In this article you will read 16 tips to keep your body under control during your next job interview. The tips below are based on scientific research and experience and guidelines from organizations such as the FBI. References are included at the end of this article.
As Samuel L. Jackson put it in the 1998 blockbuster ‘The Negotiator’: “The eyes can’t lie!” (warning: this movie clip contains profanity)
The first handshake
1. Initiate the handshake
Don’t wait for the other person to initiate the first handshake. Go ahead and initiate the first handshake if you can. This shows that you feel confident and that you are ready to start the interview.
2. Avoid sweaty hands
Do you sweat excessively? Then please refresh yourself before you enter the building. Make sure you always carry a handkerchief with you to dry your hands and to wipe your forehead and neck.
If you get sweaty hands just before your interview, then dry them subtly on your knees when you get up from your chair. Avoid clammy hands, as they can give the impression that you are nervous and/or uncertain.
3. Learn to give a firm handshake
Stretch your fingers and make a 45° angle with your thumb. Let the skin between your thumb and index finger touch your partner’s hand and then close your fingers around his or her hand.
Avoid giving a soft handshake. This may give the impression that you feel uncertain. Don’t squeeze your partner’s hand either. Such a handshake may give the impression that you are too dominant or that you want to (over)compensate for your insecurity.
4. Maintain eye contact
Try to ensure a natural smile, a firm voice and constant eye contact during the introduction with your conversation partner(s). If your eyes go away from your conversation partner(s) you may seem insecure, dishonest, indifferent or downright arrogant.
Your posture during your job interview
5. Sit up straight
This may seem like stating the obvious, but if your seat has side rails you may be tempted to lean to the left or to the right. Try to avoid this. If you are ‘hanging’ loosely in your chair then you can come across as careless and/or indifferent.
Therefore try to sit up straight and to keep your back against the backrest. If you lean forward during your interview, then keep your shoulders low. Don’t make yourself too ‘big’. Also make sure that you respect your conversation partner’s personal space. Otherwise you will leave too much of an impression.
6. Stay calm and sit quietly
Do not wiggle in your chair and keep your legs still. As we described earlier, try to balance between movement and a formal posture. Someone who is using his hands and arms too much can be perceived as disturbing. The same applies to someone who is not moving at all.
7. Don’t try to hide your stress too much
Don’t try to hide your stress too much. You want to come across as natural and pleasant to talk with. If you show healthy stress then you will give the impression that the job is important to you. If you look too stoically then you may come across as indifferent.
What to do with your head and your eyes?
8. Eye contact while you are speaking
You may have multiple conversation partners in a job interview. Try to give everyone the same amount of eye contact when it is your turn to speak. You can never know whose arguments will decide about your future. Try to show the same amount of respect for every conversation partner.
9. Eye contact when someone else is speaking
Try to maintain eye contact with the person who is speaking. This way you will show that you are sincere and interested. When someone asks a question, look him or her in the eye at the beginning of your answer and then shift your eyes to the other conversation partners.
10. Eye contact when you answer a question
Try not to look look away or turn your eyes downward when you give an answer to a question. It may make you feel comfortable, but it can also give the impression that your are insecure or that you aren’t telling the truth. Look your conversation partner in the eyes and shift your eyes to the other people at the table afterwards.
11. Nod only when you agree
Some people are nodding their heads constantly to show that they understand what the interviewer is saying. This can be perceived as (too) obedient or not sincere. Therefore, only nod your head if you agree, when you understand an important point and when you want to invite your conversation partner to continue talking.
Also, keep your head still as much as possible and / or mirror the movements of the head of your conversation partner. If you subtly mirror the (head) movements of your conversation partner, you implicitly show that you agree with what is being said.
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Crossed arms give a ‘closed’ impression. As a result, crossed arms are often interpreted as a symbol of uncertainty, unreliability or lack of interest. Try to avoid this by not crossing your arms.
13. Use you arms and hands (only) to emphasize your story
Use your arms (only) to emphasize your message. Practice this at home in front of the mirror and/or with your friends and family. On the internet you can find lots of instructional videos that demonstrate how you can emphasize different messages with your arms and hands.
14. What to do with your arms and hands if you are not speaking
Put your hands on your lap or on the table. If you put your arms and hands on the table, then gently lean over to your conversation partners. This way you emphasize that you are listening attentively. You can fold your hands loosely, but make sure you don’t squeeze the blood out of your fingers.
15. Avoid a tense impression with your hands and fingers
Holds and move your hands in a calm and natural manner when you are talking. Try to keep your hands still if you are not talking. Don’t tick on the table and don’t make other any rhythmic movements that can reveal your stress (and that can irritate your conversation partners).
16. Don’t touch yourself too much
This may sound odd, but it is a natural reflex to touch your nose, cheeks and lips when you are speaking. It is a common way to soothe yourself.
Try to avoid this. If you touch your face too much or if you play with your hands, fingers or jewelry you may be perceived as insecure and/or unreliable.
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More information about body language
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In our next article we will discuss a.o. how you can use your shoulders, torso, face and legs to emphasize your message.
You can’t wait for our next article? On Lichaamstaal.be you will find a lot of information and tips on body language. The books Gezichtlezen of Chi An Kuei and What Every Body is Saying of ex-FBI agent Joe Navarro will also give you lots of practical information and a good basis to use your body as a means of communication.
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