Getting body language ‘on message’ during interview
08 Dec 2015
We all have a tendency to think we shouldn’t really be ourselves in interviews and that we need to be formal and not show the real you. Ultimately, employers don’t just go on CV match these days, they also want to know that you are the right fit for their organisation, so it’s important to let your personality shine through.
For people looking to return to work after a career break, an interview can be a nerve-wracking experience, or, if they’ve not been in ‘business mode’ for a while, may come across as though they’re having an informal chat. Getting the balance right is crucial, especially when looking for a part time role, which can be competitive and where positive body language and personality may be the only differentiator to getting that job.
Body language accounts for 93% of messages you send out during an interview; with verbal content accounting for only 7%. We look at the best way to handle non-verbal communication during an interview to help ease nerves or to make sure you stand out from the crowd when looking for a part time or flexible job.
This is your first chance to make an impression, so make it count. A limp handshake is not a great start, it needs to be firm and assertive. Obviously, you don’t want to break the interviewer’s hand, but you should have a firm grip. There is also a tendency to worry about sweaty palms; to avoid this make sure you get to the interview early to give your body temperature a chance to cool down – especially if you’ve been rushing around. Otherwise, run cool water on your wrists.
This can cause a communication breakdown and make you seem either bored or over confident. It’s best to remove any risk of misinterpretation by simply sitting upright. Also, try not to angle your posture towards the door as your interviewer may think you’re keen to get away.
Nodding is a common way of looking keen and engaged during an interview, but there is a risk of over-nodding, which can prove distracting. This is particularly common with women. Nod once or twice when agreeing with a point, but try to remain still and centred otherwise.
Using your hands when talking is fine in moderation. Keeping your hands open and palms up is a sign of openness, but waving them around or putting them above your head is distracting and could make you look unpredictable or nervous. Folding your arms should also be avoided as it could make you look defensive. Other gestures to avoid include fiddling with your hair or face as it can come across as nerves and that you are not comfortable with your answers.
Always make eye contact, but don’t stare. Obviously, constant eye contact can’t be held throughout the whole interview, but do maintain it when being asked a question. In a panel-based interview, make sure to keep eye contact with all people present. When not making eye contact make sure you focus on one point in the room, eyes darting around can put the interviewer off.
Expressions and body language not matching
Make sure you get the balance right between your voice and body language. Be enthusiastic. It’s ok to make a well-placed joke to get your point across, but make sure your verbal and non-verbal communications work together. An animated voice with no movement can look a bit odd and may leave the interviewer confused as to whether you really want the job.
Finally, remember an interview is not a test, it’s an opportunity for employer and candidate to meet and discuss a role. Not only is it a chance for the employer to assess whether you are the right fit, but it is also a chance for you to ascertain if it is also the right place for you. After all, it is your career and, ultimately, your choice to accept a job offer. Going into an interview with this mindset will give you the right level of confidence which will, in turn, lead to the positive body language you need to land that job.