It’s no accident that you’ve been invited for an interview.  You’ve spent quality time tailoring your CV and crafting a compelling cover letter.  It’s exciting and at the same time you may be feeling a little nervous. That’s why your body language during an interview is really important.

There’s a lot to consider when you are invited to interview.  You’ll need to spend time researching the company in more detail.  You’ll need to prepare specific examples for those behavioural competency questions.  And you haven’t even considered your body language yet!

From the minute you are collected from reception you are being observed.  Your handshake, the way you are dressed and how you generally present yourself all matter.  We are constantly communicating even when we are not talking.   And  we are also picking up on lots of information through all our five senses.

A good interview is a two-way process.  Both you and the interviewer will be aiming to build rapport and demonstrate credibility.  You both should want to make a good first impression.   So, here are some points about your body language during an interview you should consider.

Your body language during an interview

Handshake

body language during an interview

The handshake is one of the most important factors to contribute to making a good first impression.  It’s the first contact you’ll have with the interviewer.  There are a few rules to consider when you are conducting a good handshake.

Make sure you wait for the interviewer to offer their hand first.  If the interviewer is not ready to shake hands, it could end up in an embarrassing or awkward fumble.  When they do initiate the handshake make sure you maintain good eye contact and you may want to say “nice to meet you” at the same time.

A good firm handshake will only last a few seconds and only needs to be two or three up and down movements.  Make sure you release that handshake when the interviewer does – holding on to a handshake for longer will not feel comfortable for the other person.

Eye contact

This is a really important part of building rapport and gaining trust.  There is a fine balance between giving good eye contact and staring.  Breaking to glance away or think before answering the questions is perfectly acceptable.

Not giving eye contact may give the impression you are trying to hide something.  Body language is often down to the other person’s interpretation.  This is why there can be so many misunderstandings between individuals.  It’s all about their interpretation and not necessarily what’s really going on.

We live and work in diverse communities and of course, we need to be mindful that eye contact may not have the same meaning within some cultures.

Posture

In the interview your posture is another element that may give away information about you and possibly how you are feeling.  Does your posture convey that you are feeling confident?  Or does it suggest that you are feeling uncomfortable?

It’s natural to be nervous at the start of the interview.  Just take some deep breaths and then try to settle and relax.  It’s important you remember it is an interview.  Sit comfortably and maintain a good posture by sitting up straight.  Slouching could give the impression you don’t care about the outcome.  Be aware of fidgeting or tapping as this can be distracting.

Body language during an interview – verbal and non-verbal communication

Body Language Research

We cannot talk about body language without mentioning Professor of Psychology, Albert Mehrabian, from UCLA.  He is best known for his research and publications on the relative importance of verbal and nonverbal communication.  His work over the years has been widely quoted and often over simplified.

What Professor Mehrabian discovered through his research, was that a high percentage of our decision making about feelings and attitudes were based on subtle nonverbal messages.

So, with this in mind when you are being interviewed it’s not just the words that matter.  The interviewer will also be (consciously and unconsciously) trying to determine whether the words match your nonverbal signals (tone, posture, eye contact, gestures etc.).

Final thoughts

It’s important to be mindful of your body language during an interview and how it may be perceived.  How you are feeling tends to sneak out in your nonverbal signals.  It may be subtle signs or big red flags to the interviewer.   When you are face-to-face and under a little pressure it’s difficult to disguise the nonverbal messages we communicate.  That’s why it’s so important to be yourself during an interview.  It is the only way to be genuine.

Don’t try to second guess what the interviewer wants to hear.  This will throw some candidates and the communication will seem inconsistent to the interviewer.

Using the services of an Interview Coach to improve your body language during an interview

Are you preparing for your first job interview? Perhaps you suffer from interview nerves  or need help with an important promotion.  If you need advice to help improve your body language during an interview, why not consider using a professional  interview coach?

Working together you can address any personal or individual body language concerns you may have and get them resolved before your interview.