With corporate offices slowly re-opening post-lockdown, we all may soon be expected to go back to interviewing the old-fashioned way—in person. Where simply wearing a shirt, looking at the webcam, and not audibly farting may have been enough to present yourself as a consummate professional in the Zoom Times, sitting face-to-face with your potential future boss will require a bit more finesse.
During an interview, your main job is to sell yourself as a confident and capable asset to any organization. But how do you do that?
“One of the ways a candidate can best prepare for an interview is to think about their body language,” says Tanya Luddy, senior recruiter at Broadridge Financial. “Great body language shows that a candidate is engaged and ready to learn more about their role at the organization.”
And there are some common red flags to avoid. It sends a bad message “when candidates have a ‘closed-off’ stance—for example, crossed arms,” Luddy says. “Another common mistake is to let nerves get the best of you—arms or legs feverishly shaking.”
Here are a few more ways to use body language to your advantage in your next job interview.
Start off a job interview with a solid entrance
Consider that the job interview actually starts as soon as you enter the lobby. Do you look down, bite your nails, or fiddle with your outfit while waiting for the receptionist? Stop that! Be conscious of fidgeting or nervously bouncing your legs while you sit. Cross your feet at the ankles, sit upright, keep your legs still, and breathe.
Speaking of breathing, when we’re nervous, we tend to take shallower breaths, making our voices sound shaky. While deep breaths always help, you don’t want to sound like a hedgehog just finishing a 5K during your interview. Before it starts, try the 4-7-8 technique (breathe in for four seconds, hold for seven, breathe out for eight) to calm your breathing and your racing thoughts.
Give good handshake (but not too good)
We’ve all heard that a handshake should be firm because one that is too soft can make you appear weak or shy. But there is such a thing as too firm. The first message you send should not be, “Say goodbye to your knuckles, sucka.” Aim for a happy medium between limp fish and WWE’s The Undertaker.
(Pro tip: Get rid of palm sweatiness with alcohol-based hand sanitizer.)
Watch your posture and maintain eye contact
This may seem obvious but it bears repeating: Sit up straight. Nothing conveys disinterest and lack of confidence like a slouch. Chin up, shoulders down and back. (You look more capable already.)
And remember that although it may feel uncomfortable at times, eye contact is key—especially while the other person is talking. When it’s your turn, though, you may occasionally gaze up and around while searching for what to say; but you should always come back to meet your interviewer’s gaze. When in doubt, pretend you’re having a conversation with a friend (minus showing them your favorite memes of the day).
“The successful candidate will make eye contact while engaging in conversation as well as have great posture—shoulders facing front and center,” Luddy says.
Keep your hands away from your face (and smile)
If you have a one-off itch, that’s one thing. But if you spend a substantial amount of time with your hands on or near your face, particularly near your mouth, it can send the message you’re not comfortable with what you’re saying. When you’re not gesturing, hands should remain in your lap. And while we’re at it, leave your accessories alone.
“One time, a candidate was so nervous, she kept twirling her fingers in her necklace,” Luddy recalls. “When the interview ended and I went to shake her hand, she couldn’t because her hand was stuck in her necklace.” Don’t be that girl.
And don’t forget to smile—a smile not only conveys warmth, receptivity, and positivity, it also helps reduce stress hormones and activate mood-enhancing chemicals in the brain. (Besides, no one wants a boring bump-on-a-log for a co-worker.) Before you even get to the interview, let some fake, cheesy grins fly, and get the feel-good party started.
“The ‘smize’ should never be underestimated,” Luddy adds. “Smiling with your eyes from time to time is a great way to exude confidence.”
Listen actively and try using the mirroring technique
Try not to spend so much mental energy doing all of the above, though, that you forget to actually listen. Active listening is a key part of any interview; you may even want to lean forward slightly in your seat to both prompt yourself to listen more closely and to indicate to the interviewer that they have your full attention.
Mirroring, or copying someone’s body language, is also a subtle but powerful way to convey connection. Face your interviewer directly, sit in the same position and try to match the pace, volume, and cadence of their words.