Overview of body language
Body language during an interview is extremely important. It’s often said that an interviewer will form an opinion about an applicant in the first 30 seconds. This is largely dependent on the non-verbal signals you portray before the actual interview begins.
It is worth bearing in mind that body language is an interactive process and awareness enables you to present yourself in the most positive and professional manner.
Think about people you admire, what makes them stand out? Often, it’s not what they say but how they say it. Facial expression and the way a person holds their body invariably creates more of an impression than the words spoken. It is often said that if you deliver a negative comment but smile as you do so, it will be well received.
To present yourself well, stand up straight, pull your shoulders back and lift your head. Immediately you will feel more confident and self-assured and in turn that is what others will see.
During the interview, be conscious of regulating your breathing. This will help you to remain focused enabling you to present yourself in a professional manner, whilst allowing your true personality to shine through.
Preparation before you begin
It is assumed that you are adequately prepared for the interview by having researched the company, the role you are applying for and the appropriate dress code.
Be aware of the first impression you will make – look in the mirror. Do you think you look presentable and professional? There is a time and place to express your “quirky or unique self” and unless you are aiming to work in a creative or artistic environment, this is probably not the time or the place.
Practice shaking hands – avoid the “dead fish” handshake – grasp the interviewer’s hand confidently and firmly, with an open palm and make eye contact while saying hello.
Visualise someone you have met in your past that made an impression as an engaging speaker – for example, your old Headmaster or a public figure on the television. Imagine you are that person, take a moment to breath slowly and deeply and calm your nerves.
If you run through this preparation several times in your own mind, it will become second nature and your body language will appear confident and composed.
Body language do’s and don’ts
During the interview do: –
Smile – as you enter the room and wait to be invited to sit down, before doing so.
Sit up straight and lean slightly forward in your chair towards the interviewer – this suggests you are interested and engaged in the conversation.
Show enthusiasm by nodding occasionally – this implies understanding and agreement, when used in moderation.
Observe a comfortable amount of personal space between you and the interviewer– if you pick up your chair and move into the interviewers’ space, this may make the interviewer feel uncomfortable.
Align your posture to the interviewer’s – this shows empathy and agreement with the interviewer. Avoid mimicking every gesture though, as this may arouse suspicion.
At the end of the interview – make sure you thank the interviewer for their time and as you do so, smile and shake their hand. This implies you were engaged in the process and enjoyed the positive experience.
Concentrate – on what you are saying, speak slowly and try not to fill sentences with “erm” and “filler phrases”.
Make eye contact at regular intervals – this will create an inclusive and favourable impression in relation to your ability to communicate effectively.
During the interview do not: –
Panic – if your mind goes blank when you are asked a question, pause and paraphrase the question in order to give yourself time to think of an answer.
Fidget, rock back and forth in the chair, shake or drum your feet or fingers, scratch anything – any of these gestures will suggest to the interviewer that you are unable to stay focused and concentrate for even a few minutes.
Rub the back of your neck – this looks like you are disinterested in what’s being said.
Rub, scratch or touch your nose – this implies you are not being entirely honest.
Cross your legs and idly swing one of them – this highlights the fact that you are very uncomfortable and is very distracting.
Fold your arms over your chest – this suggests you are unfriendly and defensive.
Slouch in your seat – this makes you look bored and disinterested.
Lean towards the door or keep glancing at the door – this suggests you are waiting for an opportunity to escape.
Stare anywhere in the room while being asked questions – this suggests you are avoiding eye contact which implies to the interview that you are untrustworthy.
Interrupt the interviewer while they are posing a question – even if you can anticipate the question, it is considered rude to interrupt.