Body Language during the interview

To be on the safe side, bring a spare copy of your resume to the interview. We advise arriving at least ten minutes early as interviewers are unimpressed by lateness and will rarely accept excuses from prospective employees.

A firm (but not bone crunching) handshake with a big smile will do wonders when you first meet your interviewer. Some small chit chat from the reception area to the interview room will also help. These are the vital seconds (not minutes) in making your first impression.

Body language and other forms of non-verbal communication are important elements in the way an interviewee performs. Appearing relaxed and trying to act naturally is easier said than done but good appearance is mostly a matter of assuming a position that you are comfortable with. We suggest sitting up straight, leaning forward slightly and always maintaining good eye contact with the interviewer or panel. Looking disinterested will limit your options.

If offered a drink this can help and can be used as a prop to perhaps give you some time to answer a difficult question. By accepting a drink it does show that you are fairly confident and reasonably relaxed.

Power-pose your way to interview success

by Jane McNeill, Director, Hays Australia

The statistics on how much we communicate through our body language are widely known and available – one well-known study believes it accounts for 55 per cent. Your interviewer will certainly be watching what you communicate through your body language, which could ultimately affect whether you’re successful.

Your body language will also have a big impact on your own thinking; whatever pose you choose to adopt will only further propagate what you’re feeling. 

Research from Princeton University has found that by proactively altering your body language you can actually change your frame of mind. If you’re hunched over and fidgeting then you’re only going to heighten your anxiety, if you’re sat straight with your chin up then you’ll exacerbate your feelings of confidence. “It’s not so much mind over matter as it is matter over mind,” says our CEO Alistair Cox in this Viewpoint blog.

Sitting yourself up for success

You’ve done as much research as you can about the interviewer and the business ahead of time – the least that will be expected of you, you’ve considered the questions that might crop up and thought of a few of your own, you’ve even planned the outfit that you’re going to wear – don’t let all this preparation go to waste by adopting lazy body posture!

Do you know how much you can tell about someone’s personality simply by observing how they sit in an interview? Even if you have the perfect CV and flawless answers to tough questions, negative body language could be enough to deny you the job. For example, if you are slouched in the chair, tapping your foot or fidgeting, you’ll come across as disinterested and, worse, rude.

Your 5 step checklist

With that in mind, here’s how to use your body language to create as positive an impression as possible:

1. Come prepared

Preparation for an interview always builds confidence and when you’re confident you have fewer body language issues. If you struggle with confidence then try just pretending to be confident – this is one of the tips offered in Susie Timlin’s ‘7 ways to communicate confidence’ blog. Your body language and personality could be the game changer if you are up against someone with the same qualifications and experience. Practice it with a friend or family member; tell them what to look out for.

2. Wait patiently

You begin to be judged on your interview performance as soon as you walk in the door of the building. It’s common practice for the receptionist to report back to the interviewer on your general demeanour and attitude; even slouching in the waiting area could cost you. Spend the short period before the interview thinking about how you will say hello, all the while sitting in a straight and upright neutral position.

Our CEO advises spending five minutes before a big interview or meeting adopting a “powerful, non-verbal position in private”. Forcing your body language into this pose helps to make you appear (both to others and yourself) more confident and able to handle the stress.

3. Sit confidently

Once in the interview room rest your arms on the arms of the chair or your legs and try and keep them there. While using gestures to convey a point can help show your passion, excessive hand movements can make it seem like you are trying to express yourself a bit too frantically; let your words do the talking. Folding your arms and legs can be seen as an aggressive stance; something which will count against you if you’re being interviewed for a very social, team dependent role!

Avoid touching your face and hair as it distracts the interviewer – they might think you are not comfortable with the questions being asked.

4. Maintain eye-contact

Make lots of eye contact during the interview, both when you are listening and when you are speaking. It’s a great way to convey a sense of calmness and control, but don’t go overboard. It’s not a staring match and it’s normal for the other person to break off contact throughout the interview. This is a very important form of non-verbal communication.

5. Sign-off with a smile

After you’ve pulled off a flawless verbal and non-verbal interview performance sign it off with a handshake and a smile. A firm grip, sustained eye contact, a genuine smile and the usual pleasantries are the perfect way for the interviewer to remember you.

A final thought

Even if you are not feeling confident you can give off the impression that you are by adapting your body language. Sitting up straight, communicating clearly, maintaining eye contact and smiling are the main pillars of body language interview success.

What’s even more surprising than the fact your body language can affect someone else’s perception of you is research that shows it can even affect your own brain chemistry – you can hear more on this in Amy Cuddy’s TED talk.

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