You might be a Shakespeare with your words, a Stephen Hawking with your intellect, and a Barack Obama with your voice modulation, but if you’re low on exhibiting the right body language in your interview, you might not be able to make the impact you want to.
In this article, we will share the right body language for an interview that involves the use of hand gestures, eye contact, posture, smiling, etc.
When it comes to communication, words and vocal techniques account for about 7% and 38% of the impact you make, respectively. 55% is your body language. This comes from body language expert Albert Mehrabian’s study in 1981.
Need we say anything else about why it is crucial to have the right body language for an interview?
We don’t need to, but we won’t go ahead without ensuring that all your doubts are cleared.
What Exactly is Body Language?
You can very well speak about something you are passionate about, but if it doesn’t translate through your non-verbal communication, your speech is most likely to fall flat.
We know that communication happens in two ways: verbally- through the words you speak and non-verbally- through gestures, stances, facial expressions, etc.
While we can understand intentional body language like rolling your eyes, stomping your foot, sighing, etc, without much effort; it isn’t so easy to pick on unintentional body language.
Body Language refers to the non-verbal or unspoken aspect of communication that reveals our inner feelings and emotions.
For instance, the tilt of our head when we are intently listening to something or sitting upright at the edge of the seat when we are making a strong point, or using our hands and facial expressions to emphasize what we are talking about.
Body language includes the above-mentioned things but isn’t limited to them. There are a host of other aspects which we will deal with in the coming sections of this article.
Why is Body language Important in an Interview?
In an interview, all eyes are on the candidate. (if it’s a board interview then a lot of eyes) In such a situation, every tiny gesture that you make is taken into account. This is not to scare you, but to teach you how crucial it is to be mindful of your body language.
Body language helps us decode the speaker’s moods and emotions. It also elevates how we understand people. In an interview setting, your body language communicates things like your confidence and commitment in numerous ways.
As Dr. Emily Cook says,
“There’s evidence to suggest our brains prioritize nonverbal communication over verbal communication. So, when our brain gets a mixed message — say it hears, ‘I love you’ (Or I love to work in a team, in this case) but sees a mean face or hears an insincere tone — it may prefer the nonverbal cues to the verbal ones,”
So, if you are slouching in your seat, yawning, or shaking your leg in your interview room – you are exhibiting bad body language and can be perceived as anxious or disinterested. Instead, if you sit with a good posture and make eye contact, or nod, you come across as much more engaged and present.
However, the importance of body language is not limited to these formal settings alone. With positive body language, you are making positive changes in yourself as well.
You will notice an increased sense of self-confidence and self-esteem. Seeing people respond positively to you will make you feel better about yourself as well.
Before we move on to how to ace your interview with your body language, let us realize the fact that body language isn’t universal. There are a host of things that affect how people use and decipher body language.
For instance, someone with social anxiety might find it very difficult to make eye contact.
Cultural differences might also impact the way body language is communicated.
For instance, nodding signifies agreement in some cultures, while in others, it means that the person acknowledges your words.
Similarly, neurodiverse people, for example – people with ADHD, Autism, Dyspraxia, Dyslexia, Tourette’s syndrome, etc, may use and interpret body language, unlike other people, do.
Hence, in order to have good and successful communication, it is essential to consider the many different aspects of communication.
Body Language Dos and Don’ts:
In this section, we will go over the different types of body language by looking at different parts of the body, like the mouth, the eyes, the arms, and legs, etc.
Here, we will guide you to the body language you should inculcate and the one you ought to avoid.
Before we hop on to that, let’s glance over positive and negative body language. This will aid your understanding of the later sections of this article.
How can you Tell if Body Language is Positive or Negative?
before we start looking at the descriptions of positive and negative body language, it’s essential to keep in mind one thing.
That is – every physical action a person makes need not be an example of body language. So for instance, a candidate might be touching their neck because it itches and not because they are insecure and are doing it as a way to comfort themselves.
