The prospect of a job interview is a daunting one, no matter if it's your first one or your 100th one. We can do all the preparation we want - from researching the company’s values to perfecting your ‘STAR’ structured answers and coming up with questions to ask them at the end. But there’s one thing that many of us forget to think about, and it can have a huge impact on whether or not the employer decides you’re the right person for the job. The way we use our body while we communicate will convince the listener that either you are confident, respectful and in control, or disengaged and even lazy.
Here are our top tips for using your non-verbal communication to your advantage and smashing that job interview!
1. The confident knock
Without even knowing why, people start to build a sense of you from the moment you enter a room, perhaps even before! That’s why it’s important to be aware of your non-verbal communication right from the start. If you have to knock on the interview room door, make it clear and confident, not a hesitant patter. Come in with shoulders back, a smile and eye contact. If there are two or more people, look at each of them and acknowledge them with a smile. They will be waiting for this smile - it’s a sign that the next hour will be good and not painful. For more on this, watch this video on body language tips in interviews:
2. The firm handshake
This is a cliché but it's important and people still genuinely care about it. First things first, walk forward and offer your hand. Whatever you do, don’t let your handshake be limp. A firm handshake says ‘I step in and get involved, I engage with people, I am present.’ The limp handshake says ‘Here’s my hand, you can move it around for a moment and then I’ll have it back.’ No one wants to hold a slimy slug.
Be firm, but don’t squeeze their knuckles to oblivion - you're not desperate. The handshake makes a statement of the energy with which you come at things: too weak and it does not bode well; too strong and it can be a bit like a contest! It's about taking the hand firmly to show that you're ready, present and confident.
Put your enthusiasm for opening this new channel of communication into your hand and shake with confidence and conviction. You will have an intention as you engage in every conversation - in this case, you want to impress the person and land a job. Let your objective be purposeful and let that be reflected in your handshake. Think about how much you want this job, and grasp the hand with this.
3. The engaged eyes
Eye contact can feel scary and revealing, yet avoiding it is even more revealing. If you can’t look someone in the eye, you are effectively giving them license to think all sorts of things about you that you have no control over. Rest assured, the person or people interviewing you will have likely been doing this for hours and have had enough absent grins and floor-struck eyes. We're not talking about rabbit-in-a-headlight-style staring, nor do you want to look shifty or be looking all around the room nervously. You want your eyes to be warm and interacting - to help this process, smile or, if that doesn’t feel natural, nod and acknowledge the other person talking, to make them feel reassured.
4. The self-respecting posture
When you sit down, there is a Goldilocks-style balance to be found. Confidence is good. Arrogance is annoying. You don’t want to come in and sit down like you own the place, but you don’t want to sit down like you are apologising for being in the room. Do one thing at a time, go calmly and you won’t drop things and fluster. Put down your case or bag, take off your coat, put it at the back of your chair and take your seat. This makes a clear statement: ‘I respect myself and I will take the time I need to do something and not fold under pressure’. Usually employers are looking for someone who is clear headed and self-respecting, rather than flustered and apologetic.
5. Things to avoid...
Fiddling is like displaying your emotions on a projection screen. It makes you appear under confident and distracted. Instead, make sure you are grounded and centred on the chair, using the floor to support you and give you energy. Use your hands to gesticulate to the extent that it feels natural.
Clenching your jaw - it’s a bit like a poker player’s ‘tell’. You need to know what signals you are giving so you can be in control of them. Before you go in, do a big yawn, relax your mouth, smile to get those muscles working and imagine the warm sun shining on your face. Adopt an attitude of receptivity and openness, and let your face reflect it.
Another cliché - don't cross your arms! Whether you feel it or not, this gives the impression that you're defensive. It makes people feel as though you are shut off and removed from the situation, and it's not the powerful position you want to be giving off. Instead, hold your hands at your navel or hang them at your sides. Or, if they really feel like a couple of dangly things attached to your shoulders, you can place one hand on your lap or the table in front of you. Stay open and let the real you come out through gestures and facial expressions.
Slumped shoulders - this posture gives a negative impression - and that first impression is crucial! Instead, roll your shoulders back or practice stroking them open with your fingers. That tiny difference makes a disproportionate improvement and is well worth it. It affects your voice too, as your breath won’t get all the way to your diaphragm.
Of course, some interviews take place virtually rather than in person, but your non-verbal communication will still be coming across and there are still things you can do from behind the laptop screen. As you wait to be let into the call, take some time to do breathing exercises and make sure you are sitting comfortably with a smile on your face.
So, whether you’ve managed multiple teams and have 30 years of experience behind you, or you’re fresh out of school looking for someone to give you an opportunity to get your foot in the door, it's worth brushing up on these simple body language tips so you can be sure to make the best impression possible. Leave the nerves at the door and good luck - we know you can do it!
If you've got a job interview coming up and would like some 1:1 advice, we recommend booking a FREE Discovery Call today to discuss how we can help - you can choose 1, 3 or 5 interview technique sessions with an expert coach of your choice.