Body Language

What Your Interview Body Language Reveals About You

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Poor body language can derail an interview regardless of how confident and well-spoken you are. Body language is as much a part of your communication style as what you say verbally – it’s really about how you say it. Impressions are made within seconds of reviewing body language.

Related: 8 Body Language Mistakes You’re Making During Interviews

Consider the first step to entering an interview – the handshake. While it may take less than 10 seconds to complete a handshake, in that time, the interviewer has already developed an impression of your character based on eye contact and the firmness of your shake.

A weak handshake and lack of eye contact can leave the impression you are timid and insecure. A sincere and firm handshake with eye contact expresses professionalism and confidence. An overpowering handshake with a fixed gaze may come across as overconfident and arrogant. So, be cautious with your next handshake and start the interview off with a positive impression.

In an interview, body language is present from head-to-toe. Consider the following:

Posture

Whether you are sitting or standing, your posture projects a level of confidence and engagement in the conversation. When one slumps, it implies to the interviewer a lack of confidence and interest. Sitting stiff as a rock implies nervousness and it creates an uncomfortable situation for building rapport. Sitting at the tip of the chair implies you don’t want to be there.

Lying back on the chair with your ankle on top of your other knee may come off appearing unprofessional and too relaxed. In general, crossing your arms and legs may be interpreted as building a barrier.

Related: 8 Body Language Mistakes You’re Making During Interviews

To project professionalism, confidence, and engagement, consider sitting on the chair with your lower back touching or close to the back panel while leaning 10 degrees forward. Keep your hands relaxed in your lap and feet grounded on the floor. When standing, avoid crossing your arms or placing them in your pockets. The point is to project a balanced posture that is not limp or overly stiff.

Eye Contact

Eye contact allows you and the interviewer to connect beyond words alone. However, there is a fine balance between good eye contact and when eye contact becomes a weird gaze or stare that can make the other person feel uncomfortable. When you stare without having breaks in between, a casual conversation can come across as a lecture.

Whether you are listening or speaking, maintain eye contact with your interviewer for a couple of seconds at a time (no more than 7 to 10 seconds) and then glance away before returning eye contact again. If you are looking down to take notes, look up occasionally, especially when it appears a special point is being made or when you are asked a question.

Voice

Speed, tone, and pitch combined presents an impression. Talking too fast can be hard to understand and appear as nervousness. When your tone projects apology or defense, you can come across as unconfident and insecure. When you don’t make changes between your tone and pitch, you can sound monotone, making it more difficult for the other person to stay engaged.

Learn to take control of your voice. If you are nervous, it can come across in your pitch, so take a breath to help you relax before speaking. Be conscious of your tone and pitch to offer variation and to help emphasize certain points.

Bobble Head

Some people have a tendency to bobble their head as a gesture of agreement, but when you nod in excess during a conversation, it becomes a distraction and can be interpreted as though you are agreeing on everything for the sake of wanting to please. You can lose credibility in such instances.

To avoid appearing like a bobble head, nod occasionally to show you are still engaged and have control over how you nod. You can also tilt your head slightly to the side as though you are trying to listen more carefully as another way to show you are engaged.

Extremities

There are people who do certain things out of habit, such as flaring arms while talking, twirling hair, playing with a pen in hand, rocking back and forth on a chair and shaking or thumping their feet. Many of these actions occur unconsciously, however, these are distractions to the person you are speaking to and may be perceived as signs you are bored or have trouble focusing. Some people also touch their nose or face frequently when they are nervous. An interviewer may perceive this as a sign you are not being totally honest.

Be conscious of what you do with your hands, legs and feet and that will help you take control of your movements.

Be aware of your own body language and also read your interviewer’s body language to give you hints about how she is responding to you. The interview may start off very formal, but as you both become acquainted with one another, the mood may relax and you may adapt your body language to reflect what you sense from the interviewer.

There is no absolute rule around body language, but it would be wise to avoid any chance of being misinterpreted. You can properly prepare your body language before heading into an interview by watching yourself in the mirror act out how you introduce yourself and speak. Another helpful way is to have someone interview you and video record the entire session. Review how you present yourself and become aware of problem areas to adjust before your interview.

This post was originally published at an earlier date.

