• Resources

7 steps to mastering body language

Published by Espresso-Jobs, January 21st, 2016

7 steps to mastering body language

How to project positive body language during an interview
You’ve probably met someone who failed to inspire confidence in you, but you didn’t exactly know why. Knowing that more than 50% of interpersonal communication is non-verbal is enough to make us aware of how body language is especially important during an interview, as candidates have very little time to make a positive impression. In fact, some studies show that the first minutes are the most decisive when it comes to making a good impression. The problem is that it’s usually the recruiter who starts talking first! Here’s some advice for gaining an edge with your body language to impress the recruiter and land the job:

Give a proper handshake. First of all, make sure your nails are clean and well trimmed. You’re off to a bad start if the recruiter’s first impression is of dirty hands and bitten nails. When you enter the room, walk slowly and stand up straight. Maintain a personal space of about 75 centimeters between yourself and the interviewer. Smile and shake hands warmly, matching the pressure of the recruiter. A good handshake lasts two to five seconds, explains career strategy expert Martin Yate. You should move your hand vertically: if your hand points slightly downwards, you could give the impression that you want to dominate the other person. Conversely, pointing your hand slightly upward shows submissiveness.

Use the mirroring technique to imitate the recruiter’s body language. Are you familiar with this technique? People use it without realizing it, by copying the tone of voice, intonations, accent and non-verbal communication of the person they are speaking to. This could be as simple as smiling slightly back at someone! Imitating gestures is a way to give the impression that you understand the other person and that you’re on the same wavelength. Make sure to remain discreet—you don’t want the employer to think you’re mocking him!

Keep your hands in sight. TV news anchors always keep their hands visible to viewers. This strategy aims to establish trust by showing that they have nothing to hide. Another thing: before asking a question, bring your hands together, fingertips touching. This hand position shows confidence and consideration for the person you’re speaking to. Last thing: don’t point your finger at the recruiter while talking! This gesture is often perceived as threatening.

Avoid nervous tics. If you tend to have them, try to concentrate on the conversation and take deep breaths. You should know that it is possible to cure these annoying movements! 

Pay attention to your posture. Wait until you’re offered a seat or politely ask the recruiter where he would like you to sit before rushing to a chair. Keep your back straight. Leaning slightly forward communicates interest. Be aware of how you position your legs. Resting your ankle on your knee shows nonchalance. Don’t cross your arms: you may be seen as close-minded. 

Maintain eye contact. Looking away when someone is talking to you gives a bad impression, whereas eye contact shows interest and engagement. Here’s a little tip: make a mental triangle between the other person’s eyes and mouth, and fix your gaze on these imaginary points. Try to use this strategy three quarters of the time. At the right moments, nod to show approval and encouragement.

Be aware of your facial expressions. Make sure your facial expressions match your tone of voice! Certain small facial movements can say a lot about your state of mind and personality. Tense smiles, repeated scratching and lip-biting should be avoided. Also, looking over your glasses may convey arrogance.

Last but not least, don’t forget to breathe! Oxygen deprivation during your interview could get a bit annoying… You want to keep your ideas clear and stay relaxed.   
To offer advice, Espresso-Jobs draws inspiration from the book “Knock ‘em Dead Job Interview: How to Turn Job Interviews Into Job Offers” (2012) by Martin Yates. The book is available on Amazon.