First and foremost, Happy New Year to all! 2016 was a whirlwind for sure, but be ready to make 2017 kick-ass! It’s going to be a good one!
I know I have written about interviews in various posts, but there is one MAJOR thing I haven’t hit yet: Body Language. I found a quote recently that describes the importance of body language perfectly:
“The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t being said.”
Sure this can be applied to interviews, but it’s just as relevant to your everyday life as well. Some people may not buy into it, but take a second and think about it. Say you’re at a store looking for a particular item you just can’t seem to find. There are two store associates nearby that you could potentially ask for help. One of them is stocking shelves, looking absolutely miserable; slouching over the items they’re handling, not smiling, deep-sighing every so often. Sounds super approachable right? The other, doing similar work, is standing up straight, not totally cheesing (because that would be weird), but clearly not pissed off at the world because they have to be at work. Be honest, which one would you ask for help? I’m betting it wouldn’t be the first person.
It’s important to see how much body language can influence human behavior, even if you don’t realize it at the time. Interviews can be nerve-racking of course, and we can all come off to the interviewer as nervous. I think being nervous for something like that is normal, but it’s also totally doable to control any nervous ticks or habits you might have. I’ve compiled a list of a few common body language mistakes people often make in interviews.
- Bad Posture – controlling your posture in an interview can be tricky. You want to appear relaxed and confident, but not overly so like you’re not concerned about being there. Leaning too far back can make you come off as lazy or arrogant, but leaning too far forward can have you looking a little aggressive. Aim for a more neutral position, sitting straight and tall. Also, sitting with both feet flat on the floor can help you sit up straighter.
- Eye Contact – There is a fine line between staring and keeping eye contact with your interviewer(s). When you arrive at your interview, not breaking eye contact while shaking hands is key. Even if you’re nervous, it shows confidence right off the bat. When answering a question, keep it like a normal conversation. When you talk to other people, you keep eye contact with them, right? You don’t stare them down while you’re speaking; you make eye contact, break away, make eye contact again. When you need to look away, look down at your notes, look at the wall behind your interviewer, etc.
- Now the fun part: Having more than one interviewer, aka a panel interview. Who do you look at? The person who asked the question, the person who would be your supervisor, the person that called you in for the interview? Panel interviews can be terrifying as is, especially if you don’t know how many people you’ll be facing. I always try to look at the person who asked me the question initially, and once I get into my answer, try to scan the room and make eye contact very very briefly with the others. You don’t want to look like you’re frantically trying to look at everyone, it might make you look a little shifty, not to mention more nervous.
- Talking with your hands – Talking with your hands in general can actually be a good thing! It shows you’re passionate about what you’re talking about. However, that doesn’t mean you should be flailing all over the place to make your point. Keep it under control. Don’t point or make a fist, it could be seen as aggressive.
- Don’t cross your arms. – Crossing your arms makes you seem less approachable, not just in interviews, but in general. If you cross your arms so they won’t be hanging there awkwardly like I do, try holding a pen; this allows you to, one, be ready to write something down if need be, and two, keeps your hand busy so you don’t fidget with other things. Which leads me to number 5:
- Don’t fidget! This is probably the one I struggle with the most myself. On one of my school counselor interviews I, first, walked in to a room with 9 people in it waiting to interview me (talk about a deer in headlights), and two, was seated in a swivel chair. Because there were so many people in the room, I found myself swiveling to look at people, which is so not what I should have done. As I was answering questions, I noticed I kept doing it, but I was so caught off guard by the number of people on the panel, I couldn’t make myself sit still. This is a world of many swivel chairs, so heed my advice: position yourself before you start answering questions so you can see everyone and have no need to turn your chair.
- For women especially: don’t play with or twirl your hair. It’s a nervous tick for so many, but it’s distracting to the interviewer, and they will be watching you and your hair, not listening to the super awesome and intelligent things you have to say. Note any other nervous habits you might have before you go in for an interview, so if you notice yourself doing it, you can shut it down quickly.
- Don’t chew gum. That just looks rude.
- Mismatched expressions – If you’re excited about what you’re talking about, don’t be afraid to show it! Don’t shout at your interviewers or anything, but it’s okay to show that you’re passionate about this field and the job you applied for. If you’re asked what you’re most passionate about and your answer is accompanied by vacant expression, how is that going to look? It’s not going to translate well, and it most definitely won’t show your interest in the subject.
Controlling your unconscious behavior is hard, and will certainly take some practice, but it will pay off in the end when you get that call back! If you’re feeling really nervous about an interview, try some high power poses before you leave the house.
Yes, you might feel silly, but it could also relieve some of your stress! Just try it, trust me.