Related Posts

5 Ways Body Language Can Cost You The Job
What’s The Best Way To Follow Up After An Interview?
3 Items To Hide From Your Interviewer


Don Goodman

About the author

Don Goodman’s firm was rated as the #1 Resume Writing Service in 2013 & 2014. Don is a triple-certified, nationally recognized Expert Resume Writer, Career Management Coach and Job Search Strategist who has helped thousands of people secure their next job. Check out his Resume Writing Service. Get a Free Resume Evaluation or call him at 800.909.0109  for more information.

 


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Don Goodman

Don Goodman, President of Best Resume Writing Service - About Jobs is a nationally recognized career expert. Get a free career assessment from Don here.

16 comments

  1. It’s interesting what Jim said about people who steeple. I read the related article :” 8 Body Language Mistakes You’re Making During the Interview”. The author recommends the interviewee do exactly that-steeple. I think you take what you can from these articles and just be yourself and do the best you can.

  2. I find a nice professional notebook helps me manage my movements during the interview. It gives me something to hold when I stand (so my hands don’t look awkward), it gives me something to do with my hands during the interview (I tend to talk with them & this helps me be more aware of them), and it gives me a place to take notes and jot down questions that I think of during the interview (so I don’t forget them & look engaged). I do NOT make doodles during the interview. It also gives me a place to stash extra copies of my resume and my references as well as a place to put any materials I may receive from them.

  3. Some good pointers about body language in the articles. With global movement where people from diverse cultures may end up in an interview should also be aware of the cultural differences. In some cultures, carried into business settings and , of course, interviews; it is disrespectful to “look up” to an elder or senior person as an example. I think everyone should also understand and appreciate this aspect of the interview interaction and make reasonable allowances in mixing the east-west cultural differences.

    • I would agree with Lawrence, one size doesn’t always fit all particularly when dealing with cultural differences. Further, personality comes into play, introverts may be more challenged to follow prescribed path but as someone else said, practice, practice, practice can help.

  4. This is a great post. I attended a retail job fair (yes, this is outside of my white collar industry where I’m having a very tough time securing an interview for a full-time opportunity) this weekend, and had the chance to sit down for a brief (there were numerous people who attended this event) one on one interview with a store representative. I think my voice may have initially come across as monotone as she, at one time, literally yawned (it wasn’t a lengthy one as she caught herself doing this) when I started answering her question re: why I’m applying for this position. I’m hoping this isn’t a sign that I totally messed up the interview because I came across as somewhat dull. I’ll be sure to study all the points you list in this article and keep them in mind for future job interviews.

  5. Good article. One omission, however, is the role of culture. As we become more global, there are other differences to be aware of…thinking of the handshake, which is not the ‘norm’ in other parts of the world. It may be difficult for an Asian woman, for example, to look you in the eye and give a firm handshake.

    As one earlier poster mentioned, these are generalities. The specifics during any interview can be very different!

  6. There is no absolute rule around body language, but it would be wise to avoid any chance of being misinterpreted. There are those people who try to “read” too much. Sometimes things and actions should be read at face-value, nothing more.

  7. Nick @ ayoungpro.com

    Great post. Body language is something that many people forget to consider in their interviews, but I know several recruiters who put a huge emphasis on it.

  8. Nice article with pertinent points to note for both freshers and experienced job-seekers. Interviewers so often judge a candidate on the vibes they get (conveyed through body language) from them. Hence, what a candidate does can’t be rehearsed or quirky habits concealed, though experienced job-seekers may be smart talkers. Thanks Don for sharing this insightful article !

      • I think people steeple out of insecurity, which probably drives a lot of body language and they try to assert dominance. In a sense, it’s intrusive, as mild as it may seem. Why does it bother us? I can only speak for myself. I don’t care for type A/alpha types that always have to be on top as it were. I am more collaborative where everyone is among equals. In a sense, I am neither a follower nor a leader.

  9. Sometimes you need to move around a little to stay awake, as yes, the interview process can be boring. I know you are supposed to sit perfectly still, but that can be difficult if the a/c is on full blast, or you are very close to falling asleep.

  10. OLUSANYA STEPHEN. A.

    I have taking my time to read through and I want to say am very impressed with the knowledge display on this topic, it very instructive. Thanks.

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