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How to use body language to nail your job interview

Your body language and job interview success are linked, here's why...

Sending the right message in an interview depends on more than just your words. How you present yourself, your gestures, and even your ability to preserve eye contact can convey a host of information to your hiring manager.  

55% of the cues sent during a conversation are influenced by body language. 

When hiring managers meet with candidates during interviews, either in person or through a video call, they're constantly looking for insights into their characteristics, attitude, and traits.  

If you're not sending the right signals with your hand gestures, and posture, your words may not have the right impact. Unfortunately, in a stressful situation like an interview, it's easy for underlying nerves and anxiety to affect your body language and the impression you make.  

So, how do you ensure you communicate the right message with more than just words? 

Understanding Body Language: The Subtle Art of Communication 

Throughout the decades, numerous studies have explored the importance of nonverbal communication in interactions. While research results have varied, most experts agree that 70 to 93% of all communication is nonverbal.  

Perhaps one of the best-known research projects into nonverbal communication was conducted by Dr Albert Mehrabian in the 1960s. He examined how subjects responded to certain words and phrases through various tests when paired with specific gestures and facial expressions. The studies revealed that body language and tone helped participants to discern the feelings and intents of the people speaking more effectively.  

Mehrabian concluded the way human beings respond to what others say is influenced more by body language than the connotation of the words themselves. He said that he believes the interpretation of messages is only 7% verbal, but 38% based on vocal tone and 55% based on visual cues, such as body language.  

The Importance of Using Body Language in Job Interviews 

In a job interview, the primary goal of any candidate should be to send the right message to a hiring manager. It's up to you to convince a potential employer that you're the right fit for their team by showcasing your skills and knowledge and demonstrating the right character traits, personality, and attitude.  

Even if you say all the right words in a job interview, how you say them can influence how others feel about you as a potential employee. Even something as simple as a strong handshake can improve your chances of making a lasting first impression.  

Used correctly, the right body language can ensure you:

  • Make the right first impression: How you dress, stand, and the enthusiasm you convey through your body language can ensure employers are more likely to remember you for all the right reasons, boosting your chances of receiving a job offer. 

  • Build rapport: Body language techniques like smiling, making eye contact, and mirroring your interviewers' behavior's help form the foundations for a positive connection. They pave the way for better interaction overall.

  • Showing confidence: While many employees may be nervous during an interview, most hiring managers are looking for evidence of confidence. Your body language shows interviewers that you believe in your abilities and skills.  

  • Professionalism: Poor body language, such as fidgeting, looking around the room, or failing to make eye contact makes you look less professional and reliable in a job interview. It makes it harder for hiring managers to visualise your position in their company.  

  • Expressing enthusiasm: Body language can be an excellent way to show your enthusiasm for the role. Hand gestures used correctly can show excitement and passion, which makes you more appealing to potential employers, showing you're committed to the job.   

Good body language can even be a great way to prove to hiring managers that you're listening to and taking in what they're saying.  

The Body Language Elements to Master for Interview Success

The importance of body language can easily be overlooked when preparing for a job interview. Many candidates focus on preparing the right words and statements without thinking fully about how they will ensure their message hits the right chords.  

While it's difficult to be constantly conscious of your body language, tone, and facial expression, there are areas of nonverbal communication you can focus on to boost your chances of interview success. 

Next time you prepare for an interview, think about: 

1. Facial Expressions: Your facial expressions say a lot about what you're thinking and feeling. As human beings, we often scan the faces of the people we're communicating with to learn more about the meaning and sentiment behind their words. Practising in front of a mirror, examine how your facial expressions might convey negative things such as irritation or boredom. Try to preserve a neutral, confident, and engaged expression throughout a conversation with an interview. Show focus when listening to questions, and smile regularly when appropriate to show your hiring managers you're happy to be there. This will help to build rapport. 

2. Posture and Body: Positioning Good posture is one of the best ways to exude confidence in an interview, even when feeling nervous. Thinking about your posture, whether you're walking into the room for the first time, sitting in front of a video camera, or standing to greet interviewers. Stand up straight, keep your shoulders down, and pull back to convey interest and professionalism.  

Pay attention to how your posture changes through an interview. If you start to slouch, straighten up quickly to avoid appearing too casual and relaxed. Lean forward when you're asked something, as this shows you're actively listening and giving the speaker all of your focus.  

3. Gestures: What you do with your hands also significantly impacts your success in a job interview. Simple gestures, such as keeping your arms open (rather than crossed), can show openness and honesty. Using your hands enthusiastically when you speak can also demonstrate passion or interest, making you appear more animated and eager. Be careful about subconscious hand movements, though. Fidgeting with pens and paper, clasping your hands together, or wringing your fingers can all make you appear nervous. 

4. Eye Contact: Eye contact is perhaps one of the most important forms of nonverbal communication in interviews. It's also one of the toughest aspects of body language to get right. Making regular eye contact with your interviewers shows you're actively listening to what they're saying. It can also demonstrate authenticity and openness in some cases. 

However, staring directly into an interviewer's eyes for too long can make your hiring manager uncomfortable. If there's more than one interviewer in the room, try to make eye contact with them at least once throughout the conversation. Address whoever speaks to you directly, but don't hold their gaze too long.  

5. Tone of Voice: While not always associated with body language, tone of voice is still an important form of nonverbal communication you'll do well to be aware of during your job interview. Think carefully about how you say things. A gentle, secure, and confident tone of voice will help to strengthen the rapport between you and your interviewer.  Be aware of the pitch and volume of your words too. A low-pitch, monotonous voice often indicates indifference or boredom. However, a high-pitched or loud voice could make you appear anxious.  

6. Appearance: Finally, remember that how you present yourself in terms of appearance is crucial to your job interview success. Whether attending a video interview or meeting someone in person, dressing professionally is important. Ensure you present a well-groomed appearance.  A sloppy appearance indicates you're not detail-oriented and may convince hiring managers you're not committed to getting the job.  

Send the Right Message with Body Language 

Body language is more important to a successful job interview experience than many candidates think. Carefully maintaining the right posture, using eye contact, and showing confidence and enthusiasm can help you stand out over dozens of other candidates.  

If you're worried your body language might not be sending the right message, consider practising some interviews in front of the mirror, with friends and family, or even with your recruitment team. 

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