Everyone knows how important first impressions are, but few are aware that over 60% of recruiters believe that body language is the key factor that determines the success of a first impression. So, it’s true that actions do speak louder than words and to prove yourself at a new job, you need to first make sure your body language says as much about you as your CV does.
Remember, employers are actively looking out for a variety of things whilst interviewing you. With that in mind, here is a few do’s and don’ts when trying to impress.
The do's to remember
Do...Walk in confidently
Try not to be nervous! You've been shortlisted for a reason, so the employer must already see some potential in you.
Not only is it important that you look professional, but it also says a lot about you when you come across as comfortable, calm and collected. Expect to be judged on your behaviour, the way you walk and hold yourself.
Standing up straight and walking in confidently with your head high gives the employer the impression that you're taking the job seriously and that you're sure of yourself. They'll also be confident in your ability to represent the company if you're hired. Remember, however, that there is a fine line; it’s never attractive to walk in like you own the place or like you think you are better than them.
Do...Offer a firm handshake
Top tip: Try to mirror your interviewer’s handshake. Be conscious to apply a similar amount of pressure and movement.
A weak handshake can start you off on bad footing by suggesting you are submissive or shy. Equally though, no-one wants a crushed hand. It may seem simple, but don’t forget to let go, even if you apply the right amount of pressure, holding on for too long can make it very awkward when they try to take their hand back from your grip.
It’s natural to be nervous in an interview, but remember that your interviewer is a real person who does, in fact, respond to emotions and a smile really can go a long way in making you seem more personable. Not only does a smile make you more likeable, but it also makes you seem more relaxed and comfortable allowing you to show off more of your personality.
It’s important to let the employer know that you’re paying attention to what’s being said; nodding and smiling where appropriate is a simple way of showing you're engaged. Try your best to not interrupt and instead listen attentively. Just try not to come across too rigid or shy. Remember that recruiters don’t tend to employ miserable people.
Do...Make eye contact
Another way of showing you're paying attention is to try to hold eye contact for a few seconds at a time. Lack of eye contact has been identified as one of the biggest candidate pitfalls. If, like many others, this makes you feel uncomfortable, a good tip is to focus your eyes between their eyebrows. It looks like you are looking at them directly in the eyes, but really they'll be none the wiser.
Also be conscious of not looking towards the door as it can give a subconscious message that you want to escape.
If you have multiple interviewers, attempt to make eye contact with all of them, with more attention paid to the one asking the question but ensuring you engage with the others when answering. This shows that you're not intimidated and allows you to come across both truthfully and sincere.
Do...Use your hands
You do, of course, want your gestures to be open and expressive. However, some people are much more animated in the way they use their hands than others. Although this can be a sign of being active and engaging, make sure you aren’t waving them around too much as this can give the opposite (an unwanted) impression of being nervous and unpredictable. If you're prone to this then simply keep your hands in your lap or hold on to a glass...being careful to not spill it.
If you feel like you need to keep your hands busy then politely ask if you can take notes. It shows you’re paying attention, are interested in what you're being told and offers you a distraction.
Do...Mirror your interviewer
This is an effective trick to get on good terms with your interviewer by matching positive body movements, but, ensure you do so carefully. For example, if they lean towards to you, lean in slightly too. If the interviewer is having a drink, then take one yourself.
These subtle shifts in posture can create common ground and a comfortable environment between two people. The key is to not make it obvious.
The Don’ts to remember
Fidgeting is one of the most obvious ways you could display nervousness. Tapping your fingers, or moving your feet or legs can be very distracting, you don’t want them to notice your movements instead of listening to you. It also sends the interviewer a signal that you are uncomfortable under pressure or it may give the impression that you're impatient or bored. Try to focus on your posture by keeping yourself upright and making eye contact. Equally, if you have long hair and are prone to playing with it, then tie it back to reduce the temptation.
Don't...Sit uncomfortably and slouch
Avoid pins and needles! Don’t forget to again focus on your posture and ensure you strike a happy medium between comfortable and presentable. Not only will interviewers notice if you're uncomfortable, but the right position can also put you at ease. Avoid becoming stiff but focus on keeping the small of your back against the chair, and allow yourself to lean forward every now and again to show you're paying attention.
Sitting hunched forward or too far back can look too relaxed and you don’t want to give off a casual, 'not really bothered' attitude.
Top tip: The "low cross" is a recommended seating position in which you sit with your knees together and legs crossed at the ankles, this will also help you to not slouch.
Don't...Touch your face
As with a lot of body language, touching your face is an easy one to do without noticing. You'll want to avoid this one especially as there's a common belief that people who touch or rub their noses may be lying or untrustworthy.
Finally, if you're keen to identify any negative behaviours then ask friends if they'll study you during a mock interview. Rehearsing in this way will help steady your nerves and will allow you to notice if you do have any bad habits when under pressure. Interviewing well is the same as any other skill, practice makes perfect!