When it comes to interviews most prospective candidates invest their time in identifying the success stories to share and in committing them to memory. A clean suit, a few small talk topics and they are ready to go.
Those who are more savvy to how decisions actually get made though know to also pay attention to what their body language is telling others. They know that it is not just what they are saying but how they are saying it that influences how the interviewer will view their responses. Although there are certainly numerous behaviours you could engage in that could help to support the stories you share, here are my top 3 'must do' body language tips to help you appear confident, capable and infinitely hire-able'.
1. Posture. Ever since Amy Cuddy's infamous TED talk on power poses, there has been an increased focus on the positive effects of adopting a more powerful pose. However, here I want to focus on the more common and practical elements of posture. I find that most people are conscious of trying to maintain better posture by keeping their shoulders back and their chin up. However, they do so while rounding out their lower back. They sit and stand in this softened posture, effectively reducing their height, projected energy and perceived confidence.
In your interviews it is important that you come across as someone that will get things done. This requires you to project energy, which is difficult to do from a compressed or slumped position. Extending upward through the lower back is all that it takes to affect a more positive pose, strengthening the message that you are someone that will hit deadlines, push projects through and make things happen.
2. Eye Contact. There is a lot of misinformation out there about eye contact. I find my audiences are often under the impression that strong and direct eye contact means constant and unbroken eye contact. It doesn't. Constant eye contact can, and will, prove intimidating. Although different cultures and countries will have their own acceptable levels of eye contact, in North America we typically fall into maintaining eye contact about 70% of the time during conversations.
This means that it is perfectly acceptable to look away while you gather your thoughts. What does become important about eye contact is the need to maintain it comfortably. If your eyes dart about or you are only maintaining eye contact for a second or two at a time you will appear nervous, insincere or uncomfortable. The believability of your stories will likely suffer as well. Instead, maintain eye contact for 4-6 seconds before smoothly breaking away, looking to the side to gather your thoughts, rather than up or down, and then confidently re-engaging.
Most people will find it easier to maintain eye contact when they are in listening mode than when speaking. This is fine and helps to show interest. When speaking though, it is important that you at least appear confident about the content you are sharing. Keeping the chin up heightens the perception of confidence and looking away laterally when you need to break eye contact will help you to do this. Note that glancing away to take notes or taking advantage of when they do also helps give you a bit of an 'eye contact break'.
3. Hand Gestures. The main things to consider about your gestures is that they should be smooth, controlled and purposeful. For most discussions your gestures should take place within your own personal space, which keeps them size-appropriate. Ensure that you keep the hands visible to your audience, which helps to engender trust. Perhaps the most important aspect of your hand gestures, and one worth practicing prior to an interview, is that most of your gestures should be made with the palms up.
Palms down gestures are directive. They are absolute and therefore are perfect when you are saying 'no'. They indicate that you are decided on your point and are not open to engaging the input of others. In contrast, palms up gestures are collaborative. They are more open, highlighting more of a willingness to work with the other party. This makes them perfect for interview situations where you would like your interviewer to see you as a good fit for the existing team. Palms up gestures will help you be viewed more favourably and should therefore be the more frequent gesture. You may have stories highlighting your decisiveness where a palms down gesture will help to highlight that ability, but most stories will serve you better accompanied by gestures where the palms are visible.
These three tips will serve you well in your next interview should you practice adopting them. As you review your stories, don't just practice the words you plan to use, but practice also the body language that will accompany them. The more aligned your body language is to your verbal message, the more believable and credible that message will be.