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Body Language for Interviews

Smart job seekers not only know how to prepare and what to say in an interview setting, but they also know how to manage their non-verbal communication, aka their body language.

So, you might be schooled up and aware of how your body language looks, or this could be a new subject for you. Either way, this blog will cover the key points you need to know to ensure you use the optimal body language to give yourself the best chance of success.

First impressions

You should be trying to create an air of confidence and calm, but not arrogance, so before you leave for your job interview give yourself plenty of time and make sure you’ve got everything you’re going to possibly need; copy of CV and cover letter, job description, note pad, pens etc.

Put them in a professional looking satchel, briefcase or bag so that you’re not scrambling things together in your car prior to walking into the building. And by the way, always assume that there will be people watching you as soon as you park your car!

The other thing to be aware of is that hiring managers often ask the people you’ve had brief engagements with what they thought about you. So for example if you speak to somebody on the front reception desk make sure you treat them like the final decision maker by being friendly and polite. They’ll also be judging your non-visual communication too so when you’re waiting in reception sit or stand in an alert and professional manner; no slouching, stay off your mobile phone (including texting or internet browsing) and take your surroundings in. This will help you get a feel for the company atmosphere and culture as well as keep you alert for anyone walking past, which when this does happen remember to look for eye contact and smile.

Shaking hands

Job interviews start when you shake hands, so you need to be aware of your handshake style and make sure yours is one that gives the right impression.

Grip too tightly and people will think you’re too aggressive. On the other hand (no pun intended) grip too softly and you’ll come across as too weak.

You also need to make sure you don’t open or close your palm as you offer it to people as this is a sign of either submission (open palm facing up) or control (palm facing down).\

With so much to think about why not practice with a couple of friends or family members to get their opinion on how you can alter your hand shake.

You should be focussed on using your right hand (so make sure your belongings are on your left hand side), smiling, keeping your palm at a 90 degree angle to the ground and use eye contact once you’ve made the moderate to firm grip.

Finally never cover the other person’s hand or touch them anywhere else when you meet them for the first time. This type of handshake is saved for closer relationships or else it is seen as a sign of trying to dominate the other person.

Walking through

The walk to the interview is a great opportunity for you to display some early body language and show you’re ‘the right person for this company’!

To keep things simple keep calm, smile (but not too much), take in your surroundings and try to mirror the person you’re walking with.

The message you’ll give is ‘I fit in here and will follow your lead’.

Talk about pressure!

Taking a seat at the interview table

The first thing you need to do when you sit down is either wait for the other person / people to sit or be offered to take a seat.

From here you need to get comfortable; fold up your coat nicely (if you have one) get a copy of your CV, cover letter, note pad and any other documentation you’re going to need neatly laid out on the table (I would advise you do this in one neat pile with your CV at the top and your note pad to the side) and set yourself up early with a drink of water (if there’s some available).

Place your briefcase carefully to the side of your chair too, you don’t want it under the table for people to kick!

Once you’re ready sit up straight, take a deep breath and smile; you’re ready to go!

Eye contact and hand gesturing

Eye contact is critical as you should always keep appropriate eye contact with the person or people in the room. Too little eye contact means you’ll look ‘shifty’, too much and you’ll come across as being too intense.

This means you need to look people in the eye in a natural way when they’re talking to you and vice versa. It’s also important to ensure you make eye contact with everyone in the room, so you’re not just talking to one person.

Experts recommend you should look directly into someone’s eyes for no more than a few seconds at a time, so as a rule of thumb, keeping eye contact for 3-5 seconds at a time is a good guide. Try talking through some interview questions and answers with your friends and family to see what they think about your use of eye contact.

The other thing you should think about is using your hands to help gesture and get your points across.

To do this in the interview setting you’ll need to make sure your hands are always above desk level, but below your shoulder height otherwise you won’t look relaxed.
Keep your palms open to show honesty and a relaxed manner. It also might help to sit back a little from the table to help you use your hands to gesture during the interview.

Other Interview Body Language Dos and Don’t

As you will have worked out by now, body language can be quite a complex subject. However to keep things as simple as possible here are list of body language dos and don’ts for you to consider prior to having your interview;

Do…

  • Sit all the way back in your seat
  • Plant your feet firmly on the ground
  • Breathe deeply, and speak on the exhale
  • Nod your head while listening
  • Maintain equal eye contact with all interviewers
  • Lean in at key points of interest

Don’t…

  • Slouch in your chair (either in the interview or while you’re waiting)
  • Cover your mouth when you talk
  • Move about in your chair (it makes you look like you’re nervous)
  • Try to over analyse the other person’s body language – it’ll put you off your stride!

Making your exit

Once the questions are over and it’s time to leave you just need to do a little reverse engineering and you can be on your way. So, take a breath, gather your things calmly, stand up with grace, make eye contact and smile.

Then shake hands with all the people in the room and make your way out of the room, remembering to smile and say goodbye to anyone you spoke to on your way out.
That’s it, you’re done… for now…. hopefully!

If you’re interested in looking at your career options and would like to speak to a member of the team simply call 0131 553 6644 or email connect@chasepeople.com

Kate O’Neill
Consultant – Graduate Sales Recruitment