To define both terms simply, positive or open body language is one that signifies interest, enthusiasm and is met with a positive reaction from the opposite party.
An example of this is nodding or smiling. These actions show that you are attentive and eager to listen to more of what the other person is trying to convey.
Negative or closed body language is one that brings down your effectiveness due to gestures, stances, or postures that might offend, disinterest, or hurt the opposite party.
For example, constantly touching or fixing, or playing with your hair suggests that you are disinterested or inattentive.
Now that we know the difference between positive and negative body language, let’s look at how they play out in the various parts of our body!
Did you know that Michael Jordan often stuck out his tongue while playing his game? He did so whenever he was focused on something while playing.
You don’t really want to do that as you focus on your interviewer’s question, do you? So what should you do? Smile? Or does that come across as too casual or cheeky?
Let’s sort it out.
Should you smile at the interviewer?
A genuine smile paired with eye contact is one of the best ways to first greet your interviewer when you enter your room.
It perceives you as a positive person, confident in your abilities, and helps to create a pleasant environment. But make sure you don’t overdo that or else you might come across as being detached or forcing it.
Next up, pay attention to your lips. I, for the longest time, was habituated to purse my lips while listening to someone talk. Pursed lips might come across as a sign of anger, uneasiness, and disagreement and it’s best to avoid them.
It could also indicate stress or might look like you’re trying to hold back something.
Another thing people often do when under stressful situations is bite their upper lips. This might happen without them noticing but is a strong sign of fear or nervousness.
It is best to keep your lips slightly parted, which shows that you are relaxed and at ease.
As someone famous once said,
“The eyes are the windows to your soul.”
That was Shakespeare. Anyways, we hear it everywhere, all the time in public speaking. Make eye contact to build a connection. Eye contact helps to show your genuine interest. Blah blah blah.
But it is all over the place for a reason, right?
Why is Making Eye Contact Important in a Job Interview?
Susan Constantine, body language expert, and consultant says,
“If your eyes in an interview are fidgety or continuously shifting back and forth, this can mean you are trying to conjure up an answer that you are not sure is the right one”
Very often, candidates avoid the gaze and look down. This definitely comes across as a sign of nervousness. Too much eye contact and you come across as creepy.
So, how do you find the perfect balance, or how do you even make eye contact in the first place?
How Do you Make Eye Contact During an Interview?
The best way is to just imagine that you are having a conversation with an old friend. It is very unlikely that your employer resembles one of your friends, but try.
Alternate your gaze between the interviewer’s left eye, right eye, mouth, etc. At a panel interview, look at everyone occasionally but make eye contact with the person who is talking at the time. It will help make eye contact more natural.
Not making eye contact, on the other hand, can suggest disagreement and reluctance. By making eye contact you assert your confidence.
But depending on which part of the world you come from, this rule varies. For example, prolonged eye contact is seen as disrespectful in many eastern countries.
What does Eye Contact or the Lack of it mean in an Interview?
Often, Candidates look away to think or recall information for a question. This shouldn’t mean that the candidate is lying or making things up. (this one’s for the interviewers out there)
Another thing that happens when we feel positively towards something, like a question on something we are passionate about, is pupil dilation. Our eyes sparkle. According to Constantine,
“When a candidate is authentically interested in the conversation, there is a chemical released and the eyes dilate,”
Allow yourself to show your eagerness and avoid restraining yourself cause you feel like you might seem too desperate. This lets your interviewer know that you are interested and engaged in what is being said.
If your goal is to make a good first impression, be very mindful of where your arms are throughout your interview.
Some people cross their arms when they feel anxious, vulnerable, or uninterested in listening. While others might do it when they feel confident, in control, or at ease. But in an interview setting, crossing your arms showcases closed body language.
Hence, it is best to keep your arms on the table, or on your thighs, or in any other place that won’t cause you any trouble.
Should you Use Hand Gestures in an Interview?
A lot of people also make use of hand gestures to add emphasis when they are speaking.
