The Importance of Body Language During a Job Interview
Shake Hands the Proper Way
One of the first things you’ll probably do in an interview is shake hands with your interviewer. The handshake is a simple symbol of introduction. But it can also be an unspoken gauge of personality. Hiring managers say that while a limp or unenthusiastic handshake won’t destroy an interview, it can cause one to start off on a bad note.
The same goes for a sweaty palm. To alleviate the latter problem, be sure to keep your hands open, not balled into fists, prior to your interview. This will reduce perspiration. Put a handkerchief or a few tissues in your pocket, just in case. Also remember that while a limp handshake is bad, a bone-breaking handshake isn’t much better. Clasp your interviewer’s hand firmly and confidently, but don’t overdo.
Maintain Eye Contact
A lack of eye contact during an interview can lead your interviewer to think that you’re shy, disinterested, or dishonest. Likewise, shifting your eyes to and from the interviewer’s face can also send the wrong message. It’s no wonder “shifty-eyed” is a term used to describe a character who is deceitful or insincere.
While you don’t want to stare at your interviewer to the point making him uncomfortable, do maintain eye contact as much as seems appropriate. If you are speaking to more than one interviewer, you can shift your gaze, but be sure to look each interviewer in the eye for at least a couple of seconds.
Watch Your Body Language
The term “body language” includes just about any manner, gesture, or posture that conveys meaning to the observer. Body language is especially meaningful in an interview as your interviewer will be paying attention to nonverbal cues as much as to what you have to say Body language to avoid in an interview includes repeatedly crossing and uncrossing your legs or arms, fiddling with your hair or clothes, touching your face, scratching your head, or playing with a button or pen.
Constant or bold gesturing is also to be avoided. Some of these mannerisms may be triggered by nervousness. Interview preparation and rehearsal may help you to feel more relaxed. Body language that might give your interview a boost includes leaning forward slightly to show your enthusiasm and nodding whenever is appropriate, particularly when your interviewer is making an important point.
Smile When You Mean It
Smiling, the universal sign of happiness, is a great way to convince your interviewer that you’re genuinely pleased to be there. On the other hand, an oversized or artificial grin used too often during the interview will lead to the opposite result. Your interviewer will know you’re forcing yourself to act a certain way.
According to Discover Magazine, when a person is sincerely amused, a part of the brain called the basal ganglia is activated, leading to the unconscious contracting of certain facial muscles. A forced smile, however, uses a different group of muscles, which is why it’s generally easy to spot a person who is legitimately pleased from one who is only pretending to be.
During an interview, be sure to smile-but only when you mean it. It’s infinitely better to smile occasionally but earnestly than to smirk constantly for no reason at all.
Be Mindful of Personal Space
Individual cultures and even individual people have different interpretations of what constitutes an appropriate amount of personal space. While one person might feel at ease speaking only inches from someone’s face, another person might need several feet of separation. When facing your interviewer, be mindful of how close you stand or sit. Try to maintain a distance of about three feet. Communicating at a closer range may cause your interviewer to feel uncomfortable. On the other hand, sitting or standing too far away is also impolite.