Research tells us that people form an impression of someone within 30 seconds. Body language is the unspoken element of communication that we use to reveal our true feelings and emotions. Our gestures, facial expressions and posture, for instance.
In the late 60s, a psychologist conducted several experiments to find out just how important gestures and intonation are for conveying a message. So what were his results? Only 7 % of communication is verbal, 38 % is considered paraverbal (meaning tone and intonation) and 55% is non-verbal! As you can see, gestures, hand signals, and different body movements are extremely important to know how to use!
Before the interview watch the Amy Cuddy Ted Talk “Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are.” Do your Power Poses before the interview.
The impression you create starts with the first person you meet for the interview – the receptionist or the assistant of the individual who will be doing the interviewing. They can play an important role in the selection process – it is not uncommon for the interviewer to ask them their impression of a candidate.
When you arrive at the interview location advise the receptionist of your name, the name of the person with whom you will be meeting and the scheduled time of the meeting. Make some “small talk” with them – ask them how their day is going, what plans they have for the weekend or the like.
If you end up sitting in the reception area do not use your phone – no calls, texts or emails. Sit with good posture – straight back and feet on the floor. Do not take things from your briefcase or read newspapers or magazines that may be in the reception area – when someone comes out to meet you and lead you to the interview you will be caught off guard and will fumble to put things away. Wait patiently.
If the interviewer or their assistant arrives to lead you to the interview location look them eye, shake their hand and say “Nice to meet you” or the like. Walk behind them, at their pace, to the meeting room or office.
If offered water, coffee or the like when you arrive at the meeting room politely decline. You don’t want to have any distractions during the interview.
The key to good body language in an interview is to be prepared with responses to possible questions. If you have to deliver answers made up on the spot you will not have the capacity to sustain appropriate body language, will loose eye contact as you stare off into space looking for the answers to come to you and begin to fidget.
When you meet the individual who will be doing the interview establish eye contact, extend your right hand open and with a slight upward tilt which shows openness and receptivity. Shake their hand firmly, but not with bone crushing strength, palm to palm – do not do the finger shake.
If you are sitting at a table, lean slightly forward, which shows interest and attention, and rest your forearms on the table. If there is no table, put your hands in your lap. In both cases put both feet on the floor and keep them there and interlace your fingers which will reduce the tendency to play with your ring, watch or whatever. Resting your forearms on the table and both feet on the floor will help “anchor” you and prevent you from swivelling in the chair if it is a swivel chair.
Put your notebook or portfolio on the table beside you or in your lap (if there is no table) but do not open it yet. It is a good idea to have a copy of your resume and whatever other material you provided in the application process in the event that the interviewer does not have it at hand.
Establish and maintain eye contact with the interviewer. One trick is to look at the tip of their nose – they cannot tell that you are not looking into their eyes.
Tilt you head slightly to one side – it shows that you are paying attention. Nodding your head vertically also shows interest, that you are paying attention and that you have heard what is being said.