Keep in mind to not let your hand gestures override your speech. Also, make sure they are in relation to what you are saying.
There are various motions when it comes to hand gestures; for instance, the chop hand gesture, the comparison hand gesture, etc. Clueless about hand gestures?
Here’s a video we made explaining the different types:
How to Master the Handshake?
To handshake or not to handshake. That is the question.
And the answer is a simple one. Go ahead and do it! But tread cautiously…here’s why.
Neither do you want your handshake to feel so strong that it is bone-crushing nor do you want it to be as frail as a dead fish, right?
To get a perfect balance, mirror the interviewer’s grip and accompany it with eye contact and a smile.
Ensure that your hand is dry and not perspiring from stress. And please don’t extend it beyond a second or two.
Is it Bad to Talk with your Hands During an Interview?
It is bad to talk with your hands during an interview if your hands are doing all the talking. As always, you want your body language to match and enhance the value of the words you are verbally expressing.
Hence, it is okay to talk with your hands when you are simultaneously giving equal emphasis to your words.
Avoid touching your face, or your neck. You might do it instinctively, without even noticing it. Hence, be conscious of where your hands are.
Keep them away from your nose, your mouth as well as your hair. (You also want to style your hair in a way that doesn’t require you to adjust it every 2 minutes)
If you are habituated to jiggling your leg or tapping your foot when nervous, do your best to suppress it. Restless habits might make it seem like you are disinterested or nervous.
Also, avoid crossing your legs– this is a sign of reserved, closed body language suggesting that you don’t want to hear what someone has to say.
If it is a long interview, chances are that you need to keep crossing and re-crossing your legs because they fall asleep. Which, in turn, could account for fidgeting.
You also want to see to it that your feet are pointed towards the direction of the interviewer which shows that you are enjoying the talk.
As your feet reveal information, pointing them away from the interviewer or towards the exit might show that you want to leave the conversation.
If you are reading this article seated in a bad posture, here’s your reminder to keep that back straight and sit properly!
Nobody takes a person slouching in their chair seriously. It is the truth.
How Should You Sit in a Job Interview?
If offered a choice, choose a chair with a straight back, instead of a comfy couch. It will help guide your posture and also make you feel confident, assertive, and in control.
Slightly leaning forward in your chair while answering or listening to a question shows your interest. Avoid reclining back into the chair completely as this might come across as disengaged.
Even tilting your head to one side while listening showcases focus and interest.
When you enter or exit the interview room, walk with a good posture – stomach in, shoulders back and down, and chin lifted, that exhibits confidence.
To Mirror Or Not To Mirror
When we say mirror, we do not mean imitate or mimic. It is more of “echoing” or reflecting your interviewer’s stance or body language and needs to be subtle.
Mirroring your interviewer involves using the vocabulary they use, speaking at the rate of speed they talk in, adopting their mannerisms, speaking at the same volume as them, etc.
Mirroring makes the interviewer feel at ease because you sound a lot like them. This helps to build a rapport.
For example, if they talk softly while asking a question, try answering in the same tone. When they talk with enthusiasm about something, join in and mirror their emotion. Or when they sit straight, wait for a minute, and then do the same.
Mirroring conveys that you and the potential employer are on the same page. However, don’t copy each of their actions or mirror them when you are unsure. Try doing it with a friend first.
What is the Best Body Language for an Interview?
We’re mere mortals and cannot be perfect at the things we do. But what we can do is give our best at the tasks at hand.
The best body language for an interview is one where you are relaxed enough to calmly explain your ideas but alert and focused enough to properly understand your interviewer’s questions. When you exhibit such body language, you will see an automatic change in the way your body expresses itself in the setting.
How Can I Improve my Body Language in an Interview?
But this won’t come easy; if you wish to showcase the best body language for your interview, make it a habit to start inculcating the above-mentioned tips in your day-to-day conversations.
