Making a good first impression is what a job interview is all about. To boost your chances of getting hired, don’t just focus on what you’ll say. Think about how you’ll say it — and what your body language might tell the hiring manager without you even realizing it.
The way you carry yourself can communicate positivity, trustworthiness and so much more. Or, your body language can indicate the opposite. So, with that in mind, here are some body language tips for sending the right messages, and not the wrong ones, as a job candidate.
Body language tips to keep in mind during your next interview:
“When the eyes say one thing, and the tongue another, a practiced man relies on the language of the first.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
1. Know your nervous habits
Man of us have nervous habits. Maybe you roll your neck or crack your knuckles when you’re thinking about how best to answer a question. Perhaps you fidget with your hands or wiggle your feet when you’re under stress. It’s a good idea to identify these nervous habits and work to break them. Doing so will help you to demonstrate your confidence and professionalism during your interview.
Take some time to identify which nervous habits you are prone to exhibit. Maybe even consider asking a few friends or family members what they’ve noticed. Simply being aware of these tendencies will help you do them less.
Also, remember to take deep breaths and do what you can to stay calm during your interview. This will make it easier to cut back on those nervous gestures, too.
2. Plan ahead
Don’t knock visualization until you’ve tried it. Athletes have been using visualization exercises for years to help their performance, and with proven results.
Start by picturing yourself walking confidently into the building, warmly greeting the receptionist and taking a seat. See yourself being given a tour and having friendly, easy, conversation with your guide. Imagine the feeling of a strong interview. What will it feel to know you’re hitting it out of the park? How will you sit in the chair? Picture how you’ll walk through the hallways.
It doesn’t matter that you can’t visualize the actual surroundings or even the people involved. Getting that great-interview feeling in your bones is what’s most important. Your practice will make it easier to assume that role when the time comes. Also keep in mind that this exercise is actually quite practical. Use it to plan ahead when it comes to your body language. That way you won’t just be winging it when you get to the interview.
3. Feel good about what you’re wearing
It’s important to dress appropriately for an interview. You don’t want to under-dress, for example, and give the false impression that you don’t value the job or that you’re unprofessional. Plus, dressing in a way that’s appropriate and respectful will give you confidence, which will help you send the right messages in other ways.
You want to be able to forget about what you’re wearing during your interview, so that you can focus on the questions and conversations. So, make sure you wear something that’s appropriate for the climate. (Sweating or shivering can both be pretty distracting — to you and your interviewers.)
Also, make sure to choose something that fits you well so that you don’t have to adjust or pull at anything too much during your meeting. Feeling confident about what you’re wearing and how you look will allow you to go into your interview with your head held high. You’ll also be better able to focus your full attention on the conversation at hand.
Think about what you’re going to wear well ahead of your interview. Be sure to leave enough time to head to the store for something new if needed. (Perhaps it’s been awhile since you tried on that suit. It’s possible it doesn’t fit the way it did a couple of years ago.)
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4. ace the handshake
Don’t overthink the handshake thing too much. It’s really not all that complicated. There are just a few keys to a friendly and professional handshake.
First of all, don’t forget to look the other person in the eye during your handshake and smile. Grip their whole hand, not just the fingertips, and shake for just a few seconds. Don’t grab their hand too hard or too softly. You definitely don’t want to hurt anyone, but don’t let your hand go limp either.
That’s all there is to it!
5. Show that you’re listening
Ideally, the conversation that takes place during your interview should flow smoothly and seamlessly. But, in this kind of high-pressure situation, it’s only natural to take a mental step backward after you’ve answered a question. However, being a good listener is a super important part of being a good conversationalist. So, don’t skimp on this aspect of your interview.
Demonstrate that you’re listening when someone else is speaking through eye contact and nonverbal signals like nodding and smiling. Don’t look away, or down. When someone is asking you a question, show them that you’re giving them your full attention. Turn toward them. Let them know you’re listening through your facial expression and your body posture. Ask clarifying questions as needed. Be sure to really tune into what’s being said so that you don’t have to ask for anything to be repeated.
And, for goodness sake, don’t look at your phone during your interview. Turn it all the way off or leave it in your car. Checking your phone during an interview is never a good idea. And it certainly doesn’t demonstrate good listening skills.
6. Maintain appropriate eye contact
Maintaining the right level of eye contact at the appropriate times is one of the most important aspects of nonverbal communication. It says something about your confidence and your ability to present yourself in a professional way even when a situation is challenging or intimidating.
Always make eye contact when you’re shaking hands with someone. And, be sure to look at the speaker when someone is asking you a question during your interview, too. Eye contact is a great way to demonstrate that a speaker has your attention and your respect.
When you’re talking, use eye contact to emphasize important points. Looking up at just the right moments helps to drive home your message. It might even help your interviewer to remember those aspects of your contributions. Making eye contact in this way can also show that you’re passionate and that you’re sincere. These are the kinds of things that employers value.
7. Don’t be afraid to gesticulate…
Don’t feel self-conscious if you’re the kind of person who gesticulates a lot when you talk. Research has actually found that “talking with your hands” can help you get your point across.
For example, a study analyzing TED Talks found that the most popular speakers used an average of 465 hand gestures. The least popular speakers, on the other hand, only used half that many, just 272.
Talking with your hands can also help you to think better and to communicate your ideas more clearly.
“Gesture is really linked to speech, and gesturing while you talk can really power up your thinking,” said Dr. Carol Kinsey Gorman, body language expert and author, in and interview with HuffPost. “Gesturing can help people form clearer thoughts, speak in tighter sentences and use more declarative language.”
8. …but, keep your hands to yourself
Handshakes aside, you really shouldn’t touch anyone, in any way, during your interview. You might think that reaching over and touching someone’s hand or shoulder could communicate friendliness or warmth. But, doing this simply isn’t appropriate.
It’s fine to make this kind of contact with friends or family members. However, it’s not professional and it isn’t a good idea in the workplace. So, play it safe, be professional and keep your hands to yourself.
9. Demonstrate positivity and enthusiasm
Be careful not to become so focused on coming off as professional that you start to seem bland or uninterested during your interview. It’s important to show that you’re enthusiastic about the work during your interview, and that you’re a positive person in general. Your body language can help you do just that.
People want to work with folks who are good-natured and pleasant to be around. So, smile easily during your interview and laugh occasionally, where appropriate. And don’t be afraid to get a little fired up when talking about things you’re sincerely passionate about during your interview. You shouldn’t raise your voice, of course. But, your prospective employer would love to see that enthusiasm in your eyes when you talk about what you do.
10. Show that you’re trustworthy
There are several body language signals that convey trustworthiness — and plenty of gestures that send the exact opposite message.
Open postures, rather than folded up arms and scrunched down necks and shoulders, demonstrate trustworthiness. Similarly, holding your palms open rather than sitting with clenched fists helps to signal that you’re feeling easy, relaxed and positive about the people you’re meeting with and the subjects you’re speaking about.
Also try not to blink a lot, or dab sweat from a moist brow (see tip No. 2). Make a conscious effort to slow your speech, so that you don’t speak too quickly. All of these subtle body language signals can indicate nervousness or make you come off like you have something you’re trying to hide. On the other hand, if you can show that you’re feeling calm and having fun, the folks interviewing you might just end up feeling the same way.
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