Getting your body language right in job interviews

Hands body language

A guide to body language in job interviews

When you attend an interview, the impression you make isn’t just about the words you choose. Research has suggested that between 60 and 70 percent of all meaning is derived from body language. Body language may provide clues as to the attitude or state of mind of a person. For example, it may indicate aggression, attentiveness, boredom, relaxed state, pleasure, amusement, and intoxication, among many other cues. Here’s some things to avoid if you want to make a good impression:

When you attend an interview, the impression you make isn’t just about the words you choose. Research has suggested that between 60 and 70 percent of all meaning is derived from body language. Body language may provide clues as to the attitude or state of mind of a person. For example, it may indicate aggression, attentiveness, boredom, relaxed state, pleasure, amusement, and intoxication, among many other cues. Here’s some things to avoid if you want to make a good impression:

  1. Person squinting in a job interviewAvoid doing a limp fish – another phrase for a weak handshake! Greet your interviewer with a firm (but not bone breaking) hand shake, make eye contact and speak clearly. Limp handshakes indicate a frail inner core, a lack of confidence and generally, weakness.
  2. Avoid positioning objects in front of your body – this might be a cup of coffee your interviewer has provided, your bag or briefcase, a folio, and so on. If you hold objects in front of your body, this indicates shyness and resistance, in that you’re hiding behind the objects to try and separate yourself from others.
  3. Don’t look at your watch or checking your hands/finger nails – gestures like this really indicate boredom.
  4. Don’t pick fluff or dirt from your clothes – your clothes should be clean for a job interview anyway but if you notice that they aren’t, leave them! Picking at bits on your clothes, especially at the same time as looking downwards, gives people a sign that you disapprove of their ideas and/or feel uneasy about giving them an honest opinion.
  5. Don’t stroke your chin – this simply says to your interviewer that you’re making a judgmental decision about them.
  6. Avoid narrowing your eyes – this gives off the sign that you don’t like the person you’re speaking to, or their opinions/thoughts/ideas. Narrowing your eyes makes you scowl. Be careful as this is a natural thing to do when you’re thinking about something, but can really give off the wrong idea.
  7. Make sure you don’t sit or stand too close – give your interviewer personal space, don’t lean forward and invade the natural, invisible boundary – this will make them feel uncomfortable.
  8. Avoid looking down – this indicates disinterest.
  9. Don’t avoid eye contact – people who are sad or depressed avoid eye contact, according to new research by a psychologist at Anglia Ruskin University. This is just one of the messages your interviewer may be getting. Avoiding eye contact can also suggest nervousness, insincerity, and that you’re not telling the truth. Conversely, don’t try and start a staring competition with your interviewer. Maintaining constant eye contact can also suggest you’re trying too hard (and perhaps, therefore, hiding something). Just keep eye contact and break it occasionally when you take a few seconds to think or when explaining something with gestures.
  10. Avoid touching your face – when this happens, particularly the nose, it is commonly interpreted as an indication of deception. Also, covering up the mouth is a common gesture people make when they’re lying.
  11. Try not to fake smiles – whilst you’ll probably want to laugh at all of your interviewer’s terrible jokes out of courtesy, be aware that another sign of deception is faking a smile. You can pick out a genuine smile as the eyes light up, you get wrinkles at the corners and your whole facial expression changes. The warmth comes through. Fake smiles only involve the mouth and lips.
  12. Don’t rest your hands behind your head – this may be interpreted as a sign of superiority or bigheadedness.
  13. Don’t cross your arms – one that most people know, this is a sign of defensive, resistance or even egotism. Place your arms together on your lap instead.
  14. Don’t slouch – your posture is a telltale sign of your confidence and composure, and the way you position yourself delivers a clear message about how you should be treated. Slouching your shoulders indicates low self esteem.
  15. President Bush scratching his headAvoid scratching your head – this gives a message that there’s doubt and/or uncertainty, and it can also be interpreted as an indication of lying.
  16. Don’t mess with or readjust your clothes – this says to your interviewer that you’re feeling uncomfortable or nervous and perhaps not paying full attention.
  17. Try not to blink more than usual – blinking indicates anxiety.
  18. Don’t prop your head up with your hands – this indicates that you’re bored.
  19. Avoid wiping sweaty hands on your clothes – this shows that you’re very nervous.
  20. Don’t sit on the edge of the chair – this shows that you’re mentally and physically uncomfortable. It’s an apprehensive position that will make your interviewer feel uncomfortable as well.
  21. Don’t tap your fingers or feet – this indicates stress, impatience or boredom.
  22. Don’t fidget – whether it’s a ring, jewellery, your clothes, your bag or something you brought with you, don’t fidget as this again just indicates anxiety. Conversely, having an object to hold (but not to fidget with!) can sometimes help people feel more relaxed. It gives you somewhere to put your hands without having to think about them. You could, for example, hold a folio containing your CV and any examples of work you wish to show prospective employers, on your lap. Be careful not to create a barrier between you and the interviewer though as this indicates shyness and resistance, as if you’re hiding behind the object.

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