Job interviews provide applicants with an invaluable opportunity to discuss the skills, talents and qualifications that they aren’t able to express in a resume. Interviews also give employers an understanding of a candidate’s motivations and work ethic, and they provide both employers and applicants with a chance to assess their cultural compatibility. Some of this exchange of information takes place in words, but both parties gain volumes of information about each other through non-verbal cues as well.
If you’re a candidate, make sure you’re sending the right message with your body language. And make sure you’re also reading between the lines and gathering unspoken information about the company and the specific job.
Control the Non-Verbal Messages You Send
When you speak with your interviewer, present yourself as a competent, confident person, someone who knows the industry well and is still open to new information and growth. Make sure your gestures and body language support your verbal claims.
- Eye contact: Be direct and look your interviewer in the eye as you speak. But recognize that eye contact is a subtle art, and simply staring him down like a hungry animal won’t accomplish your goals and will only seem awkward. Every gesture, while controlled, should also come naturally. In other words, your actual eye contact (duration, intensity, etc.) doesn’t really matter. What matters is your fearlessness, your confidence, your comfort in your own skin, and your sense of self. Eye contact conveys all of these things when it’s genuine. Your line of vision can stray from your interviewer’s face now and then, but keep bringing it back.
- Your posture: Again, a ramrod straight posture that feels unnatural will also look unnatural and won’t help you make your case. Don’t slouch, but as you straighten, keep your shoulders relaxed. Imagine an invisible thread connected to the top of your head, lifting your head toward the ceiling.
- Your chair: For the duration of the interview, the entire chair is yours. Sit in it like you own it. Relax your arms and let them rest naturally at your sides. Don’t let your hands and arms do an interpretive dance that expresses your innermost feelings of anxiety and tension. Hands and arms will do this if we let them. Don’t: jitter, fiddle, clench, fold, unfold, tap, or scratch. Do: Use your hands and arms to express yourself as you speak, then return them to a relaxed position at your sides.
Pay Attention to the Non-Verbal Cues You Receive
For every non-verbal signal you send, there will be others that you receive. These signals and cues will help you control your situation if you pay attention and stay tuned in. Watch your interviewer closely. There are many aspects of this job that she might not tell you about, and many aspects of this company culture that she couldn’t put into words even if she wanted to. Look around the office. Make a note of the employees you walk past on your way to the interview location. Do they seem happy and busy? Rushed and stressed? How are they dressed? What are they doing? What can you learn from your interviewer’s voice and demeanor? Read between the lines and don’t ignore details that can help you better understand the position, the company, and the potential boss sitting across the table from you.
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