It is unlikely that you will showcase only your best body language in an interview without first trying to do so in your casual meets with friends or loved ones.
See these meet-ups as opportunities where you can practice your body language skills and be at your best during the interview.
What Happens to Body Language when it’s a Remote Interview?
Ah, the impact of the pandemic. Non-verbal communication is one of the victims of the pandemic that has forced all of us to shift to online mode for everything from school to work and entertainment.
With a lot of companies shifting to online platforms for their hiring processes, body language has gone for a toss.
It has become all the more difficult to convey your thought and emotions via body language in a place where cameras are turned off and wifi signals are unstable.
While some candidates are happy because video call interviews lessen their anxiety to some extent, things are still complicated.
Don’t get frantic. Use our tactic.
With some prior preparation, you can still communicate via body language in a video call interview. It is still important to have a good posture, so make adjustments so that you are seated at the right angle and visible in the camera.
You can make eye contact by looking straight into the camera. You may tend to look at people on your screen, but to connect with them, look at your camera.
Fidgeting in the online world translates to bad camera angles, poor lighting, etc. ensure that these things are taken care of before your interview.
You can still nod and smile to show that you are paying attention. And you might be wearing pajamas but let your hands talk all they can!
A few Body Language Tips for the Shy Ones
To the ones who cannot brag or boast confidence on the spot, job interviews may seem twice as scary.
But all is not lost because c’mon we all know super shy people who have bagged great posts. With preparation, things get clearer. To all the folks standing in a corner, here’s a couple of tips to ace body language in your interview.
Before the Interview:
As we said before, you can start practicing body language with the ones you are comfortable with – your friends, family members, etc. Be present in every conversation that you are a part of- acknowledge by nodding, using hand gestures, and so on.
Get physical copies of your past achievements in a file. You can compile a portfolio of your experience and future ideas.
It will also help you to hold something if you suffer from fidgety hands. But also try and make it a point to use hand gestures whenever needed.
During the Interview:
You might get intimidated by all the eyes staring down at you. But being an introvert, you are much likelier to connect to an individual rather than to a group of people.
Hence, try to make eye contact with one person at a moment, preferably the one asking you a question. Looking away from time to time is normal, you don’t have to gaze into their soul!
After the Interview:
Loosen those tense muscles a bit and go for a walk or do some light stretching. This can help to bring down your adrenaline and cortisol levels so that you feel much relaxed after a possibly nerve-wracking interview session.
Four things you Can do to Calm your Nerves Before the Interview Begins
Interviews get to the best of us, be it the all-proclaiming extrovert or the all-receding introvert. Here’s a bonus of 4 tips to practice to calm pre-interview jitters:
1. Prepare, duh
We’ve said it a million times in over half of our articles and we’ll say it again. Nothing calms you down the way knowing that you’ve prepared well does.
Research on the possible questions, out-of-the-box questions, company background, job requirement, and position, etc. Once you’re done preparing, ask someone to volunteer and give a mock interview. We’ve written an article on that as well.
2. Arrive Before Time
Arriving before time will help you get accustomed to the atmosphere at the place. You can try making some small talk with the receptionist or fellow candidates to take your mind off your nerves.
You could also do some breathing exercises to slow down your heart rate.
3. Rationalizing Fears
Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) believes that “it is not the situation that causes us anxiety but rather our perception of that situation”.
Observe the negative thoughts in your head and try to counter them with rationale. For instance, if you get a thought that says “I do not have enough experience for this job” counter it by saying “I did gain some experience by working at a role similar to this in XYZ job”
4. Start the Day Well
Set your alarm early and make sure to not hit snooze. Being in control of that first thing and waking up early will give you a sense of achievement right at the start of the day.
Have a fulfilling meal to avoid feeling low on energy or sluggish. Try to avoid consuming caffeine as this can only trigger or worsen your anxiety.
To Sum It up,
Now that you know what body language is and how important it is in the communication cycle, we hope to see you acing your interviews with the help of these suggestions. All the best!