Job Search Tip of the Week #20 (2017)


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 other people’s body language affects our behavior towards them.

Well, not anymore. Research in the discipline of kinesics (i.e., the scientific study of nonverbal body movements such as body position and posture, facial expressions, and gestures as a means of communication) has given us insight into body language and its effects on interpersonal relationships.

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

The Importance of Body Language

Did you know that we are capable of producing approximately 700,000 different physical signs, including 250,000 facial expressions, 5,000 hand gestures, and 1,000 postures?

With these sorts of stats, it’s no surprise that your body language can either be a liability or an asset during an interview. In fact, communication is 93% non-verbal and 7% oral. And according to the 55-38-7 rule, 55, 38, and 7 percent 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.

Since science suggests that we are more likely to believe and remember what we see rather than what we hear, it’s important that you pay just as much attention to what you’re doing during an interview as what you’re saying. Develop self-awareness of your body and the messages it conveys to your interviewer with the following tips!

Is Your Body Language Sending the Right Message?

Overall Body Posture

  • Mirroring your interviewer’s body language builds rapport as it subtly shows that you’re interested in what he or she has to say.
  • 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, but leaning too far forward may come 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 that what you’re about to say is most likely 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 indicate that you just lied or are about to.
  • Staring can make your interviewer feel uncomfortable and think that you’re trying too hard to make a connection. (He or she would probably be too distracted trying to avoid your steady 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 unapproachable and defensive, as if you have something to hide. But talking too much with your arms and your hands (i.e., making large, constant gestures) creates physical and psychological space between you and your interviewer, and makes you come across as loud and aggressive.
  • Be conscious of what your hands are doing. Playing with your hair, jewelry, fingernails, or clothes makes you seem nervous and distracted. Tightly clenching or holding your hands too still and touching your face can be interpreted as signs of dishonesty.

Legs & Feet

  • Planting your Feet 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. And crossed feet, although they signify that you’re comfortable or relaxed, look 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, enabling you to react appropriately and adjust your interview responses accordingly.

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 mean that your interviewer is carefully evaluating something you said for truthfulness.
  • If your interviewer’s eyes are moving round the room, it’s time to switch gears. Darting eyes indicate that that the brain is bored and looking for an escape route, so try engaging the interviewer with questions to change the subject.
  • 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 workplace. Start getting rid of distracting or offensive habits now, so you can make a good impression later!

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