I never heard of a job candidate who got a job just because of applying good body language, also referred to as “non-verbal communication”, but it can definitely increase a person’s chances of projecting a professional and confident image. In an interview, your body language will unconsciously help to guide the interviewer in assessing your suitability for the role. It is well known that 70 % of communication is body language, 23 % is voice and intonation while only 7 % is your spoken words.
Let’s have a look at some body language communication and see what it might represent to an interviewer.
- Eye contact:
Maintaining a reasonable amount of eye contact with the interviewer will indicate that you are comfortable with the questions asked and are able to relate in a confident manner. Therefore, don’t stare and do occasionally look away. If you never look at people or look away most of the time, an interviewer will assume you are not listening, not believable, or simply nervous.
Also remember that if you are dealing with more interviewers it is important to keep eye contact with all of them, regardless whether they all ask you a question or not. This shows that you take everyone serious and important.
Did you know that also your eyebrows can send a message? Usually a person’s eyebrows may wrinkle when under stress, this sends a negative signal about a person’s ability to handle challenges in the corporate world.
A good firm handshake represents confidence and will give the interviewer a strong first impression. Usually it is the interviewer who will initiate the handshake at the opening stage of the meeting. A typical professional handshake lasts for between two and five seconds, just two or three reasonably firm, vertical up and down pumps accompanied by a smile. If you have clammy hands, you can try to hold a glass of cold water, this would help you to cool your hand down. Remember that a person with a “dead fish” (= weak) handshake is often considered as a person who lacks in confidence.
Smiling during an interview will make it easier for a candidate to relax but it’s important not to overdo it. It should happen naturally. Sometimes people smile too quickly, too often, too much and that will be perceived as insecure, insincere, nervous and unprofessional.
- Distance zones:
Encroaching on another’s personal space is never a good idea. It is therefore important to be watchful for personal-space intrusions when you first meet, greet and take a seat. The 30 inch (75 cm) rule is a good standard to follow, it is the distance that allows you to extend your hand comfortably for a handshake. Try to keep this distance throughout the interview.
- Nodding head:
Making encouraging signs like nodding will help you to create a bond between you and the interviewer. Be careful that you don’t nod your head too rapidly, that can leave the impression that you are impatient and eager to add something to the conversation, if only the recruiter would let you. Nodding your head slowly shows interest, acknowledges the comments of the hiring manager, and encourages him to continue.
- Leaning forward:
If you want to show that you are interested and enthusiastic about what the interviewer is saying you can do that by subtly leaning towards the interviewer while listening to or answering his questions. Experienced jobseekers often use the “mirroring” tactic in which they adopt the poses and characteristics of the interviewer to increase their success rate at interviews. It is well known that people hire people who are like them.
- Sitting position:
It is important to sit up straight, well back in the chair, keeping both feet on the ground. Keep your head up. Your hands should be placed in your lap, as this will indicate to the interviewer that you are relaxed but confident. Avoid fidgeting with anything in your hands and be aware of any nervous traits you may have such as foot tapping, wringing your hands, playing with pens, tapping fingernails on tables or biting your lips. It all makes you look distracted and uncomfortable. If you want you can keep a notebook and pen on your lap, this would make you look organised and gives you something to do with your hands.
- Open posture:
Sometimes you might find yourself in a situation in which you don’t know what to do with your hands and arms. You might be tempted to fold your arms across your chest when you feel cold or just because you feel comfortable doing it. Unfortunately often a recruiter might interpret this gesture as resistant, protective, closed and defensive. Holding your hands behind your back or inside your pockets is also something you should avoid because it would be considered as tentative. If you let your hands fall loosely and comfortably to your side it shows that you don’t have anything to hide.
Let’s not forget that even though your words are fine, people will believe your gestures first. When your body language complements your verbal statements, your message will be credible, but the moment your body language contradicts what you say, the interviewer will be sceptical. It is therefore crucial to use gestures well because they can bring your words to life.
Remember that non-verbal communication will provide the interviewer with a lot of information about you. If you notice and can understand body language in others, you will be more aware of your own, and better able of controlling it. By being aware of the signals your body can unwittingly send, you can portray the best impression of yourself and convince the recruiter that you will fit into their company.
Author: Karin Schroeck-Singh
Karin Schroeck-Singh is a trilingual Career Optimizer at www.Careerheads.com. She has an MBA from the University of Leicester (UK) and gained 20 years of international work experience in various industries in Italy, the UK and India. Her passion lies in creating multilingual, high-quality content in career matters, giving highly engaging public speeches and helping job seekers to optimize their career by providing professional coaching. She is the author of several ebooks, among them “44 Tips for a successful Video Interview” (http://careerheads.com/product/ebook-44-tips-for-a-successful-video-interview/). She has written several career and business articles for international HR and Marketing companies. Her favourite motto is “Learn from anyone, anywhere, anytime!” Follow her on Twitter @CareerHeads.