Job interviews are generally a high stress event. As a good candidate, you have thoroughly researched your prospective employer, prepared your CV and dressed appropriately. You expect to give concise arguments as to why they should select you over the competition, striking the correct balance between modesty and confidence. But beware! Your body language might be your downfall
Your Body Talks
Body language sends powerful messages. In fact, numerous studies have shown that body language can be more important than the actual words we say to each other. The BBC recently explored how your body language can impact the outcome of a job interview.
Most cultures look for a confident but not arrogant candidate who can carry themselves well. The first face-to-face encounter most interviewees will have is the handshake. In most of the Western world, a firm, confident but not overpowering handshake, regardless of gender, is the norm. Cultures who value a soft, passive handshake or a bone-crushing show of strength may wish to reconsider their native style if interviewing for an organisation with a Western business culture. The best advice is to mirror the handshake of the interviewer. It also sends a subtle message of a level playing field.
Watch How You Sit
How the candidate sits in an interview can convey a message of confidence. Sitting too far away or sitting with closed body language such as crossing the arms can look disengaged. On the other hand, personal space can vary widely between cultures. Try to determine what distance is most comfortable for the interviewer. Body language such as leaning in can leave an impression of engagement from that position. It can also convey trust.
Remember the Eyes
Eye contact is crucial when communicating, and can also send a variety of messages across cultures. For example, in the West, most people are comfortable with steady eye contact, although eye contact with no breaks tends to come across as staring and can be uncomfortable. Cultures that believe looking down or away from an authority figure – in this case, the interviewer – is a sign of respect will struggle if they do not change their eye contact in cultures that expect a direct connection, including most of the West. Again, mirroring the behaviour of the interviewer is recommended. If the candidate finds they are being interviewed by more than one interviewer, then the advice is to give each person the appropriate amount of eye contact individually.
Remember that a good candidate shows additional body language and other non-verbal ways of communicating. Breathing properly helps to reduce anxiety as well as your tone of voice, and gives the candidate more control.
Finally, many candidates may forget one of the most important non-verbal skills of all: listening. Remember that all communication is a two-way street. The candidate who has prepared for all of the above will do well to hear the correct message in the first place, and adjust their body language accordingly.