Body Language and the Interview

The interview can be your doorway to a new career or it can be the time when you separate yourself from others – and not in a good way.  The interviewer is considering everything you say – and everything you don’t say, too. 

Body language is the universal language that people use to determine what you really mean, what you feel about yourself, how truthful you are being, and how competent you are.  It is important to be aware of what kinds of signals you are giving off, especially when you are in an interview situation.

Here are a few things you should be aware of:

Practice Your Handshake

This is one of the first chances you will have to make a good impression on the interviewer.  It is the accepted means of introducing yourself and the interviewer will use it as a way of determining your personality.  It can start your interview off on a great note or it can signal the interviewer to look for other signals as to your suitability for the job.  A weak handshake or sweaty palms are two of the warning signals that tell the interviewer that you are not confident in yourself.  Remember to have a firm handshake – but don’t overdo it!

It’s In the Eyes

During an interview, eye contact can tell the interviewer many things.  If you do not keep eye contact, the interviewer may think that you are being untruthful, that you are not really interested in the job, or that you do not believe in yourself.  Do not stare at the interviewer to the point that it makes him or her feel awkward, but connect frequently.  If you have more than one interviewer, make sure that you meet the eyes of each one periodically so that you do not make one feel more targeted than the other.

Smile and Mean It

A genuine smile is one of the most important types of body language that you can bring with you on an interview.  Notice that I said genuine.  When smiling is forced it just comes across as insincere and possibly even fearful.  A genuine smile can tell the interviewer that you are happy to be there though.  One of the best ways to have a genuine smile is to relax.  If you are tense, your smile tends to come across as fake.  And how do you relax?  Be prepared, know your stuff, and practice.

Other Body Language to Watch For

Almost everyone has some kind of habit that they do when they are nervous.  If I’m sitting and you see my foot bopping up and down – it is a sure signal that I’m nervous.  What do you do?  If you’re not sure, ask your friends.  When you find out what that is, you’ll be more aware of it and more likely to stop yourself.  Watch your hand gestures, too.  If they are too big and bold it does not make a great impression. 

Good Body Language

You can present a better impression of yourself by leaning forward slightly when listening to or speaking to the interviewer.  It shows that you are interested and excited.  Nod when appropriate.  Sit up straight.  Sit slightly forward in the chair.  Cross your hands in your lap.  And most of all – relax!