“You had me at hello,” according to Renee Zellweger in 1996 hit movie, Jerry Maguire. It’s important to keep that feeling for your prospective employer throughout the entire interview. Last time I pointed out the body language don’ts for interviewing. Now it’s time to get to the positive. Below find the successful do’s of body language while being interviewed.
Here is what to do when it comes to body language:
- Do mirror work, even film yourself answering interview questions. Buy a flip video recorder or use your phone so you can see yourself on video (this is also great for practicing sales calls). You want to be honest with yourself and know what habits surface when you’re nervous, and practice to eliminate them.
- Dress well. Ideally wear clothes that show you in your best light and make you feel terrific. But at the same time, be sure to wear clothes appropriate to the expectations of the interviewer and the business setting. An interview with an Internet start-up requires different attire than an interview with an investment bank.
- Limit your application of colognes/perfumes. Strong aromas can be distracting or stimulate allergies.
- Visit the rest room before your meeting. You want to pull yourself together before you stand up to greet the hiring manager or enter their office. Don’t walk in pulling up your pants (or pantyhose), readjusting your tie, etc.
- Be aware of the fact that you are being evaluated from the very first moment. Project confidence by keeping your head up and shoulders back.
- When introduced, offer a firm handshake and look people directly in the eye when saying hello.
- When you sit down, keep both feet on the floor and sit up straight. Crossing your legs is okay for part of the time. Sit in a relaxed manner, but don’t slouch. Everyone knows what’s on the line during an interview, and a relaxed manner suggests confidence. But don’t relax so much that you appear casual. This will negate your power and make you seem disinterested at best and disrespectful at worst.
- Always maintain eye contact when speaking. This says you’re confident, prepared and engaged in the conversation. If you’re speaking to more than one person, glance quickly around the room and return to the person who asked the question.
- Show your enthusiasm by keeping an interested expression when listening. Nod and make positive gestures (both not to be overdone).
- Face the interviewer directly and point your knees and feet in his/her direction – align your body’s position to that of the interviewer’s. This suggests that you’re alert, focused and interested in what’s being said. Create a comfortable amount of personal space between you and the interviewer. Really knowing that boundary is important. For example, don’t stretch your hands or body over the interviewer’s desk.
- Sit still for the most part. Nervous energy isn’t good to display during interviews. Keeping your hands on your knees can work. If you are making a point, by all means use your hands – but don’t constantly use your hands (i.e., “speak with your hands”). Some suggest employing an “engaging gesture”, like pressing your fingers together to form a steeple. This suggests attentiveness and thought; but be careful not to overdo it or to “steeple” your fingers at an inappropriate time.
- Sit a little bit forward. You don’t want to sit back. Leaning backwards can leave the impression that you are overly relaxed or overconfident, and can convey a lack of respect. Ideally, sit up straight and lean forward at key points of the interview to show that you’re eager and engaged.
- Have attention on your body language, but don’t go overboard so that you’re not having a substantive conversation. Also have attention on how the interviewer perceives your body language throughout the interview so you can self-correct.
- Deal with interruptions with grace. If your interviewer is interrupted, don’t stare at them to try to make them rush. You should gesture whether or not you should leave the room and give them privacy. Be patient.
- For phone interviews, stand up. Standing increases your level of alertness and promotes a stronger engagement level. Consider dressing up as well to create more of the feeling you’d have if you were being interviewed in person.
- “Have them at goodbye” too. Make sure your goodbye handshake is just as confident as it was going in. Maintain a positive attitude and a confident walking stride while you walk through the office building, into the elevator and onto the street. Once safely in your car, a cab or some other measurable safe distance from the scene of your interview, it’s safe to let go.
Hopefully you are interviewing for a job you’ll love, and your body language will be a natural expression of your interest and enthusiasm. Now it is time to put these ideas to work! Happy hunting.