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Employ the right body language at your interview

Posted by Direct Line Group at 05:59 PM

Top body language hints and tips for a great interview

When you’ve been busy researching the role, preparing your knowledge, and honing your skills in preparation for The Big Interview, perhaps the last thing you’ve thought about is how you might sit, stand or even shake hands with your would-be employer. We all know that confidence is key, but treading the fine line between confidence and cockiness can depend a great deal upon how you hold yourself. The last thing you need is further anxiety on the day, so we’ve outlined a few pointers to help you feel interview-ready.

Make a great first impression

We all know that there is only one chance to make a first impression, so you’ll want to do what you can to make a good one.

Things you definitely should do in an interview

  • Make eye contact: Eye contact shows interest; the more interested you are the more interesting you become. Naturally you’ll need to keep a balance between staring intently, and politely holding your interviewer’s gaze for a few seconds when you are listening to or responding to a question. If there is more than one person interviewing you then you’ll want to engage with each person. Attend to the questioner in particular, but share your answer with the whole panel.
  • Use your hands: Any politician will tell you that the use of gesture is itself a bit of an art. It’s also something that should be used in moderation to create support for what you are saying rather than dominating it. Hold back on wild hand waving, or, conversely, sitting on your hands. Instead, allow your gestures to gently illustrate or enhance the points you are making. Keep your hands away from your face at all times. If you don’t know what else to do with them then fingertips loosely together in your lap is a good resting posture.
  • Smile: If you’re feeling a little tense then a natural smile can feel pretty tricky to conjure up. Nevertheless, often interviewers also feel a little apprehensive about meeting new people, so a warm smile is a good way to break the ice for everyone. If you’re in any doubt about when to smile, aim to mirror your interviewer. Laugh when they do (not too uproariously). Smiling will naturally help you to come across as positive.
  • Positive body signals: Affirmative movements like nodding indicate you are listening, as well as showing understanding and engagement. Scribbling the odd careful note can show attentiveness and willingness to engage with detail, but avoid the compulsion to doodle.
  • Maintain a respectful distance: Everyone has a sense of personal space that they like to maintain. Often the more intimate you are with someone the closer you can stand or sit together without discomfort. Be respectful of personal space and remember that your interviewer is not already an intimate connection.
  • Mirror: Without parodying your interviewer, gentle mirroring of their body language can help establish the right mood. Just be aware that in doing so you are not accidentally doing one of the ‘interview don’ts’ below…

Things you’ll want to avoid doing in an interview

  • Don’t slouch or sit on the edge of your chair: Slouching indicates disinterest or lack of self-esteem, while sitting on the edge of your chair is indicative of nerves, lack of confidence or the need to run out of the room at the first opportunity. Instead, own your chair, sit squarely and allow yourself to relax whilst remaining alert.
  • Don’t touch your face: Touching of one’s face – in particular the nose – is a sure-fire way to indicate either insecurity (it looks a little like what psychologists call ‘self soothing’), or worse: that you are lying. Keep your hands on your lap if you don’t know what else to do with them.
  • Don’t move about: Fiddling can be anything from picking at some clothing to vibrating or tapping a foot. It can indicate boredom or impatience. To avoid the temptation to fidget, keep your feet anchored to the floor and your body relaxed by sitting up straight. This will help you to feel less self-conscious.
  • Over-blinking: Blinking can indicate being interested, but don’t overdo it as it can also make you look nervous and tense.
  • Don’t check the time: It should really go without saying that checking the time is a sign of rudeness, nevertheless, it can be tempting to see if the end of the interview is nigh. Resist this urge, and instead focus wholly on the present. Amazingly, time goes quicker that way.
Social Psychologist Amy Cuddy is a specialist in non-verbal communication. See what she has to say about body language and how the positive use of body language can help you to get ahead in an interview situation.

Body language in men and women

The above advice can apply to anyone, but there are some things that tend to be gender specific. ‘Man sitting’ is a body language phenomenon typically associated with just men as illustrated amusingly here. You will see why it is best avoided. If in doubt, mirror the body language of those interviewing you. Women, on the other hand, have more of a tendency to touch their hair or neck, or use other body language that denotes insecurity, like sitting with arms crossed protectively. The trick is to observe how you behave and become aware so you can master your mannerisms in time for your interview.
Remember, the best advice it to relax – but not too much. If you are well prepared, you know your stuff, you are friendly without being too full-on, then you can’t fail but impress. Good luck in your interview. Visit our careers pages for career advice and job vacancies at Direct Line Group.

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