Job Search Tip of the Week – 08/02/2016


How to End Your Interview Before it Even Begins

Forgetting About Non-verbal Cues: Body Language

Your body language during an interview says just as much, if not more, than your physical appearance. However, unlike your clothes or your words, your body language is much more difficult to control.

Body language is often executed and interpreted at a subconscious level, meaning that we are often unaware of the movements we make – or, how the impression we form of people based on theirs influences our perception of and our behavior towards them.

Well, not any more. Kinesics (i.e., the scientific study of nonverbal body movements such as body position and posture, facial expressions, and gestures as means of visual interpersonal communication) research has given us insight into body language and its effects on human relations.

For disclosure purposes, even after reading this blog post, you won’t ever be completely fluent in body language: The human body is composed of approximately 640 muscles. We can control some of our muscles better than others, and it’s impossible to be aware of or observe the activity in all of them (More on “leakage” and micro-expressions soon!).

The Importance of Body Language

Consider that:

  • Linguist and polyglot Mario Pei estimated that humans are capable of producing approximately 700,000 different physical signs;
  • Anthropologist and founder of kinesics Ray Birdwhistell approximated that the face is capable of making 250,000 unique expressions;
  • Researcher M. H. Krout determined that we have 5,000 distinct hand gestures that each have a verbal equivalent;
  • Kinesicist G. W. Hewes identified 1,000 different postures;
  • Work psychologist and business consultant James Borg determined that communication is 93% non-verbal and 7% oral (and thus, that we are more likely to believe and remember what we see rather than what we hear);
  • And communications researcher Albert Mehrabian created the 55-38-7 rule, which states that 55%, 38%, and 7% of our attitude (like or dislike) towards a person is based off of their face and body language, vocal tone and inflection, and choice of words respectively.

With these sorts of stats, it’s no surprise that your body language can either be a liability or an asset during an interview. Avoid taking away the hiring manager’s focus from what you’re saying by paying attention to your body language and recognizing when it needs to change.

The following tips will help you develop self-awareness of your body and the messages it conveys to your interviewer.

Is Your Body Language Sending the Right Message?

Overall Body Posture

  • Mirroring your interviewer’s body language shows that you’re interested in what he or she has to say and in building rapport.
  • Sitting in the front half of the chair, with a straight yet relaxed spine conveys poise and just the right amount of confidence.

  • Leaning too far back in the chair indicates boredom and lack of interest.
  • Learning too far forward in the chair comes across as aggressive or overeager.
  • A rigid body indicates uneasiness.

Facial Expression & Eyes

  • Consistent, naturally maintained eye contact indicates that you’re making a genuine effort to connect.
  • Looking up while telling a story signals to your interviewer that you’re recalling a memory, and most likely what you’re about to say is truthful.
  • Dilated pupils indicate interest in what the other person has to say.
  • A “real” smile, made with the mouth and eyes upturned at the corners, conveys sincerity and puts your interviewer at ease.

  • Blinking too much signifies you’re nervous or anxious.
  • Shifty or downward-looking eyes and avoidance of eye contact indicates that you’re about to lie or just did.
  • Staring makes your interviewer think you’re trying too hard to make a connection, and feel uncomfortable (He or she would probably be too distracted trying to shift your gaze away to pay close attention to what you have to say.).
  • Watching the clock tells your interviewer that you’re distracted and makes him or her think that you don’t view the interview as a valuable opportunity.

Arms & Hands

  • Keeping your arms naturally by your sides and making small occasional gestures with your hands signifies that you’re at-ease.
  • Gently holding your hands together in your lap conveys that you’re self-disciplined, and will also help to keep you from over-gesticulating!

  • Crossed arms make you come across as defensive, as if you have something to hide.
  • Talking with your arms and your hands (i.e., making large gestures) creates physical and psychological space between you and your interviewer, and makes you come across as loud and aggressive.
  • Playing with your hair, jewelry, fingernails, or clothes displays your nervous energy.
  • Decreased hand gestures and Increased facial touching signifies that you may be lying.

Legs & Feet

  • Feet that’s planted firmly on the ground and directly facing the interviewer not only helps with your overall posture, but also shows your interviewer that you’re focused on him or her.

  • Tapping of the foot or jiggling of the leg indicates nervousness, impatience, and boredom.
  • Crossed feet signify that you’re comfortable or relaxed. While it’s good to be that way during an interview, crossed feet looks too unprofessional for the setting.
Decoding Your Interviewer’s Body Language

Learning how to better control your body language will also heighten your ability to read your interviewer’s, and thus react appropriately.

Facial Expression & Eyes

  • Dilated pupils indicate interest in what you have to say.
  • Arched eyebrows indicate your interview is contemplating what you’re saying and that he or she is mildly intrigued.
  • Short nods typically mean that your interviewer agrees with you or wants you to keep talking.

  • Squinted eyes signify dislike or unhappiness, and can also indicate that your interviewer is carefully evaluating something you said for truthfulness.
  • Furrowed eyebrows, pursed lips, and a tight jaw indicate dislike or disapproval.

Remember: Your body language has long-lasting repercussions on how people perceive you, so it’s important to be aware of it during interviews and in the work place. Start getting rid of distracting or offensive habits now, so you can make a good impression later!

Blogging forward,

Note: Body language isn’t universal, meaning its interpretations vary by culture. The above post is written in the context of Western culture.

Photo Credit: We Heart It