An interview is something most of us will do several times throughout our careers. Whether it’s for a promotion within your current organization, or a new job in a different company, you need to nail every appearance you make. And while what you say is important, how you say it, and the body language you use is crucial. Here are some basic rules everyone should follow.
1. Make a Confident Entrance
It has been said that the interviewer can tell within the first 30 seconds if you are going to be a good fit for the company. And most interviewers have already made up their minds between five and 15 minutes. So you need to walk into the room being very self-assured, without looking arrogant or cocky. Stand up straight, walk with purpose, and be both professional and welcoming. You are happy to be there, without being so enthusiastic that you’re as giddy as a puppy meeting its new owner. Offer your hand if they don’t immediately offer theirs, and you will be off to a great start. When it’s time to leave, apply the same rules.
2. Give a Firm Handshake
The key word here is firm. This is not a competition to see if you can crush the fingers of the person opposite you. Some men see the handshake as a test of manliness and strength, which it is definitely not. Think of the way you would grip a golf club before a swing — good enough to hold onto it, without trying to crush the steel. It should not last too long, one to three pumps is all you need to get this done and get onto the proceedings. If your handshake is flimsy or limp-wristed, you may be considered weak or insecure, and that is not a good first impression to give.
If your hands are clammy or sweaty, find a way to dry them off before you shake. This equates to nervousness or illness, and is not something you want the interviewer to be thinking of. And finally… it’s possible the person interviewing you will not shake hands for their own hygiene reasons. If you extend your hand and don’t get one in return, just quickly place your hand back by your side and move on.
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3. Make Eye Contact
This is not the same as staring (which some interviewers have said is both unnerving and creepy), or refusing to look away from the interviewer during the entire interview. You simply want to maintain good periods of eye contact, around 10-15 seconds at a time, before breaking to look up into the air when pondering a question, or looking at items around the office while you keep the conversation going. It should feel like you’re talking to a friend.
If you have a hard time looking right into their eyes, look at their nose, or the space between their eyebrows. They won’t know the difference. If you are being interviewed by more than one person, do your best to make eye contact equally with each person, not only the person asking the questions. And remember to smile.
4. Maintain Great Posture
Your usual sitting position in the office is probably far from textbook. Most of us tend to slouch a little in our chairs, even with the advanced in lumbar support. But in an interview, you need to be on your best behavior, and that means sitting up straight without being so stiff that you look like you’re on parade. Your posture should look comfortable, but professional. Chest up, shoulders back, spine straight. Keep your hands on your knees or folded in your lap. If you sit back in your chair too much, you look sloppy, and the interviewer may think you’re not taking this seriously.
On the other hand, if you lean forward too much, you can be considered aggressive. However, doing it from time to time, particularly when the interviewer says something of great interest, is fine. It shows that you are listening more closely, and that is a nice way to express enthusiasm.
5. Mirror Some of the Interviewer’s Moves
A person doing a lot of interviews will usually be comfortable, and express positive body language movements. By mirroring (which is also a common way two people on a date will break down barriers and express interest), you are creating a subconscious bond between the two of you. However, it should be subtle, and used infrequently. If you get into a situation that becomes mimicry, you are going to offend or irritate the other person. They cross their hands, you cross your hands. They scratch their ear, you scratch yours. This is a surefire way to irk the interviewer, and you will not be called back.
6. Don’t Overdo the Arm Movements
We are creatures that communicate with more than just words. In fact, over 90% of communication is nonverbal, and that means you are going to make gestures with your face, your body, and your hands. But don’t get so excited that you’re a windmill. It’s okay to use your hands in a minimal way to help get a point across, but don’t overdo it.
7. Respect the Interviewer’s Personal Space
Most interviews are conducted over a table in an office or conference room, so you shouldn’t have to worry too much about boundaries. However, there are times when you may have to get closer to the interviewer, especially if you are showing work from a portfolio, or you are sat facing each other without a table. When this happens, remember personal boundaries and barriers. No one wants a complete stranger getting too close, and it can also expose them to things like strong cologne, body odor, or bad breath — though hopefully, none of these are an issue.
8. Don’t Fidget
Picking at your nails. Rubbing your head. Twirling your hair. Scratching your nose. Rapidly shaking one leg up and down. These are all annoying little movements that you may well be making unconsciously. A job interview can be nerve-wracking, and when you’re nervous, you might do these things without realizing it. You must get them under control. They will only be perceived negatively. The interviewer will see that you are genuinely nervous. They may also think you’re bored, hyperactive, or want to be anywhere but in that room with them. Practice with a friend or relative, and do everything you can to eliminate these fidgety moves.
9. Don’t Cross Your Arms
Let’s first address this myth that crossed arms mean you’re closed off, bored, defensive, or trying to hide something. This is untrue. For some, crossed arms are simply comfortable, or a way of controlling fidgety hands. And science suggests that when you cross your arms, you are actually using both sides of your brain, and are more likely to stay on task.
However, the myth has become more powerful than reality. Interviewers have been told to believe the pseudoscience, and when they see crossed arms, they think you’re closed off or possibly uptight. In this case, crossing your arms is going to play into the folklore that 90% of interviewers believe to be true, so don’t give them that signal.