How you present at interview is so important. But have you thought about how your body language will either support or kill your chances of securing the job?
Being given an interview is exciting and your preparation starts straight away – what you will wear, how you will get there, researching the company, studying your resume and rehearsing interview questions.
Very few candidates actually stop and think about body language.
We all know that first impressions count. When you first meet your interviewer you want to be brimming with confidence: a great big smile, firm handshake and an audible “nice to meet you” whilst looking into the interviewer’s eyes. Imagine if you met an interviewer with a tiny little voice which screams “timid”, a limp handshake and someone who looked at the floor or muttered into their shoulder when they spoke … not a good impression and it wouldn’t fill you with confidence about their ability to interview you fairly.
You’ve worked hard to get to interview stage, so put some real thought and preparation into your body language. There is no better way to prepare than to practise. Stand in front of the mirror and see what you look like. Silly as it seems, it’s a great way of finding out how others see you. Video yourself (enlist the help of a friend if necessary), but you need to watch the way in which you present yourself and your message.
Body language is not just the physical aspects, it is also your voice. How do you project message? Do you have an audible voice? (notice your pitch and tone) Painful as it can be, record yourself and then listen back – a great way of modifying your voice. Sometimes when people concentrate on an answer, as happens in interviews, their voice drops down a few notches. Hearing this in yourself and being aware of it can help you overcome the problem at interview.
When I first started recruiting I was amazed at the number of people I interviewed with poor body language. I could never understand how, after working so hard for an interview, they could blow their chances in this way.
One candidate, a lovely woman with an impressive background and the skills my client sought appeared to be the ‘perfect’ candidate on paper. At interview though, she seemed to shrink into herself. Whenever I asked her about an achievement or situation she had handled she crept back in the chair, went red, cocked her head to the side and lowered her voice when answering. These were her achievements – she should have owned them, been proud of them, expanded on them and confidently spoken about them!
Other people give you gruff one-word answers or direct you back to their resume, “Well, it’s all in there if you look at page 2”. I am sure it is a symptom of nerves for most people, but irrespective of the reason, it doesn’t impress interviewers and most certainly doesn’t present you in the best light.
So, how do you make sure your body language is appropriate for an interview?
Body language don’ts
- Don’t keep your hands in your pockets.
- Never cross your arms – it makes you look defensive.
- Don’t hold your handbag/briefcase or portfolio in your lap – it makes you look like you’re ready to bolt!
- No slouching – sit up straight and tall.
- Never look away from the interviewer when answering questions or when they are talking to you – maintain eye contact.
- Fidgeting such as shaking your leg or tapping your foot or drumming your nails on the desk is annoying and distracting.
- Staring at the wall or floor – nothing screams disinterest more!
- Relax to the point of appearing blasé – leaning back in the chair in a relaxed manner more suited to the lounge at home, or resting your head on your hand with an elbow on the chair.
- Don’t rub your nose every time you make a point – some say it is a sign of deceit.
- Never lean on the desk and towards your interviewer – it invades their space.
Body language is relatively easy to control. Simply being mindful of it can help enormously.
Have a think about your last interview – do you recognise any of the above points?
Next time you have an interview put your best foot forward, a strong confident voice, loads of eye contact and a professional presentation, to give yourself every chance of being offered the role.