Making an Impression: Nonverbal Communication during a Job Interview

woman in an interview

Imagine you’re considering someone for a position. She says she is confident in her ability to do the job, but her shoulders are slumped and she can’t seem to make eye contact. Do you believe her? Maybe you interview someone whose résumé and references back up his claims, but his visible lack of assurance doesn’t instill confidence in you. Do you hire him?

Your body language communicates just as much as, if not more than, what you actually say. So take time to prepare not only what you will say in an interview but also how you will say it. Here are some answers to basic body language questions to help you get ready for your next big interview:

What Is the Ideal Posture?

As a general rule, the ideal posture is created when you pull your shoulders back and keep your back straight. Did you just try it? How do you feel? Now, put both feet on the ground. Experts say it actually helps you answer questions better. Leaning slightly forward during the course of the interview can show engagement, but make sure you aren’t leaning forward so much that you make the interviewer uncomfortable.

How Much Eye Contact Should I Make?

Making eye contact during the interview is a good way to show that you are comfortable and honest, but remember to break eye contact from time to time. If there are multiple people in the interview, look at the interviewer who asked you the question about 80 percent of the time it takes you to answer and look at any other interviewers during the other 20 percent.

What Should I Do with My Hands?

Most people wonder what to do with their hands during an interview. If you’re the type of person who likes to talk with your hands, that’s fine, but you’ll want to make sure that your movements are not excessive or distracting and that they don’t come off as fidgety. Make sure that you do not play with your hair, glasses, or jewelry during the interview. Keep your gestures visible above the table if you’re sitting but not in front of your face. Avoid pointing, which can be seen as aggressive, and crossing your arms or keeping your hands behind your back, which can make you seem closed off and unengaged. If you’re unsure of what to do with your hands, it’s best to keep them by your sides or gently crossed in your lap.

What about Other Key Moments?

Sometimes we focus so much on the actual interview that we forget how much of an impact other interactions can have on hiring decisions. Don’t miss your opportunity to impress at these times too:

In the waiting room

Many hiring managers will ask the administrative staff their opinions of candidates, so you’ll want to employ some of the tips mentioned earlier from the second you walk in the door. Be open and polite with the staff as you wait.

Greeting your interviewer

If possible, anticipate which direction the interviewer will be coming to meet you. Facing him or her as the interviewer comes to meet you usually creates the best first impression. Smile and make eye contact. When you shake his or her hand, make sure your grip is neither limp nor overly forceful. You want to be confident but not overpowering.

Leaving the interview

After the interview is over, make sure to leave on a positive note. Smile and meet the interviewer’s gaze as you shake hands. The interview isn’t over until you’ve left the premises, so don’t let your facial expression or posture be affected by the way you think it went.

How Can I Know What to Work On?

So much of our body language is unconscious, which means you might not be aware of some of your own distracting tendencies. Before you go in for a job interview, it’s a good idea to practice with a friend, family member, or mentor and record the mock interview. Review it for ideas of how you can make your physical cues more calm and confident. Mock interviews are also available at LDS employment resource centers during coaching sessions and as part of the Career Workshop.

Paying attention to body language isn’t just another thing to remember during a job interview. It’s a key part of communication every single day. Mastering professional body language will not only help you get the job you desire but will also help you in the weeks and months to come.

Related article: What Are You Really Saying? The Power of Nonverbal Communication

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