Body Language Speaks Loudly in Interviews

by Bill Rosenthal

You know the drill: You have to tell the interviewer about your accomplishments rather than your skills. You’ve got to listen carefully so you can match your pitch to the job’s needs. And it’s important to project confidence and enthusiasm.

Body LanguageBe aware, though, that it isn’t only what you say that will be judged. You’ll speak volumes with the way you stand, sit, gesture and express yourself facially. So give as much attention to your physical presence as you do to your carefully chosen words, particularly for bringing across your confidence and enthusiasm.

To put it another way: Use your voice to convey facts and use your body for everything else. When there’s a mismatch between what the interviewer hears and sees, the visual input will matter more – and can sabotage the interview.

Relax, Stand Tall, Maintain Eye Contact

How do you do it right? Start by totally unwinding in the reception area, breathing deeply and relaxing any part of your body that may be tight due to anxiety. Then breathe naturally, and keep doing it throughout the interview.

Walk into the interviewer’s room standing tall, shoulders back (women too), balanced, striding confidently with your hands swinging comfortably at your side, and smiling. Walk as if you belong there. Be ready to shake the interviewer’s hand when it’s offered, being careful to avoid giving either a limp grip or bone-cruncher.

Look the interviewer in the eye as you greet each other. You’ll want to make eye contact all the way through the interview, but without staring. Job candidates who are uncomfortable making eye contact instantly reveal their nervousness. Those who look down at the floor are signaling they don’t even want to be there. Regular eye contact will help you connect with the interviewer on a human level, build trust and let you know how you’re coming across.

Some job candidates look around the room as they enter, searching for a trophy or photo to comment on so they can try to establish a personal connection. The downside to doing this is scanning a room can give the brain more information than it can easily process and this will increase your nervousness. You’re best off giving your full attention to the interviewer.

Use the Right Gestures

If you’re offered a choice of seats choose a hardback chair rather than a sofa where you’ll sink down and find it harder to project authority and leadership. Sit comfortably erect with your feet planted on the floor and leaning slightly forward. Sit close enough so you can communicate easily but not so close that you¿re invading the other person’s space.

As you continue your conversation, show your enthusiasm with your eyes, facial expressions and body movement. All this must be natural or you’ll come across as inauthentic. Emphasize the main points you’re making with deliberate arm or hand gestures, always relaxed and comfortable. (Be sure you¿re not getting too comfortable or you may start slouching.) Some women habitually slant their head to one side or nod in agreement excessively. If you’re prone to making submissive gestures like these be certain that you avoid them. How do you avoid any mannerism or tic that can work against you? It takes practice, practice, practice.

Rehearse – With an Audience

As you rehearse what you¿ll say at the interview you should also rehearse the posture and movement that you’ll use. Role-play with a family member or friend who can act as the interviewer. Videotape these sessions and review the tapes with the other person to get feedback.

If you do this repeatedly, as is done in presentation skills training classrooms, you’ll get better each time. Once you learn to use body language with the same facility that you use for speaking you¿ll become more persuasive during any interaction – whether it’s a one-on-one meeting, a presentation to a team or a speech before hundreds at a conference.

Bill Rosenthal is CEO of Communispond Inc. The company, now celebrating its 40th year, provides training in presentations, sales and other aspects of communications.

One Response to “Body Language Speaks Loudly in Interviews”