Many interviewers talk about having a “gut feeling” that a candidate is right for a position. When deciding between two or more qualified candidates, this is often the deciding factor – one candidate simply feels more right than the others.
This seems like a factor that you can’t control until you think about where that “gut feeling” comes from. As an executive recruiter who has interviewed hundreds of candidates over the years, I can assure you that the interviewer isn’t psychic! In fact, the “feeling” interviewers get from a candidate, especially in a in a face-to-face interview, comes largely from a subconscious interpretation of non-verbal signals.
In the very first placement I made as an executive recruiter, the candidate I put forward was up against two equally qualified candidates. In preparation, we worked closely on his ability to convey confidence through body language and eye contact and I am certain it’s what helped him prevail.
During your interview preparation, consider these six key ways you can convince employers you are right for the job in a face-to-face interview without saying a word.
A Solid Handshake
Before starting an in person interview, offer a firm but not crushing handshake. If your hands are cold, rub them together a bit before entering. If you get sweaty palms then make sure you have a tissue in your pocket to ensure they’re dry.
The Perfect Posture
You want to look confident but not tense. Achieve this by sitting up straight while keeping your shoulders relaxed. If you find yourself tensing up, take a deep breath and relax your muscles on an exhale. Use subtle changes in posture as well. Leaning back (a bit) is a more passive posture that helps convey you are listening while leaning forward (a bit) shows excitement and enthusiasm when making key points.
Too little eye contact shows a lack of confidence but too much comes off excessively intense. The rule of thumb is to maintain eye contact about 80% of the time, looking to the sides periodically. Even though glancing away periodically is a good thing, try to avoid looking at the floor, which can come across as shy or nervous.
Using Your Hands
Keep your hands relaxed. Beware of nervous tics like clenching your fists, playing with your hair or fidgeting with a pen that can be distracting and a lack of confidence. Also never, ever cross your arms in front of your body. That’s probably a pose your parents used when you misbehaved so it’s definitely not right for an interview.
Talking with your hands is something that falls into a grey area. Most people will want to keep this to a minimum and gesture only occasionally for emphasis but be true to your personality. If you’re animated by nature then using your hands when you speak can come across very positively.
Smiling in an interview is great for conveying friendliness, warmth and general likeability but people innately sense when a smile is fake. In the day leading up to your interview, do whatever helps put you in a good mood so that smiling comes naturally. It’s the perfect way to let someone know that you’re responding to what they’re saying or that you enjoy what you’re talking about. Smiles are also contagious so it will increase the amount of positivity you receive from your interviewer.
Well-proven science shows that when people have similar body language it creates a feeling of familiarity and closeness. Normally this is an unconscious process; people mirror one another naturally. But it is also a powerful tool you can consciously use when interviewing. If your interviewer uses emphatic hand gestures when excited, consider doing the same. If they rest their chin on their hand when listening then use the same cue to show when you’re listening. Don’t get too crazy with this concept; you don’t want to look like you’re mimicking and you don’t want to deviate too far from the above best practices. But, subtly applied, mirroring is a tried and true technique.
With all of this in mind, remember that the right body language can put you over the top only if your qualifications and responses to interview questions are on point as well.
What other body language tips and tricks do you practice in your interview preparation?