You may wonder if body language really makes that much of a difference in a job interview. Well it does. Not only can it leave an immediate impression – how you are being perceived in the moment – but the visual impression lasts long after your job interview is over.
Studies have shown that the majority of people actually retain more of what they SEE than what they hear. So since so much of your interview is you speaking to the interviewer, there needs to be a way to add some extra oomph to the picture they retain.
What does your body language say to the interviewer?
Most job seekers are nervous. So without knowing it, they may assume a defensive or even submissive pose – where your shoulders are curved forward and head bowed down just a bit, as if you were getting ready to fend off an attack – which in one sense you may feel is the case!
You may also be slumping down a bit in your chair, almost as if you are trying to merge into it. Or your eyes are looking down a lot, barely meeting the interviewer’s eyes. As if you don’t want them to see too deeply inside.
And maybe most importantly, your walk as you enter or leave the room may show a tentativeness, again with head down, maybe body bent a little, and feet sort of shuffling out, trying not to hurt the floor.
None of this is memorable or casts you in the best light to leave a great impression that sticks.
So what is the best body language for an interview?
Most articles about how to give great interviews will mention things related to body language – like energy, eye contact and smiling. But I really got just how important an element body language can be when I read that our visual memory may be far stronger and last longer than our hearing memory.
With that in mind, you need to approach an interview aware of the image you project and the picture you are leaving the interviewer with. Not just your words, but how you say them and how you carry yourself.
- You want your posture to project that you know you belong in the room and are happy to be there.
- Sit up comfortably straight – not rigid – with your legs on the floor (not crossed) and arms probably on the chair or folded in your lap.
- If you’re taking some notes, your hands may be on the table part of the time. But don’t appear to be someone assigned to taking notes of the interview! Take notes when needed. Sit in your regular strong, energized position with good eye contact the rest of the time.
- Head stays high (again, not rigidly high), with your shoulders down.
- Keep your eyes full of interest in what is being said – even if you’re the one talking – and look directly into the eyes of the interviewer (without staring), smiling now and then in a comfortable, friendly manner.
- Lean in (not the book title, but kind of a metaphor for the same idea) as you speak or when they speak, just a bit. If they lean in toward you, even better; shows they are interested.
- Enter the room firmly and with purpose, with a smile and hand out for a handshake if that is possible with the way the room is set up. Otherwise, just enter with purpose and a smile, introducing yourself with a firm voice and remembering to make eye contact even at that point.
- Leave the room the with equal purpose and energy in your step. Once again look to shake the interviewer’s hand if possible, and catch his or her eye one last time with a bit of a smile as you leave.
- Continue with the same body language as you pass the reception desk and right until you leave the building. Don’t forget to thank the receptionist or simply say good-bye, again with a smile. Impressions happen everywhere.
Good luck projecting an image of someone they will want to remember. And of course, good luck with the entire interview process!
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