When you walk into a job interview you want to exude confidence, ability and professionalism – so the last thing you want is for your unconscious body language to undermine the impression you’re trying to convey. Body language is immediately observed but unconsciously performed. Check out these tips to ensure that you come across exactly as you wish – and don’t let your body sabotage you!
Nothing contributes more to an impression of confidence than good posture – so make a conscious effort to walk with your head high and shoulders back, and sit with a straight back (while remaining relaxed and natural). You don’t want to skulk into an interview with stooped shoulders and your head down, then slouch down in your chair – you might as well be wearing a sign saying, ‘I don’t deserve this job.’
We’ve all heard about the importance of a firm handshake, and this oft-repeated advice still holds true. There’s something decidedly unimpressive, if not distinctly creepy, about the dead fish handshake; just don’t try to overcompensate with a bone-crushing handshake that will make your interviewer wince in pain.
The ability to maintain eye contact is another indicator of confidence, honesty and openness. Staring at the floor or ceiling will make you appear lacking in confidence, distracted and like you’re not listening – or perhaps like you don’t even care. Also be aware of too many sidelong glances, which can make you look shifty. Astute observers of body language can apparently detect liars from their eye movements (such as looking up and to the right), as well as other body language giveaways.
Eye contact can be maintained for up to 10 seconds, but it’s important not to stare too intently – that will just creep your interviewer out.
Maintain an open but professional stance and sitting position. Don’t sit on the edge of your chair; instead sit up straight, leaning slightly forward and with your hands relaxed in front of you. Cross your legs at the ankles or keep both feet on the floor (crossing your legs may come across as too casual). Also be sure not to cross your arms, as that will make you appear closed and defensive.
No matter how nervous you may be feeling, try not to fidget in your chair or with your hands. It’s highly distracting and will make you look not only nervous, but possibly cagey. Don’t touch your hair, face, neck or mouth, or play with your jewellery, cufflinks or handbag. Maintaining an air of relaxed calmness will give the most favourable impression.
Interviews are a serious business, but that’s no reason not to smile. Smiling will show that you’re relaxed and confident, as well as generally pleasant. No one wants to work with a dour sourpuss.
Keep in mind that there’s a difference between a forced smile and a natural one, so as much as you can, try to relax and smile as naturally as possible. A natural smile involves all your facial muscles, including your eyes, while a forced one will move your mouth but leave your eyes unmoved. Either that or you’ve overdone it with the botox.
Deep breathing will help you relax and prevent you from appearing breathless and nervous. Try to breathe deep into your diaphragm instead of just shallowly into your chest. You’ll be surprised by how much this will help to calm and ground you.
Drink some water (bring a bottle with you) before you go into the interview room so your mouth isn’t too parched. It’s hard to speak confidently, or speak at all, when your mouth is as dry as the Atacama Desert.
And finally, don’t forget to wear a lightweight shirt (with a jacket) that breathes so you don’t get too hot and sweaty when being asked those tricky interview questions (and remember to wear antiperspirant!). Having a Nixon moment during your interview is not going to do you any favours in landing that job.