite bakery. Bad body language is born from nerves. And nerves can be calmed with good interview preparation. Yes it’s important to be aware of your body language - and some of the tips mentioned above can help you make a great impression - but that shouldn’t come at the expense of looking natural and genuine.

Best of luck!

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>> How to prepare for an interview >> How to dress for an interview >> Interview questions, common formats and how to prepare

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