Job interviews are a body language minefield because of how novel and stressful the situation can feel to us. Understanding body language is an invaluable skill. Many reduce the ability down to respecting the importance of sitting up straight, and making eye contact, but there is plenty more to it than that. Whenever you have a feeling about someone which you can’t explain, the reason may be that you have picked up on subtle cues from their body about their intentions.
Among the many things that you need to ace in your job interview don’t forget the first impression. This means getting it right during the first four minutes of your meeting which is famously how long it takes to leave that lasting initial effect. Trustworthiness is the first thing we judge when we meet someone new, it is only later that we will assess their competence according to social psychologist, Amy Cuddy.
To appear trustworthy you should focus on opening your body up. Uncross your arms and legs, open your palms and put them somewhere where the interviewer can see them! A closed stance and clenched fists can denote defensiveness and suggest you may have something to hide.
Try to be reasonably expressive with your voice and body as you communicate. When we lie our movements and our voice tend to become rigid and robotic, that is why you want to do the opposite. It is difficult to avoid curling up into a defensive pretzel during a tough grilling at an interview and, as we concentrate on giving thoughtful answers, the monotone voice may kick in. If nothing else, try to suppress your natural urges for at least those vital four minutes!
As the interview progresses it might be worth taking a few more things into account, such as what your interviewer is doing. It’s best not to jump to too many conclusions about them (even if they are trying to do exactly that about you!) because you don’t know what is normal baseline behaviour for them. However, if you have been mirroring each other in any way, perhaps you are both leaning in with one elbow on the table, this is a great sign that you are getting on well. If not, never mind, just fake it! Begin subtly mirroring them as much as possible. This should make them at least believe that you identify with them.
Body language is more powerful than you think. Not just when it comes to how others feel about you but also how you feel within yourself. Studies have shown that we have the power to make ourselves feel happy, sad, nervous or confident just by sitting or standing in a certain way and manipulating our facial expressions. It’s a two way street. It’s not just our feelings that are influencing our body language, it can work the other way too!
So, instead of nervously rocking back and forth in the waiting room, make sure that, even then, you are sitting with confidence. In fact, when the interviewer isn’t there, you have the chance to push it even further into an arrogant stance if you like. Go for it, just for the sake of fighting those nerves. Spread your legs apart, splay your arms, puff out your chest, take up as much space as possible in order to fool yourself into believing that you’re a dominant champion ready to take on the world. Just be sure to reign it in when the interviewer appears for a handshake, don’t start yanking them into oblivion like Donald Trump would!
The most important thing to remember about body language, which many forget, is that it needs to be interpreted in clusters. There is no one tell-tale sign which will inform you on whether someone likes you or doesn’t or whether they are lying or telling the truth. People have their own unique reasons for moving their body the way that they do. Don’t fixate on one thing, whether you are trying to send a message or read someone else’s. Incongruity in another person’s body language can make us all feel uneasy so make sure your arms and legs are in agreement! Be as natural as you can as you wholeheartedly embody the confident, enthusiastic person that you would like to be in the interview. Somehow try to relax!