10 Body Language Tips for Your Next Interview

person being interviewed using body language

Did you know that up to 95 percent of most messages are communicated nonverbally? Studies show that a first impression is made up of 7 percent spoken words – verbal, 38 percent tone of voice – intonation, and 55 percent of body language – non-verbal communication like your facial expression, gestures and posture.

To make a lasting impression on employers, you will need to practice body language that projects confidence. No employer wants to hire a candidate who is unsure about his or her own abilities.

If you are struggling in interviews and want to improve your chances of getting a job start taking notes...

1. Dress the Part

If you want the job, you have to show that it’s already yours. Dressing the part shows the right amount of professionalism and commitment to the position you are trying to get. The good thing is that you don’t have to wear something too fancy to make a good impression, and can easily stand out by wearing your best suit or black dress/shirt for the ladies. If you want, you can add a subtle accessory or something to help you stand out. This could be a pin or a tie that has some fun element to it.

Before you leave the house, look at yourself in the mirror and make sure you are comfortable with what you are wearing. Studies show that striking a power pose for a short time can lower stress hormones. Confidence combined with the right pair of shoes can do wonders.

Mistakes to avoid: Avoid jeans, funky clothes or anything weird. This is too risky even for when you are applying for creative roles. If you need help, take a look at our interview dress code to get an idea of what’s appropriate.

2. Make an Entrance

The interview starts even before you get to the interview room and by the time you say ‘hello’ to the receptionist the interview assessment begins. Be polite, tell them why you are here and ask to see the person in charge. Prepare any paperwork beforehand, organise it neatly in your briefcase and make sure you have it ready in case you need it. This is not the time to search for your portfolio or printouts of your CV. You need to stay calm and assured.

If it helps, you can practice your confidence walk to show that you have a purpose and energy. Keep your shoulders pulled back and neck elongated. Walk directly to the person you are meeting pointing in his direction and maintaining eye contact with occasional breaks to the side.

Mistakes to avoid: Walk into the interview room with your head held high – but not too high. This shows employers that you are humble and not an arrogant candidate who thinks they own the world.

3. Have Good Manners

Some employers ask receptionists for their impression of you before they meet you. So they observe you while you wait in the lobby, but without letting you know they are watching. You should sit with your profile to them to ensure that you are not looking directly at them and also feel comfortable.

When you enter the interview room, you need to wait for employers to tell you to sit down. Place your portfolio on the table, but put your other belongings like your briefcase or handbag on the floor beside you. Don’t hold on to these. Putting them on your lap will ruin your body posture, and your goal is to show that you are open.

Mistakes to avoid: You need to show good manners and do as you are told. Don’t plop yourself into a chair before you are given the permission to sit down. It is not your territory, and you need to follow certain rules.

4. Give a Firm Handshake

Getting the right handshake is the first thing you need to check off your list because it is a sign that initiates conversation in any social situation. Go for it first, match the interviewer’s grip, apply the two-second rule, smile and repeat their name. Make sure to use your right hand and check if your palms are dry.

If there are more people in the interview room, you need to give a handshake to each one – when you walk in and when you leave. If shaking hands is not possible, gather your belongings calmly, rise smoothly, smile and nod your head. Thank interviewers for their time and make sure you leave the interview in a positive way.

Mistakes to avoid: There is nothing employers hate more than the ‘dead fish’ and iron grip. When your handshake is too weak it might imply that you are under-confident and if it’s too firm it might show arrogance or dominance. Finding the right balance is key to getting the perfect handshake.

5. Sit up Straight

When you get to the interview, make a conscious effort to have a good posture. Sit firmly and lean your back straight against the chair. If you feel like it, lean forward from the waist as this will give the appearance that you are interested in what they are saying. Open up your body and keep a steady posture to show that you are ready to hear what interviewers are saying.

Also, take control of your feet. Answering highly complex questions can be difficult unless both feet are on the ground. Studies show that this has to do with being able to go back and forth easily between the limbic reptilian brain to the neocortex brain, connecting creative thought and highly complex rational thought.

