Imagine the situation, you've written a great CV, taken my advice and avoided job boards whilst concentrating your time on working within your network and sending your CV directly to hiring managers and finally you have a job interview. You spend an evening preparing, answering practice interview questions and on the day of your interview, performed well.
The problem - the last you heard from the hiring manager was the "good bye" as you left the room. What went wrong? It could be that you were just were not right for the company or it could be you got your body language wrong and put off the hiring manager.
Less than 10% of what we really say comes from verbal communication. The rest comes from how we say it, how we speak, how we sit and what we look like.
Slouch in your chair and you look bored and disinterested, cross your arms and you look defensive, whilst sitting up straight, leaning slightly forward shows that you're attentive and listening.
All too often I send candidates to a job interview that they're perfect for. The candidate speaks with me afterwards and feels they had a great interview, however, the feedback from the hiring manager is not positive and, they’re not asked for a second interview. Generally, the feedback is often limited, however, it basically says that the candidate did not look interested in the position.
In my candidate preparation, I often discuss body language and watch the candidate nod away as if to tell me they know this and I'm wasting my time.
Body Language Tips
If you're going to get one thing right during your job interview, get your body language correct. Make sure what comes out of your mouth is not directly countered with what your body language is telling the hiring manager.
Below are my top job interview body language tips to help you pass your next job interview.
Your job interview starts the minute you leave your home. You never know who you're going to meet on your way to your interview. So often I have met candidates walking down the road at 7.30am, looking an utter mess.
Most cities are very small, with offices close together. It's very easy to spot the person who is looking lost, trying to find the right building.
Be careful, receptionists always report what they see in the waiting room. It's not a good idea to sit with your legs stretched out, slouching with your suit jacket wide open and your hands on the back of your head, as it displays an "I cannot be bothered” look.
Make sure that you're ready to go, that you're looking smart from the moment you leave your house. Try to act like a professional, who is organized, looks the part and most importantly, be polite, especially to receptionists
Interview Start Time?
Running late is a sure-fire way to get the nerves going which is not something you need during your job interview. It's also not acceptable unless you have a good reason.
I have many clients that feel if a candidate cannot be bothered to turn up on time, they cannot be bothered to meet them.
Arrive too early and you could look desperate and overly keen to impress. My advice is to arrive 5-10 minutes before your interview starts. If you arrive earlier, wait around the corner and not directly in front of the building.
Often you meet candidates pounding the pavements directly outside the office. This can show that you're nervous and lacking confidence which will come across in your job interview body language.
First Impressions Count
Like it or not, interviewers are going to make a judgment on whether they like you in the first 30 seconds. If you get this wrong, your interview could be over before it's begun.
The good news, the first 30 seconds comes down to three things: what you look like, your greeting, and the first few questions you ask to get the interview moving in the right direction.
The Dress Code
Let's be honest, dressing for a job interview whether you're male or female is not difficult and not something to worry about. My advice, unless you specifically told not to, wear a nice navy-blue suit and combine this with a neutral white shirt.
This is the easiest and most suitable dress code for both men and women. If you're dressed too casually you could be showing that you're not serious about the job.
Watch out for your personal hygiene, avoid wearing too much cologne or perfume, make sure that your hair is clean and well-groomed and your makeup is minimal.
Meet and Greet
How you greet the hiring manager shows what you're like as a person, your confidence levels and even your attitude. It’s important to learn how to give a good handshake as this can say so much about a person.
Squeeze too hard and you will look overly enthusiastic but offer a limp handshake and you look weak and lacking in confidence. To get your handshake right, take your right hand and hold it out with your hand parallel to the floor, your thumb pointing to the ceiling, and connect directly into your partner’s hand until your thumbs and index finger touch, then wrap your thumb and fingers around your partner’s hand and add some pressure.
The final part of a great first impression comes down to those few questions where your objective is to build up some basic rapport with the interviewer.
The idea here, you'll have done a little interview preparation and either have a few topics that relate to the company or found some mutual common ground with the interviewer from past working companies or even colleagues.
If you spend the first ten minutes with some general conversation, not only will it relax you, it'll relax the interviewer and potentially could get the hiring manager on your side.
Hiring managers want to work with candidates they like. If you've built some basic rapport with the hiring manager, it will put you at a great advantage.
