How to Manage Body Language during an Interview
Laura Godsoe, KBRS, Oct. 26, 2018, 9:27 a.m.
We all know that the subconscious mind is skilled at detecting non-verbal cues and that these cues can significantly impact the way an interviewer perceives a job candidate. With this in mind, it’s worthwhile to pay close attention to the cues you might be sending out during your next job interview.
The waiting room
Assume the interview began the moment you entered the office and treat everyone you meet or see with respect and a friendly, calm demeanour. As you await your interview, pay attention to your posture and don’t get too comfortable — if you settle in and unpack items from your bag onto your lap, you’ll only appear awkward when you have to rise to greet your interviewer. Put your bag to your left so that when you rise to shake hands with your interviewer, your movements are fluid. Calm your nerves with some deep breathing, and some subtle power posing by sitting with your shoulders squared, chest open and feet planted firmly on the ground.
We know handshakes play a significant part of forming first impressions — both positive and negative. The key is to shake with a firm pressure, but not a finger crushing one. If in doubt, match the pressure of the other person.
If offered a choice of seats, wait for your interviewer to invite you to sit and take whatever seat they indicate. If they don’t indicate a seat and you have a choice, choose a firm chair directly across from the interviewer(s). If you are being interviewed by a group, it’s natural to slightly angle your body towards one individual at a time when listening to or answering a question, but make sure you do not angle away from others, as this can cause them to feel dismissed or disrespected.
While an interviewer is speaking, make eye contact, lean in slightly and nod occasionally (but not so much that you look like a bobblehead doll). Feel free to jot down notes and make small sounds of verbal assent or understanding. Don’t cut the interviewer off, and pause slightly before answering. This will indicate you are answering thoughtfully and not coughing up canned answers. If you need clarification, ask for it rather than trying to internally decipher meaning during the course of your answer.
Calming nervous habits
If you are a chronic nail-biter, knuckle-cracker, hair-twirler or leg-tapper, avoid allowing these habits to surface during the interview. They will convey your nerves and make you appear unprofessional. Try not to touch your face or hair and keep your hand gestures moderate and at chest level. If you tend to fidget with your hands, allow them to come together on the table into a steeple pose with fingertips touching. Breath deeply throughout the interview, and speak slightly slower than you normally would to balance out any nervous rushing impulses.
Leaving the room
When the interview concludes, calmly stand, gather your belongings and then smile and shake hands with the interviewers. Make eye contact and smile again as you thank them for their time.