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Harness the Power of Body Language in Job Interviews

Category: Career Experts, Interview Tips, Job Seekers

Our body language gives people an impression about us, whether that impression is the case or not. It can make us look confident and friendly, or it can make us come across as insecure, submissive or even domineering. In job interviews, promoting oneself is paramount: coming across as a positive, self-assured potential colleague is one of the keys to making a successful impression.

The following are some body language insights that may help you influence the perception that others have of yourself, your abilities and your competence at job interviews.

Mirroring

People generally like other people who are similar to them and who "tune in" with them. One way of showing similarity on a subconscious, deep-rooted way is to mirror your interviewers. When mirroring, try to use the same, or similar, language to your interviews. If they use particular terms, use those terms again in responding. If they lean forward, slightly lean forward as well. If they have their hands on the table, make sure your hands are also on the table. If they are smiling, do smile back. Likewise, if they change their tone, for example from formal to more casual, follow their lead. Mirroring is one of the most powerful tool we have to connect with others and make them feel we have a connection with them.

Eye contact

People want to be listened to and acknowledged. Eye contact is an excellent way of acknowledging your interviewers, of connecting with them and of showing confidence. Look at the different interviewers when speaking. They will feel engaged and connect with you.

Not everyone finds it easy to make eye contact. If you have a disability which makes it hard for you to make eye contact, if possible, tell your interviewers. In any case, it may help to say: "I am not very good with eye contact. I am sorry about that. I am listening to you, though." Using mirroring (see above), especially verbal mirroring, can also be very helpful in reinforcing your connection with them.Repeat what they have asked you or the points they have made when appropriate to show you are listening and are actively engaged with the discussion.

Lean forward

Leaning slightly forward when interacting with others shows confidence and shows a connection with them.  It also shows interest in what they are saying and what they stand for.

Make sure you do not lean backwards, away from your interviewers. It can give a signal that you feel disconnected, afraidor even angry with them. If you happen to lean back, do not worry: give a warm smile and gently and slowly lean forwards again.

Head

To convey the message that you are listening to your interviewers, your nodding can be a powerful tool:

  • slow nodding when listening is perceived as the listener wanting to understand and allowing the speaker to continue to speak;
  • fast nodding on the contrary shows impatience and signifies that the listener wants the speaker to finish up so they can take over.

Fidgeting and stress signs

Fidgeting or "playing" with one's hands, body or clothing is a strong sign of stress and insecurity. Examples of signs of stress are:

  • playing with one's hair;
  • playing with one's clothing, such as adjusting one's tie or cuffs;
  • fidgeting with one's earrings or necklace;
  • jittering the legs;
  • rubbing the forehead or the back of the neck.

Some people do one or more of these gestures as a habit. It may be a good idea to notice if this applies to you and slowly unlearn this habit.

Fight or flight body language

When under stress, there may be a fight, flight or freeze response, which translates in defensive, insecure body language. Examples of this kind of emotional response are:

  • freezing one's movements or limiting the movement of the limbs;
  • locking one's feet or legs behind the legs of the chair;
  • holding on to the chair armrests tightly;
  • if standing, pushing yourself against a wall;
  • shallow, faster breathing;
  • covering one's eyes or mouth.

We all tend to gravitate towards some stress behaviours as a habit. It is normal and there is absolutely nothing wrong with it. However, during an interview, you may want to minimise the perception that these behaviours may convey.

Make sure you find out what you normally use and try to become aware if you are using it. It is not the end of the world: if you know you are doing it, you can take control by either stopping yourself or shifting to more confident, comfortable body language. The key is self-awareness.

Hands

Whether you are a natural at gesticulating or you prefer to keep your hands still, the way we position our hands gives out a strong message. For example:

  • Palms up signify you are asking for help and understanding, which useful when engaging with your interviewers as they have the power to make you a job offer.
  • Palms down denote you are giving orders, so it can make you come across as domineering and patronising.
  • Finger pointing is used when giving strong orders, for example, by police officers, and should be avoided in an interview setting.

Torso

In addition to leaning forward (see above), a relaxed, confident person tends to have relaxed shoulders and back and an open posture. The arms are relaxed and tend not to be covering the torso or the body. The shoulders are straight and not uneven or asymmetrical.

Conversely, when feeling stressed, deflated or threatened, the tendency is to protect oneself and remove oneself from the perceived threat. Therefore, defensive body language includes slumping and protecting the torso by putting one's arms across it, such as by holding something very tightly against one's chest or holding one's jacket lapel or tie. Crossing one's arms can also be a sign of lack of confidence as the arms act as a barrier to potential perceived attacks. Again, self-awareness is the key. If you notice you are adopting any of these behaviours, simply shift to more a more confident posture.

Voice

Under stress or when lacking confidence, some people have a tendency to speak faster or with a higher pitch. A sudden increase in the voice pitch and speed may show that the person is alarmed by the situation and eager to extricate him or herself. If you have this tendency, you can change this by practising to speak slower and maintaining a more constant pitch.

Practise excellence

Finally, to quote Aristotle "We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit". Prepare and practise interviewing and notice your body language as much as you can: what are your habits and preferences? How could your body language be used to promote your message?

 

Alexis Faber

Alexis Faber is an expert in body language, reading people and psychology. Thanks to one-to-one sessions and group workshops tailored to each individual’s needs, she helps people present the best version of themselves to achieve their career goals and realize their potential. She offers unique programmes to help executives, salespeople and professional women. Find out more at https://www.in-sight-edge.com/ or feel free to get in touch at alexis.faber@in-sight-edge.com

 

 

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