Top Body Language Tips For Your Next Job Interview

You’ve followed our advice with job seeking, filling in application forms, completing the tie-breaker questions and so forth and now you’ve finally arrived for the interview. The trouble is, this is where most applicants will go to pieces and wreck all the good work they’ve done so far.

If you’ve read our other blogs you will know that we always advocate focussing on strengthening the areas where other candidates are weak rather than honing the skills you already have. In our experience, to stand out, you need to sparkle while those around you all look dull and lifeless – rather than being just like every other candidate yet a bit better in some ways.

Getting the body language right in the interview room is particularly critical.

Too forceful and you appear:

  • Aggressive
  • Over confident
  • Irritating
  • Invasive

Too passive and you appear:

  • Insecure
  • Lacking in confidence
  • Irritating
  • Weak

Note, irritating comes into both categories and this further emphasises the importance of the right body language.

The first thing to consider is that as soon as you go into the interview room, you are entering the interviewer’s personal domain. It doesn’t matter that the office being used might very clearly be a back room that has just been borrowed for the day – the interviewer has taken it over and it’s theirs now. It will be their pencils and their paper in front of them, the tables and chairs will be arranged to suit them and they will have ‘made themselves at home’ as best as this can be achieved.

You are there by their invitation thus the idea is to be subordinate but only just so.

Your body language and actions need to stick to the following guidelines:

At commencement of interview

  • Always introduce yourself before being asked your name.
  • Shake hands firmly – never too limply and never with excessive force.
  • Whatever the outcome of the interview, be justly proud of having already got further than many other applicants so hold your head up high.
  • Smile and be cheerful although make sure that it is a smile and not a grin (that would make you look like an idiot).
  • Only sit down when you are invited to.

In the interview

Let the interviewer finish a question before answering it – don’t interrupt, it’s rude, irritating and shows you don’t listen.

  • Look (but not stare) at the interviewer while you speak – always keep eye contact.
  • Don’t slouch, or sit with your legs wide open. In men it looks aggressive, in women tartish.
  • Avoid making wild gestures with your hands and try not to gesticulate too much in general.
  • If you must scratch, sneeze, cough or perform any other similar action, make sure you do it as naturally as possible. Attempting to cover it up will make you look clumsy or, if the interviewer doesn’t realise what you are doing, even sneaky.
  • Never waft germs anywhere near the interviewer (e.g. keep your hankie to yourself, put your hand over your mouth and look away if you cough etc). If you have a cold, it might even be well-received if you refuse to shake hands because, “I don’t want to give you my cold”.
  • If you are required to write something, ask permission before using the interviewer’s desk – a simple, “May I?” is OK.
  • When you have a moment, look and see if the interviewer is mirroring your body language (a good sign).
  • When speaking, pretend the interviewer is about 3 to 4 feet further away than they actually are. This will make you speak clearly and sound more confident.
  • Swearing, cursing, slagging off other applicants or criticising your last company (unless you have documentary evidence) are all no-no’s.
  • Taking a phone call, checking for messages or receiving/sending a text are all completely out of the question.

At the end of the interview

Get up and check around to see you’ve got all of your papers – you do not want to have to ‘reinvade’ the interview room in five minutes time when you realise you’ve left your birth certificate or passport behind.
No matter how badly it’s gone, keep your dignity. Thank the interviewer for seeing you, shake hands and bid them ‘goodbye’.

Some related tips:

  • Wear loose fitting clothes so that you can move freely and without fear of seams ripping, shirts coming out from trousers, sweat stains showing and so on.
  • Women should avoid high heel shoes in case the interviewer is a short male (it may make him feel inadequate and daunted by an Amazonian type female) as well as for all the practical reasons (personal politics are irrelevant here – what matters is getting the job).
  • Don’t use extra strong fragrances as, apart from possibly giving the interviewer a headache, these will linger long after you have gone.
  • Eat a mint before you enter so that you know with absolute confidence that your breath smells fresh.
  • Check to see that you have copies of your CV and other papers to hand so that you won’t get flustered if you are asked to supply a spare.
  • It’s the interviewer’s job to make you feel at ease. If you watch any ‘cop’ programme, you will have seen the ‘good cop’ lulling the No1 suspect into a false sense of security. In your case you have nothing to worry about so relax a bit and just treat the whole interview as a casual chat about work with a colleague. After all, hopefully you both will be just that in a few weeks time.

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