Master Your Mannerisms: Can Your Body Language Win You the Job?
Studies have shown that your body language communicates more to another person than what you say or the tone of your voice. This is particularly true when meeting a stranger. For this reason, how you carry yourself during a job interview can have a big effect on a hiring manager’s perceptions of you and ultimately, your chances of being hired.
Consider the following:
- Nonverbal cues have over 4 times the impact on the impression you make than anything you say.
- Many HR experts agree that body language literally accounts for 93% of messages you send out during the interview.
- One study found that a first impression is based on 7% spoken words, 38% tone of voice and 55% body language.
Do those stats make you nervous? While most of us may not be aware of our body language—especially when we’re in a stressful situation—many job interviewers are trained to read it. Fortunately, body language is something you can learn to control.
Consider yourself an actor or actress in a play.
Imagine that you’ve been cast as an “job interview candidate.” Your script is the job description that you’ve applied for—and like all good actors and actresses, it’s important to study up and prepare for your role. Get to know your audience (AKA, your interviewers and other decision makers) by reviewing their LinkedIn profiles and bios. Learn more about your setting by reviewing the company website and press releases, as well as the products and services they provide.
Ultimately in this role, your goal is not to simply “get the job” as a result of this first meeting. Your aim is to build a rapport with your audience, sell yourself and your skills, and communicate to your audience why you are the winning candidate. This type of planning can really help to set the stage for a great interview. Preparing in advance can help to calm interview jitters, which in turn, improves body language during an interview.
Tips to Help You Project Confidence from the Start
Actors know that body language speaks volumes—and skilled ones know use it subtly to persuade the audience. Poses, postures, and positions—they all can say a lot about a character. Consider the following tips:
- Clothes call. Dress professionally and in the style that is appropriate for the environment—act as though your belong there. Your clothing should fit properly and be comfortable. If you feel good about the way you look that will project positively during your interaction with others.
- The eyes have it. Look your audience in the eyes, but remember there is a difference between good eye contact and a “stare down” or eyes that move rapidly between eye contact and throughout the room. A gaze that lasts longer than seven to 10 seconds can cause discomfort. Try to control over-blinking or any nervous tics and avoid looking down.
- Shake it, don’t break it. A sincere, solid handshake (solid does not mean a bone-crusher grip) is generally a smart way to start an introduction. According to University of Manchester psychologist Geoffrey Beattie, “A handshake reveals aspects of the personality of the person giving it. For example, a soft handshake can indicate insecurity, whilst a quick-to-let-go handshake can suggest arrogance.”
- Take a seat. Career professional have varying views, about how to hold your legs and feet or whether to sit a little forward or not. Personally, I advise sitting in a way that is most natural. You can’t go wrong by sitting up straight with your feet in front of you and with a comfortable posture. There may be times you may lean in during the conversation, based on the conversation and energy in the room.
- Make your move. Consider the way you hold your hands and arms. Some gesturing is perfectly fine, but too much can be distracting. Avoid activities such as tapping your fingers, cracking knuckles, twirling pens or constant playing with your hair. As tempting as it may be, try not to cross your arms or place your hands in your pockets. Keeping your hands gently in your lap, by your side, on the arms of a chair, or lightly clasped are a few ways to keep hands and arms under control and on good behavior.
- A smile goes along way. A well-placed smile helps to project confidence and warmth. It communicates that you are a team player and someone that others can be comfortable working with.
- Don’t overthink it. At the end of the day, your goal is to look and appear comfortable. If it doesn’t feel natural, it probably won’t look natural either.
It may seem universally understood not to chew gum—or anything else for that matter—during an interview. Although it was a long time ago, the memory is still fresh in my mind when a candidate I was interviewing for a sales job greeted me with a fabulous handshake and followed it with what would have been an outstanding smile, had it not been for the wad of gum in his mouth!