The Ultimate Guide to Body Language during a Job Interview: Part II

The Ultimate Guide to Body Language during a Job Interview: Part II was originally published on Vault.

Body language is incredibly important during a job interview. In fact, it’s perhaps even more important than your tone of voice and your choice of words. The reason for this is your inflection and vocabulary can be practiced and memorized easily, while body language is more complex and requires experience to master. If you haven’t read part one of this series, you can do so here. Now then, let’s get right into how you should use body language during a job interview.

There are several ways in which you can use body language to help demonstrate excitement, optimism, and confidence during a job interview. Maintaining eye contact is a great way to show the interviewer you’re engaged and excited about the opportunity at hand. In addition to this, proper eye contact lets the interviewer know you’re confident in your abilities and ready to take on new challenges.

There’s a fine line when it comes to eye contact. You don’t want to appear as if you’re gazing through the interviewer, as this might make you seem distant or distracted. To find the sweet spot, conduct some mock interviews or practice in the mirror. Eventually, you’ll get a feel for how much eye contact is “too much,” and when it’s okay to break eye contact with the interviewer.

If you fail to maintain proper eye contact, the interviewer might see you as uninterested or lacking in self-confidence. In certain cases, a lack of eye contact might make you seem untrustworthy. It’s important to remember that the interviewer knows how stressful the interview can be, so there is some wiggle room when it comes to breaking eye contact—just do your best to maintain it, and let some of the following strategies help you make up for any lost ground.

Next, let’s talk about posture. Posture is extremely important for expressing confidence. For the best results, always stand up and sit up straight, and keep your shoulders back and relaxed. You may lean back in your chair as long as it doesn’t make you slouch, but make sure you let yourself lean in a bit whenever you’re listening to the interviewer. This will demonstrate your interest in what they’re saying, as well as your excitement about the possibility of landing the job.

Keep in mind that it’s important to make sure you’re not constantly leaning towards the interviewer, as this could make you seem a little aggressive. A good rule of thumb is to lean slightly forward when being asked a question, then sit back a little when you’re about to answer. This will show the interviewer you’re engaged, and that you’re putting thought into your answers. Again, practice can help you find the sweet spot here. You don’t want to be constantly rocking back and forth during the interview, because it might make you seem nervous.

Now, onto your arms and hands. There are a few different things you can do here, depending on how you feel during the interview. For starters, never cross your arms in front of your body. This will make you seem defensive or standoffish, and we certainly don’t want that. In almost every case you’ll be seated, and in some cases, you’ll be at a desk or a table. Here, it’s okay to rest your forearms on the table as long as you’re maintaining your posture. If the chair has armrests, you could also…ehem…rest your arms on those.

For your hands, you could rest them on the table if there is one. Don’t lock your hands together tightly, as it will make you seem nervous. Instead, rest one hand lightly on top of the other. You could also interlace your fingers loosely and rest your hands in your lap or on the table. Again, you want to come off as relaxed and comfortable, so don’t squeeze your hands together. This particular tactic is great if you’re on the fidgety side, as it will ensure that you’re not constantly moving your hands or fiddling with a pen.

Your eyes are arguably the most important aspect when it comes to facial expressions. Using your eyes, you can convey excitement, enthusiasm, and even surprise when it’s appropriate. Practicing in a mirror is great for seeing how your facial expressions look in a variety of scenarios. What we want here is a natural, optimistic look. If you’re excited, use your eyebrows to show it. Smiling can be tricky, and it’s another one of those things where there’s a fine line. You want to look relaxed and happy, but don’t overdo it. In other words, smile, but don’t wear a forced, perpetual grin—practicing in the mirror will help you get it right.

Alright, now onto our gestures. You’ll most likely get the opportunity to have a nice old handshake with the interviewer, which requires a bit of finesse. You want to achieve a nice, solid handshake without being too forceful. On the other hand (see what I did there?), you don’t want a limp handshake either. This one requires a bit of practice, but there’s a perfect and happy medium, which you should find over time.

Your hands can also be used to convey excitement. Here, we want to be careful and not let things get out of hand (another slick joke, no?). Practice in the mirror or with a friend and you’ll get a feel for how hand gestures can be used. You don’t want to come off wooden or too rehearsed, so find what works best for you. Remember, you don’t have to be an absolute master of each of these strategies, and you should seek to develop the ones that you catch onto quickly. In time, you’ll become more cognizant of your body language and eventually, you’ll feel more comfortable during job interviews.