You've practiced answering tough job interview questions. But have you rehearsed your non-verbal responses?
Facial expressions, body movement, posture, gestures and nervous tics act as a human sub-language. We read context into these cues – and sometimes misread them. To avoid sending the wrong message with your body language, pay attention to these four areas.
Face and Eyes
Smile – but not until it hurts. You want to appear friendly, not frantic. Be aware of your facial expressions and smile when appropriate. Let the corners of your lips turn up slightly when your face is at rest.
"Facial expressions include eye movements, raising or furrowing your eyebrows and mouth movements. The benefit of using your facial expressions to communicate your feelings is that many cultures understand facial expressions in the same ways," says Indeed.
Comfortably maintaining eye contact is important, too. "Poor eye contact can signify that you aren't interested in the position," Says Forbes. "At the other end of the spectrum, too much eye contact can be intimidating and turn the interview into a stare-down."
Hands and Gestures
Job candidates are coached to greet their interviewer with a confident handshake – not limp, not crushing, not lengthy. The pandemic has effectively curtailed handshaking, which can make those split seconds of initial greeting even more awkward. How should you react?
"If someone reaches out their hand to you and you are uncomfortable shaking it, don't feel bad saying, 'I actually don't shake hands' or 'I am sorry that I don't shake hands, but I am so pleased to meet you'," advises That's Good HR. If they haven't previously stated their policy on handshaking, you can head things off with a wave or by nodding your head.
Beyond the handshake, avoid overly dramatic hand gestures, fiddling with your nails or watchband, or clenching your fists. If you need to keep your hands busy, try taking notes during the interview. They'll appreciate your thoroughness!
Body and Posture
Listen to Mom: Don't slouch. Poor posture implies laziness or disinterest. Sitting up straight and slightly forward makes you appear alert and confident.
No matter whether you're cold, nervous or trying to still your hands, crossing your arms subconsciously sends negative signals. Says FairyGodBoss, "In any context, it makes you appear aloof, unapproachable and unwelcoming. That's not the signal you want to send to an interviewer."
Many people fidget when they're nervous, but fidgeting is a no-no during an interview. Avoid leg jiggling, foot-tapping, pen clicking, throat clearing and any other type of nervous behavior that can distract the interviewer from your thoughtful response.
Non-verbal cues extend beyond your expression and gestures to your overall appearance. Dress neatly and appropriately for the position. Don't walk in reeking of cigarette smoke, perfume or body odor.
Is your interview online? "When you're participating in a video interview, it's important to have a professional background and few distractions," reminds The Balance Careers. "Your professional presence will be evaluated as it would be at an in-person interview."
During a job interview, there's a lot riding on making a good first impression. Paying attention to your non-verbal communication can help make that impression a positive one.