10 Body Language Tips for Better Interviews

By Fred Coon, CEO

SC&C Interview Tips for Body LanguageThe way you walk, the way you stand, and the speed of your movements all speak volumes about you. Do you have an erect stance with your shoulders back and your chest slightly out?

Anyone that speaks English well knows that words can have a positive or negative connotation. Can anything about you be described as slouched, timid, mousy, limp, or downcast? Clearly these are not good adjectives to describe a prospective employee.

Before the interview strike a power pose. Stand like Superman, feet shoulder-width apart, hands on hips, shoulders back, chest out, and think about all those helpless citizens you have saved; about being invulnerable, bulletproof; and consider all the criminals you have put out of business. Sound silly? It actually works!

Power posing — standing in a posture of confidence, even when we don’t feel confident can affect testosterone and cortisol levels in the brain [for both men & women], and [can] have an impact on our chances for success—Amy Cuddy—social psychologist, and TED speaker

Body Language Advice

Here are 10 essential body language tips to prepare you before the interview. Get this part right and the interview itself should be a breeze!

  1. Be prepared before you enter the building. Have any required documents or résumés handy and at-the-ready, so that you don’t look confused and frantic while searching for them.
  2. Walk with a steady pace, with a stride-length of 18”–28″, depending on your height, and point the front of your body toward the person you’re approaching.
  3. Show your palm before shaking hands by angling your hand slightly. It means you are acknowledging their status. Be reasonably firm while shaking hands, but it is not a grip-contest where the best way to lose is by “winning.”
  4. Keep your feet on the floor. Surprisingly, it coordinates the creative and the analytical aspects of your brain. Crossing your legs at the ankles allows you to shift position without a great deal of fuss.
  5. Sit back in your seat and stay reasonably straight. Move the purse or the briefcase to the floor, rather than your lap, so it doesn’t look like you’re trying to hide behind something. Keep an “open” body attitude. Crossing your arms is a defensive posture. Lean in just a little, to show interest, but use it sparingly.
  6. Don’t go for unrelenting direct eye contact. That is far too dominant a behavior (and it makes you look just a little bit crazy). Hold the interviewer’s gaze for a couple of seconds then look at lips, cheek, hair, or a bit off to the side. Aim for about 60% of available eye contact time.
  7. Gesture with your hands while speaking if you feel the need. There is no shame in it, but show your palms often to demonstrate openness and a desire to help. If you can keep the gestures subtle, and within an artificial plane surrounding you at navel level, that tends to increase the interpretation of honesty and sincerity. Raising your hands above shoulder level looks as if you are surrendering, or that you’re frantic.
  8. Breathe deeply to synchronize your parasympathetic nervous system. Inhale deeply before you answer a question, preferably with at least a three second pause from the time they stop speaking until you begin speaking. Every single silence does not need to be filled—demonstrating that proves confidence and allows you time to compose your answer.
  9. SC&C Body Language Interview TipsNod your head periodically while listening to indicate interest and engagement. Tugging on your chin while listening also evinces interest on your part. On the other hand, avoid touching the remainder of your face, especially your nose, which can be interpreted as dishonesty.
  10. Use a (silent) prop like a fountain pen if you don’t know what to do with your hands. Once you have calmed down, you can slip it back in your pocket, which (by the simple act of putting it away) makes you look more powerful. If you’re completely dependent on a prop, have a basic finger ring that looks the same on all sides so it’s not obvious if you’re twisting it around and around. Steer away from bracelets or cuff links as your talisman, because manipulating them makes it look like your arms are crossed.

Your job is to observe what is going on around you. How do the employees present themselves? How do they walk, or talk? Your ultimate task is to get hired; ultimately your mission is to look like you belong there.

You need to appear like you’ll blend in and fit the culture. There is absolutely no problem with being outstanding in your capabilities—but you don’t want to stand out from the background either by being too reserved in a busy-fun place, or too loud in a quiet-sedate place.

There will be plenty of time to be exceptional once you are hired. For right now be open and friendly with everybody and make sure you fit in!

Stewart, Cooper & Coon, has helped thousands of decision makers and senior executives move up in their careers and achieve significantly improved financial packages within short time frames. Contact Fred Coon – 866-883-4200, Ext. 200