Win that Job! Tips to Master Body Language at Job Interviews

27 March, 2015

“I’ve always had the ability to persuade people to come on board with my new ideas.” These are acceptable words to use in a job interview. Now, picture the image… - Shoulders slumped…Eyes downcast…Voice quavering and tentative…

Performance like this at a job interview is unlikely to result in a job offer. And it is a performance. 

I call it “Putting on the Interview Hat”.

There is a clear expectation at a job interview that you are in selling mode.  This means overcoming your natural modesty and using persuasive, evidence-based selling to clearly establish yourself as the number one candidate.

But all the clever talk in the world is useless if your Body Language does not win over your buyer.

 

Body Language Rules the World

Time and time again, experiments with perception show that Body Language is responsible for roughly 55% of people’s perception of us when they first meet us, with our Voice a close second place at 38%, whereas the actual Words that come out of our mouths only result in 7% of their judgement.

All of us have been informally trained since birth in the process of "sending" and "receiving" nonverbal communication.  The popular writers refer to these skills of detecting and interpreting nonverbal behaviour as "reading body language."

 

What’s that got to do with job interview success?

I recommend that you split the process of formally applying for a role into two distinct stages: the Sales Process and the Due Diligence Process.  In the sales process, your task is to truly charm the prospective employer so that they can’t wait for you to start.  (In the due diligence process, your job is to check out the employer to see whether you actually want to work for them.)

To succeed in the Sales Process, it is critical for you to master Body Language.

 

Here are my top ten tips to master body language

Tip #1: Ensure that your palm is dry and cool 
Arrive early at the interview and wait in the foyer downstairs to cool down, before announcing yourself to the Receptionist 10 minutes early.  Do not give anyone a moist, damp handshake. 

Tip #2: Match your handshake to the rules of the culture that you are operating in

When I worked in Malaysia, I was charmed by the delicate, very gentle handshake I received from many of the women.  In Australia, on the other hand, people generally expect a handshake to be firm and strong, even from women. Avoid the power handshake, however, where you twist your hand so that it bends the interviewer’s hand under yours. (Not a good idea!)

Tip #3: Look people in the eye when you meet them

When you are shaking a person’s hand, make sure that you look them in the eye.  It is an easy way to make an initial connection, to break down the barriers.  It is harder for someone to be critical of you when they have started to connect with you, even in such a superficial way.

Tip#4: Walk straight and strong

You need to look strong and confident as you walk into the interview room.  Shoulders back, head looking straight ahead, walk with energy.

This issue becomes even more important as we age.  I used to thank my lucky stars that my years of Irish Dancing meant that I walked strong and tall with a straight back.  Imagine my horror when my physio informed me that I was becoming round shouldered!  Ever since, I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that I need to constantly work on my posture to avoid that dreaded Dowager’s hump.

Tip #5: Master the “S” of SOLER’s Position

Make sure that you are Square On to your interviewer.  In a panel interview, this translates into ensuring that you look at everyone as you answer your questions.  The general rule of thumb is to give more attention to the person who asked you the question, but to also include other panel members in your gaze as you answer.

It is also important to ascertain who has the power in the room and to ensure that you subtly pay more attention to him/her.

Tip #6: Master the “O” of SOLER’s Position

Sitting with your arms crossed is an absolute No, No.  In the unofficial straw poll I regularly conduct, some people say it conveys weakness, some say it conveys fear, others say it conveys defensiveness.  Nobody says anything good about it. You should have an Open torso with your hands lightly clasped on your lap, ready to be used to mirror your words.

Tip #7: Master the “L” of SOLER’s Position

The days of us being taught to sit well are long gone! 

Hunching down in your chair gives the impression of nervousness and low self-esteem. A sloppy posture indicates a careless attitude and a lack of energy. Sitting on the edge of your chair can come across as being nervous and tense.

Sit upright but not too stiffly in your chair. Lean forward about 10 degrees. This indicates that you are comfortable and feeling confident.

Tip #8: Master the “E” of SOLER’s Position

All cultures have their own rules about eye contact.  Broadly speaking, however, if the interviewer is talking and you want to show that you are actively listening, you need to instigate direct eye contact and maintain it. Avoid appearing as if you are staring aggressively by blinking at regular intervals and moving your head every now and then, such as giving a small nod.

When you are doing the talking, you need to hold eye contact for periods of about 10 seconds before looking away briefly and then re-establishing eye contact.

Tip #9: Master the “R” of SOLER’s Position

Relax! Which means no repetitive gestures that distract or annoy the interviewer such as clicky pencils or jiggling knees. Fiddling with hair, face or neck sends the message of anxiety and uncertainty. Body language experts agree that touching the nose, lips or ears can signal that the candidate is lying.

Tip #10: Film yourself

I am amazed at how resistant my clients are to the thought of filming themselves to review their performance.  Somehow, they prefer to face my evil/eagle eyes across the desk rather than view themselves on video. 

I can’t recommend filming yourself strongly enough. No one will see your performance but you.

 

Swing the Balance of Power to You

Just make sure that you leave yourself enough time to be able to correct your performance.  Confidence is everything in interview performance.  Typically, at The Career Consultancy, we aim to complete solid interview skills training well before any scheduled interviews. 

Start early and you will have time to make the changes needed and gain confidence in your essential worth.

That way, you swing the balance of power to you and your prospective employer thinks: “Wow, she’s great.  What are we going to have to do to get her to come on board with us?”

 

aBOUT THE AUTHOR

Catherine Cunningham is Adelaide's leading career expert.  She appears regularly in The Weekend Australian Careers section, in The Advertiser's CareerOne, as well as in online publications such as news.com.au, thenewdaily.com.au and womensagenda.com.au

The Career Consultancy Pty Ltd
Suite 220, 147 Pirie Street
Adelaide  SA  5000
T: 08 8223 6011
F: 08 8223 6411
E: admin@careerconsult.com.au

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