What you say during a job interview is obviously important, and most candidates spend a lot of time preparing good answers for common interview questions. But what you say in an interview out loud is only part of what the interviewer bases his or her decision on. The way an interviewer perceives your body language can make the difference between receiving a lucrative job offer or filling out yet more job applications.
Here are some tips to help you send the right message with your body language during a job interview:
Watch Your Body Language
The term “body language” includes just about any manner, gesture, or posture that conveys meaning to the observer. Body language is especially meaningful in an interview as your interviewer will be paying as much attention to nonverbal cues as to what you have to say. You want to avoid nervous or bored body language like repeatedly crossing and uncrossing your legs or arms, fiddling with your hair or clothes, continually touching your face, scratching your head. Particularly avoid anything your interviewer might find annoying, like playing with a button or pen. Constant or bold gesturing is also to be avoided. Since some of these mannerisms are often triggered by nervousness, solid interview preparation and rehearsal may help you to feel more relaxed. On the other hand, some body language shows you’re engaged in the interview. Some positive examples of body language in an interview include leaning forward slightly to show your enthusiasm and nodding whenever is appropriate, particularly when your interviewer is making an important point.
Shake hands the proper way
One of the first things you’ll probably do in an interview is shake hands with your interviewer. The handshake is a simple symbol of introduction, a polite way to acknowledge the other person. But it can also be an unspoken gauge of personality. Hiring managers say that while a limp or unenthusiastic handshake won’t necessarily destroy an interview, it can cause one to start off on a bad note. The same goes for a sweaty palm. To alleviate the latter problem, keep your hands open, not balled into fists, prior to your interview. This will reduce perspiration. Put a handkerchief or a few tissues in your pocket, just in case. Also, remember that while a limp handshake is bad, a bone-breaking handshake isn’t much better. Clasp your interviewer’s hand firmly and confidently, but don’t overdo it.
Maintain Eye Contact
A lack of eye contact during an interview can lead your interviewer to think that you’re shy, disinterested, or dishonest. For some technical positions, especially for programmers, there’s a stereotype that people are shy and awkward around others. Being able to comfortably maintain eye contact helps you to go against that stereotype. However, shifting your eyes to and from the interviewer’s face can also send the wrong message. It’s no wonder “shifty-eyed” is a term used to describe a character who is deceitful or insincere. While you don’t want to stare at your interviewer to the point of making him or her uncomfortable, do maintain eye contact as much as seems appropriate. If you are speaking to more than one interviewer, you can shift your gaze between them, but be sure to look each interviewer in the eye for at least a couple of seconds. Direct your answers to all of the people in the room.
Smile When You Mean It
Smiling, the universal sign of happiness, is a great way to convince your interviewer that you’re genuinely pleased to be there. On the other hand, an oversized or artificial grin used too often during the interview will lead to the opposite result. Your interviewer will know you’re forcing yourself to act a certain way.
According to Discover Magazine, when a person is sincerely amused, a part of the brain called the basal ganglia is activated, leading to the unconscious contracting of certain facial muscles. A forced smile, however, uses a different group of muscles, which is why it’s generally easy to recognize a person who is legitimately pleased versus one who is only pretending to be.
During an interview, be sure to smile-but only when you mean it. It’s infinitely better to smile occasionally but earnestly than to smirk constantly for no reason at all.
Be Mindful Of Personal Space
Individual cultures and even individual people have different interpretations of what constitutes an appropriate amount of personal space. While one person might feel at ease speaking only inches from someone’s face, another person might need several feet of separation. When facing your interviewer, be mindful of how close you stand or sit. Try to maintain a distance of about three feet. Communicating at a closer range may cause your interviewer to feel uncomfortable. On the other hand, sitting or standing too far away is also impolite. When appropriate, mimic your interviewer’s body language cues.