Mistakes to avoid: Don’t slouch in the chair, fold your arms or cross your legs. This will result in making you look small and insecure. Interviewers could interpret this as a sign of your disinterest. If you tend to slouch, pretend there’s a string pulling you up from the crown of your head. Finally, playing with the button of your shirt, your ring or any other object can make you appear anxious.

6. Retain Eye Contact

Good eye contact conveys confidence and sincerity. Looking into the interviewer’s eyes shows that you are actively paying attention to what they are saying. The best way to keep eye contact is to alternate your gaze between the left eye, the right eye, the mouth – every three seconds – just enough to see the colour of the interviewer’s eyes. So 2/3 of the time, you can look anywhere in the eye-nose triangle and the remaining 1/3 of the time you can look away.

When you are in panel interviews, make sure you look at everybody, but you need to focus on the person who is asking you the question or speaking at that time.

Mistakes to avoid: Locking eyes with someone for an extended period of time can be seen as aggressive and creepy, and you might want to avoid that. Also, don’t look down or avoid the gaze of the interviewer.

7. Show Your Hands

Showing your hands sounds like a weird piece of advice, but it is a valid point. Keeping your palm upwards or touching your heart shows what you are saying is honest, trustworthy and genuine. Another great hand movement you can try is keeping your arms steady when you want to emphasise a point and steepling your hands, which is a strong sign of self-confidence.

Mistakes to avoid: Don’t fold your arms, clasp your hands or put them in your pockets. These are clear signs of anxiety and discomfort. They make you look afraid or that you have something to hide from employers. Also, avoid lying signals – avoid touching your face, especially your nose, your mouth, your ears, your sideburns. It suggests that you are being dishonest.

8. Talk Slowly

It’s clear that verbal communication isn’t as important as body language, but your mouth needs to be able to work with the rest of your body parts. When you are feeling anxious, you might end up rambling or talking too fast, risking the chances of employers not understanding what you are saying. To avoid this, slow your breathing down a bit. Think before you talk and slow your pace down. This should slow your heart rate and make you feel less nervous.

Mistakes to avoid: If you are not sure about certain words or acronyms used within the role or the industry you are applying for, avoid them altogether. Try to be yourself and avoid long sentences or phrases that are pointless in the hope to impress employers. Quite often, this works the other way around.

9. Mirror the Interviewer

Mirroring the interviewer can be a very powerful technique, but for it to be effective it needs to be very subtle. Make sure that you are discrete in your moves so that it doesn’t look like you are trying to make fun of the interviewer. Try mirroring hand gestures and postures but wait 10 seconds before you do it yourself. The easiest and safest way to do this is to lean in or lean back when they do.

Apart from movements, you can also mirror your speech, their vocabulary – if it comes naturally to you, their jargon, the rate and volume of their speech. It makes the interviewer feel more at ease, trusting and open to you.

Mistakes to avoid: Obviously you shouldn’t do exactly what the interviewer does. That would be creepy. Just try to stay true to yourself as much as possible. If you are faking it, interviewers will be able to tell.

10. Be Positive and Humourous

There is nothing better than a sincere smile. Why? Well, it has the power to make you and the interviewer happy. Don’t be afraid to show your enthusiasm for the job or express your eagerness for the role through your body language. Keep an interested expression, smile, nod your head while listening and make positive gestures. Apart from smiling, a joke can lighten the mood or be used it as an icebreaker.

Using humour in the interview can put people at ease, relieve tension, help people think clearly and make better decisions. At the same time, it makes people like you and root for you. Of course, this can be risky and you might need to do some practice beforehand. 

Mistakes to avoid: If you are not sure how interviews are going to receive the joke, avoid it altogether. Also, stay alarmed and be careful with nodding. You don’t want to look like a nodding dog.

Putting these body language tips into practice can help you make the right impression on your next interview. Paying no attention to your body language can result in poor performance despite the fact that you may be perfectly qualified for the role or have answered all the interview questions correctly. So make sure you send all the right signals at your next interview!

Are you doing any these? Do you have any other body language secrets to share? Let us know in the comments section below…