Your body language at an interview is a vital part of the way you present yourself to a prospective employer during an interview. As the old saying goes “You don’t get a second change to make a first impression.”
Even while you are in the waiting room it is likely that someone will be observing you, the way you interact with others and the way you act when you are under a bit of stress.
Our first seven points summarise what you can do to give an excellent impression through your body language during an interview, even without speaking. Our eighth point considers your eye contact during an interview and offers suggestions about how you can develop comfortable eye contact levels to impress the interviewers during you next interview.
1. Prepare for your interview so you are relaxed.
It sounds obvious to be prepared but it is also often overlooked. There are a few ways you can prepare, read some books about interview techniques, speak to people who have been interviewed, practice answering typical interview questions with a friend or colleague. Remember that you want to be natural, comfortable and confident during the interview.
2. Move with purpose
The moment you walk into the room your interview starts and your body language is being observed so be purposeful and strong from the beginning. Walk in tall and with a natural friendly smile. Your hands should be free at your sides, not in pockets. Also be ready to offer your hand. Your handshake should be confident, strong and firm, only pump your hand once or twice and then release. If your handshake is weak or too strong (bone crushing) this will leave a negative impression. Practice shaking hands before your interview.
The interviewer will probably ask you to take a seat, if not use the seat across from him or her (ask if it is alright first). When you sit down, use the whole chair. Don’t sit on the edge you will look nervous and uncomfortable.
3. Your posture
Remember when you sit down, use the whole chair. Don’t sit on the edge you will look nervous and uncomfortable. If there are arms on the chair lightly rest your hands on them. If not then place your hands on your legs. Don’t cross or open your legs, place them parallel with your shoulders.
Sit with a straight back and don’t cross your arms. Body language such as crossing your legs, hands or arms in an interview is effectively pushing the interviewer away.
4. Listen carefully
You need to be an active listener during the interview, do this by paying attention. Don’t look at the walls or out the window give all your attention to the interviewer. Don’t stare but maintain eye contact. You can also lean forward, nod and smile when appropriate.
When answering a question feel free to use your hands to gesture but don’t overdo it. If you are being interviewed by a panel pay most attention to the person who asked the question but don’t ignore everyone else. Try to make eye contact with everyone.
5. Focus on the present moment
Don’t fidget or look at your watch, keep still. If you lose your concentration when answering a question, take a deep breath and continue. If you have lost your thought then ask if you can begin your answer again.
6. Read the body language of your interviewer
Of course you want the interviewer to pay attention to you as well. If you feel that you are losing their attention then ask them a question or try to remember the last time you had them engaged and return to that subject.
7. Act confident
Whether you thought you performed well or not the end of your interview is an essential time. Finish with confidence, a good firm handshake, thank them for the opportunity and smile. Maybe they were just having a bad day. Their distracted mood might have nothing to do with you.
8. The importance of eye contact during an interview
You have probably often heard that making eye contact during a job interview is very important. Do you know when to look at your interviewer and when to look away? A very shy person, who is unsure of himself during an interview, may not look at the person interviewing him enough, and will unintentionally communicate his uncertainty. A lack of confidence in yourself translates to the interviewer as a lack of ability to do the job.
Keep natural eye contact
Making eye contact with your interviewer should feel natural. There are times in conversation when you look away and think about what you are going to say. It is perfectly acceptable if your eyes look up as you are remembering an example you want to tell the interviewer. This is a natural reaction when we are thinking. We look up, we may look to the side when we are remembering something. Avoid looking down, however, when you are thinking about what your answer will be. Looking down is a sign of shame or embarrassment. You do not want to convey either of those messages.
Be sure that you do not make eye contact more than you would in a normal conversation. When you answer a question, be sure to look at the interviewer as you are speaking. If you have more than one person interviewing you, you can easily look at one person, speak several words and then shift to make eye contact with another person in the room who is also interviewing you.
Staring is uncomfortable, especially in an interview
Looking too long at someone without a break becomes a stare, or intense and intrusive looking. Remember that in the animal kingdom a direct stare, or a prolonged look directly into the eyes is a direct threat and can lead to an attack. You certainly do not want your interviewer to feel that you are trying to intimate or being aggressive.
Practice your interview skills, interview body language and eye contact
Make a list of three questions that you would expect to be asked in an interview. Then, think about how you want to answer those questions and the impression you want your interview body language to convey.
Ask a friend or family member to ask you the three questions you have chosen. Ask him or her to notice how often you make eye contact and whether or not you are looking down when you pause to think. Ask if your eye contact was comfortable for the person who is asking the interview questions. Ask if there were any times when he or she wanted you to look at them, but you did not.
While you are answering the questions remind yourself about the important body language you need to use to convey the impression you want to give. Ask for feedback about the message your body language conveys, and continue to consciously practice the interview body language you will use at your next opportunity.