By Gerald Walsh ©
How you carry and present yourself in an interview does count. Even if you have impeccable qualifications and great answers to the interviewer’s questions, bad body language and other non-verbal behaviour can influence how you're perceived.
When you arrive.
Your interview starts the moment you walk in the door. It goes without saying that you must be on time for your interview but don’t arrive too early. Doing so conveys that you have nothing better to do and could be interpreted as disrespectful of others’ time.
Once you’re inside the door, you are being judged. Other employees might be nosing around, curious about the candidates. Always be on your best behaviour while waiting for the interview to start.
Nothing builds a favourable impression like a strong handshake and friendly greeting. The rules of handshakes are well-known but not always followed:
If you have a choice, opt for a more upright chair. Big, soft, comfy chairs are great for TV but they’re risky in an interview. That’s because they can be difficult to get out of, particularly if you’re a woman wearing a dress or skirt.
Look for an inconspicuous spot to place your briefcase or purse. Never place them on the table or interviewer’s desk, or even your lap. The floor is perfect.
Once seated, relax and lean slightly forward in a comfortable pose. This conveys that you are confident, interested, and ready to proceed.
When you overdress, you run the risk of communicating superiority – like you have money, power, or great taste. This will immediately turn off the interviewer.
Similarly, underdressing – such as wearing jeans and t-shirt – in a corporate setting shows disrespect like, “I am going to dress anyway I want, I don’t care what you think.”
Simply match your dress to your audience as closely as you can when heading to an interview. And, by the way, it’s okay to ask the person who calls you to book the interview time, “How should I dress for the Interview?”
When nervous, we tend to speak faster than normal. So be conscious of your speed of speech and deliver what you have to say in a controlled, deliberate manner. The pace and tone may seem sluggish to you but it will be perfect.
One way to control your tone and pitch is to pause before speaking. Not only does this give you more time to reflect on your answer, it helps you relax so tone and pitch is the real you.
If offered something to drink, choose water even if you’re not thirsty. Your mouth will dry out when you’re tense, so a glass of water helps. Avoid coffee, tea and juice because the consequences of spilling your drink are more severe than if you spilled water.
When the interviewer is speaking, maintain 100% eye contact to show you are actively listening. Occasionally nod your head to demonstrate you understand what they are saying.
When you are speaking, maintain eye contact about 75% of the time and for not longer than 10 – 15 seconds at a time before looking away. The reason it is okay to look away once in a while is that it gives the impression that you are collecting your thoughts in order to continue the conversation.
When being interviewed by a panel, start your answer by looking at the person who asked the question, glance briefly at the other panelists during your answer, and finish up by looking back at the original questioner.
Hands and legs.
Rest your hands loosely in your lap or on the table. Most of us gesture when we speak and you should feel comfortable doing this to emphasize your points, although gestures should be controlled.
Likewise, avoid folding your arms across your chest, which could be perceived as defensive or close-minded, and touching your face or your hair, which could be interpreted as nervousness or anxiety.
Your legs should be firmly on the ground or crossed at the knee. Like hands and arms, too much leg movement can be distracting and suggest nervousness.
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Gerald Walsh is an executive recruiter, career coach, public speaker and author. He is the author of “PINNACLE: How to Land the Right Job and Find Fulfillment in Your Career.” You can follow Gerry on Twitter @@Gerald_Walsh