Often you'll be directed into an interview room and have no choice where to sit. If you're going to be meeting with more than one person, then usually your interview will take place in a large meeting room suited for 8-10 people.
My advice in this situation, therefore, is to hover around and see what chairs the interviewers are considering before you make your decision.
The corners of large tables are always best if you're just being interviewed by one person, however, if a number of people are interviewing you, then sit opposite each other so that you don't have to move your head too much to make eye contact with the whole group.
No one wants to recruit a boring, grumpy person who’ll potentially depress the rest of the group with their terrible vibes. Make sure you smile and at least look like you’re enjoying yourself. A nervous smile is much better than no smile at all.
It's also very acceptable to laugh if the situation warrants it, however, make sure that you don't make silly jokes just for the sake of it. With a terrible joke, you might find that you're the only one laughing.
Your hand movements tell a lot about you. Are you ever nervous about doing a presentation in front of a group of people. What part of your body starts shaking first? Your hands.
During your job interview, it's a great idea to clasp your hands together in front of you on the desk, or if you're not at a desk, then on your lap.
Putting your hands behind your neck or on top of your head is a sign of arrogance, whilst scratching your face or fiddling with your hair shows that you're nervous. Touching your nose or mouth is a sign that you’re lying, whilst folding your arms together means that you're defensive.
If you're getting nervous during interviews, but want to show that you're confident, either keep your hands together or take a pen and paper to the interview and try to write things down.
Moving your hands and arms around when you speak is acceptable if this is the way that you behave normally. That said, make sure that your movements do not become too distracting and take the focus away from what comes out of your mouth.
Have you ever been to a presentation where the presenter is waving their hands all over the place? I know I have. I also know that I spent half the presentation wondering what the presenter was trying express with their hands in the air and not really listening to what they were saying.
If you want to use arm movements to get your point across, make sure that you limit your movements to an imaginary square box in front of you that is no higher than your neck, no lower than the table and no further to the left or the right than your shoulders.
If you let your hands go outside this imaginary box, then you run the risk that your interviewer will follow your hands and stop concentrating on you.
How you move and position your head can also send a message to an interviewer. Typically nodding whilst the interviewer is speaking means that you're agreeing with what they're saying, whilst tilting your head to one side will make you come across as friendly and open.
My advice is to keep your head firmly upright to show that you're self-assured, confident and authoritative.
Watch Your Posture
Once you've shaken hands with the interviewer and sat down, you need to make sure that you sit upright, in a relaxed position in your chair to give a positive impression that you're comfortable and feeling confident.
If you slouch in your chair, this will show that you really don't care, whilst hunching your back and staring down at the table means that you're nervous and have no confidence. Sinking back into your chair means that you're too relaxed and casual and could come across as arrogant.
It's my advice that you sit upright, but relaxed and lean slightly forwards, about 10-15 degrees towards your interviewer. This will give the impression that you're both interested and taking the interview seriously.
If you're sat in front of a desk, then it doesn't matter so much as no one is going to be looking underneath the desk to view your legs, however, if you're sat at the corner of a large table or in an open space, you need to be aware of your leg movements.
Moving your legs around is both distracting and shows that you're nervous, whilst crossing your legs up high gives the impression that you are defensive or hiding something, and putting your ankle or leg on top of your knee can also come across arrogant.
The best practice is to place both feet flat on the floor as this shows that you are confident, relaxed. professional.
To convey confidence and professionalism, you need to make sure that you speak in a very clear and controlled manner at all times. If you sound monotone, you could come across as boring and lacking in personality.
That said, make sure that you don’t overdo it, otherwise you could give the impression that you’re childish and emotional. You need to make sure that you speak with the interviewer as an equal.
Try to breathe before you answer each question as this will give you time to think about your answer. Watch out that the interviewer has finished the question before you interrupt.
Your Eye Contact
You need to make sure that you maintain eye contact with your interviewer, otherwise you could come across as distant and insecure which is a sure sign of poor body language.
There's a fine line between being attentive and being scary so alternate where you look during the interview. If you don't like looking directly into people’s eyes, then try looking at their nose or mouth.
Positive body language comes from confidence that you can only display if you're prepared for the job interview and, therefore, able to show off your skills and ask the right questions.
If you fail to prepare then prepare to fail.
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