Whether you are aware of it or not, your body is sending out all sorts of cues to those you interact with. Hiring managers are often trained to pick up on these subtle messages that your body is sending during the interview. In fact, by the time you sit down for the actual interview the employer has already collected a fair amount of information about you without you even speaking a word. So before the interview even gets under way, the employer is making judgment calls about the type of person you are.
We should all be aware of our non-verbal cues—especially during the interview. By paying as much attention to our body language as we do to our interview answers, we will make sure our body is sending the right answers.
First impressions are important; therefore make it a good one. When greeting the interviewer, offer them a smile, maintain eye contact, and offer a firm palm to palm handshake. Many candidates tense their bodies, including their face, when they enter the interview. Plan ahead where you will intend to put your briefcase or purse. The floor is likely your best option, as you shouldn’t place them on your lap or on the table or desk where they may be a distraction. You want as few obstructions between you and the interviewer as possible.
Eye contact is one of the most important verbal cues we send. Timing is everything with eye contact. Breaking eye contact with the interviewer too quickly may make us look unsure of ourselves or intimidated. Maintaining an excessive amount of eye contact or staring may make the interviewer uneasy. Instead, maintain eye contact for an extra second beyond what you would normally do with an acquaintance. That additional eye contact helps build a personal connection with the interviewer.
Our posture should be upright and neutral. Leaning forward too much may send the message that we are eager, but it may also appear as being overly aggressive to the interviewer. Leaning back may make us seem like we are sending the message that we are relaxed but in reality it runs the risk of being interpreted as arrogance or laziness. Avoid crossing your arms or legs as this can make you appear defensive.
Gestures are a natural part of communication. They enhance a conversation and convey our engagement and enthusiasm. When we are nervous, we tend to stop gesturing altogether or barely move at all. On the other hand, too much gesturing draws attention away from the conversation. The trick is to strike a balance. Refrain from overdoing gestures or the opposite, hiding your hands. If standing, let your arms hang comfortably at your sides, instead of in your pockets or behind your back.
For some, the biggest challenge will be in containing their nervous energy. Touching your face or hair or jostling coins in your pockets is a distraction and takes attention away from what you are saying.
Practice for your interview at home in front of a mirror. Maintain eye contact with yourself as you rehearse answers and pay particular attention to your gestures and posture. With a little practice you can control what your body is saying and feel more confident in the interview.
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Good luck in your search.