How To Use Body Language To Ace Job Interviews

A strong cover letter and a killer resume can secure you a job interview. Once that face-to-face happens, though, those two things won’t carry as much weight as what you do and what you say during the interaction. Your presentation and your body language will be the tools that can give you the edge, especially when vying for a competitive position.

First thing to remember: If you got the interview, the employer thinks you’re qualified. So don’t be bashful, don’t be scared and don’t be afraid to act confident. In fact, they expect you to be confident and conduct yourself like you know what you’re doing — that’s why they’re giving you a sit-down in the first place.

Before coming in for an interview, most people polish up their speaking skills, practicing what they will say and how they will say it. As important as the things that come out of your mouth, though, are the things you do with your body, as that is what communicates to your prospective employers on a lower-key, more subliminal level.  Workplace body language is a valuable skill and using it in your job interview gets you off to a good start.

What Not To Do

What kind of body language should you avoid? Here are the big ones:

  • Staring at the floor. This tells the interviewer you’re not interested in what they have to say. I mean, what other reason could you have for staring at a floor, unless there’s a transparent window there that leads to the women’s locker room or something.
  • Arms folded. This is classic closed, defensive posture, suggesting you’re hiding something or you’re too intimidated that you need to protect yourself. It’s the opposite of the confidence you want to convey. At best, they’ll think you’re not too interested in what they have to say, which should work the same way (i.e. you won’t get the job).
  • Hands in your pocket. Again, this is a classic picture of uneasiness, suggesting extreme shyness or secrecy. Neither one is good for your chances at getting another call.
  • Touching your nose excessively. Rubbing or touching the nose is a classic tell among many people. Yep, including me. A lot of hiring executives are clued in on this and will immediately suspect you’re lying (fibbing, at best) when you frequently resort to this distracting behavior.
  • Touching your neck. There’s no reason to be touching your neck (especially the back of your neck) during a job interview. Most of the time, people resort to this action when they’re bored, so don’t be surprised if you find the interview cut short — you’re bored, so why should they keep talking, right?
  • Slouching in your chair. Not only does this make you look like a lazy slob, it shows a total lack of interest on your part, either because you feel you’re above the position or you’re just downright unprepared.
  • Sitting with legs crossed while shaking a leg or foot. Not only does this suggest severe nervousness or discomfort, it’s also incredibly distracting. Don’t be surprised if you do this and find your interview getting cut short — it’s that unnerving of a gesture.

What To Do

Censoring yourself from doing the above things can go a long way. However, we all know people tend to do much better when they have positive actions to focus their attention on. We recommend practicing these helpful body language staples:

  • Dress nice. It may sound superficial, but it’s true. The better you dress, the stronger the impression you’ll make. We live in a superficial world, where outside appearances can dictate initial impressions. If you want to have all bases covered, then is too easy an opportunity to pass up. What if you’re naturally good at dressing up? Have your wife, girlfriend or another female friend dress you. If you’re a girl, ask your sister or best friend.
  • Adopt a strong, confident posture. Do this as soon as you get out of your car, well before entering the building. Hold your head high, pull your shoulders back and take up lots of space. Then stride like a man on a mission towards the office you’re interviewing at. A conscious change in posture creates a similar change in attitude. Even if you’re naturally confident, you should be able to act this confident for the next couple of hours — just enough time to make a positive impression.
  • Flash a big smile. Put on a big, fake smile. Seriously. There’s no need to feel embarrassed about faking a wide grin. Even if it’s obviously fake, a smile is still a positive invitation– it shows interviewers you want this to start off on the right foot.
  • Shake hands. Always shake hands. Always. It’s the single most effective and most efficient technique to establishing rapport with people you meet for the first time.
  • Lower your vocal pitch. Relax your vocal cords while you’re in the car and while waiting in the lobby into its optimal pitch. You can do this by pursing your lips and making the sounds “um hum” repeatedly from your throat. This is particularly important when you’re anxious or nervous deep down, as those emotions tend to mess up your vocal pitch.
  • Raise your eyebrows. Not only do raised eyebrows make people look better (seriously, every time), it also suggests they’re open and excited. You do want your prospective employers to actually believe you really, really want this job, right?
  • Maintain eye contact. Always look straight into whoever’s talking. When it’s your turn to talk, switch among the different interviewers (if it’s not one-on-one, which will happen often) in 30-second intervals. Practice doing this at home multiple times to get it down pat.
  • Mirror your interviewers, if possible. If your interviewers are standing, then stand up. If they’re having coffee and they offer you some, take it, so you can drink in unison. Every simple instance of mirroring helps strengthen rapport, so take advantage of it.
  • Lean in slightly. During the interview, lean forward slightly. It shows you’re engaged and interested. However, be respectful of your interviewer’s space. Don’t lean too much if you’re sitting close to each other and don’t gawk over their desk. A minimum distance of two feet is always advisable.
  • Use your hands. If you like talking with your hands, do it. Hand and arm gestures usually help stimulate the brain, so you might end up talking better because of it. Also, the gestures can help clarify some points for your interviewers.