Job interviews tend to be the most stressful part of finding work. The stakes are high and it’s hard to pay attention to all the dynamics going on.
Employers have the upper hand. They know what they want and need. They are on their home turf and there’s no pressure.
One thing you may not realize is that employers are listening to what you say… and how you say it – your body language. They are watching for alignment.
You say you are confident and personable on your resume, but do you show it under pressure? You tell them how you are able to quickly gain trust with people, but are you able to establish good eye-contact connections with the interviewer?
So, let’s talk today about some bad body language habits to work on that will create inconsistency and hurt your chances.
Sitting up straight, to the edge of your seat and leaning forward slightly is the best posture for one-on-one meetings such as interviews. Most job interviews last about 30 minutes and it’s easy to start off correct but begin slouching toward the middle or end.
Correct posture shows you are attentive, interested, passionate, and confident, among other positive attributes. Slouching, leaning back, resting your face on your hands, or sitting back in your chair are all negatives.
Poor Eye Contact
Eye contact can be hard to master because you can give too much, too little, or even be too shifty. There’s an art to it that you have to practice and work on to create a comfortable level.
Too much eye contact is where you go long periods of time (like 45 seconds or longer) looking straight into the employer’s eyes. This can feel really awkward or even creepy if you do it multiple times. There may be one or two instances during the interview where it’s necessary, but you want to avoid this.
Too little eye contact signals that the candidate is either really nervous or not overly confident. And it’s hard for an employer to know the difference if there is one – sometimes it’s both. If it’s not natural or is really hard, work at giving it – even if you are just looking at their forehead or nose to make it easier.
And shifty eyes, which is best described as darting around too much or too quickly is also a red flag for employers. As I was saying, there’s an art or cadence to your eye movement that is considered relaxed or normal and won’t be distracting for an employer.
Give employers good, lengthy eye contact as you are listening to them. Occasionally, shift away for a second or two to break that up. Nod your head and smile to help create breaks. Then, when talking, follow a similar pattern of lengthy eye contact, say 15-30 seconds with short breaks between.
It has been long understood by social psychologists that folded arms is body language for “closed off” or “defensive.” This is, of course, the opposite of what you want to convey. Remember that trust is what working toward when applying for a job. The sooner you have an employer’s trust the sooner they will decide you are the one.
Instead, generally keep your arms down to your side with elbows slightly bent and hands coming together but not crossed when standing. When sitting, strike a similar pose but with elbows even more bent and hands on your legs or together, changing things up slightly as the interview progresses. You shouldn’t and won’t have to hold these poses, there are opportunities to gesture as you talk, shake hands, or make other routine movements.
Nodding your head as you listen is great – it communicates that you understand and are on the same page. But you can get carried away with it and create a distraction if you are nodding too often and/or too fast.
Try to hold off nodding until you feel they are toward the end of their statement. Give the interviewer a gentle, thoughtful couple of nods that communicate that you are absorbing what they say.
Fidgeting can occur with your entire body, just your hands or even just legs or feet. We do this most often when we are nervous to help slow our heart rate – it’s sort of a mini defensive mechanism that is natural.
The most important thing is for you to be aware of body language fidgets so you can take action. Next, learn some deep breathing techniques to get that heart rate down and keep it down. Then, either work on not shifting body parts around so much or work to do it only a few times that make it appear more natural.
Inconsistent Facial Expressions
Another thing people forget to do in interviews is to smile or show emotion. Give yourself permission to vulnerable – let your passion and excitement for the work show on your face. This is important because as you present your thoughts employers will look to see if your expression matches your words.
If you have no smile or sincere expression while talking about your experience and expertise something will seem off. It may just be your nerves but the employer may surmise you really don’t mean it.
Body Language Summary
Again, consistency in your job interview isn’t just words, it’s avoiding bad body language habits that will send a mixed message. Practice and work at each one of these tips, especially the ones you know are harder for you.
Doug Perry is an expert resume writer and job search coach. He and his wife, Tracie, who is a dental hygienist, created GetHiredRDH in response to the challenging dental hygiene job market and have helped thousands of dental hygienists through tips and individual services. If you need individual, click here to contact Doug.