They finally called. You’re one step closer to your dream job; you got the interview! Insert ridiculous happy dance here.
You take a deep breath and begin running through a mental checklist of everything you need to know before the big day. You’ve followed some of the best advice for job seekers out there; you’ve done your homework and feel as though you can field any interview question that comes your way. After all, this is your dream job, what you were born to do. How could things go wrong?
One factor that you may not have taken into consideration already is how your body language impacts your ability to successfully interview. The vast majority of us are not aware of the subtle hints we subconsciously give off by the way we sit, our facial expressions, or our nervous ticks. This begs the question: will your body language keep you from getting your dream job?
Body Language Basics
Long before written communication or language became the norm our ancestors were using various bodily gestures to get the point across. As we evolved further, our body language adapted with us and so did others’ abilities to perceive what we were saying without us opening our mouths. Body language became a highly efficient way of communicating the most important information most rapidly.
Although psychologists are most frequently associated with using the tips and tricks provided automatically by our bodies, everyone picks up these hints naturally and can use them to gain a better understanding of how people really feel in various situations. For instance, increases in pulse or eye movement can suggest nervousness and stress. Many professionals believe your posture and position in any situation can supply accurate insights to your character.
Applying Awareness to Interviews
Luckily for many of us, becoming aware of your non-verbal cues and monitoring them is a possibility and can be a monumental advantage during interviews. Understanding where and how you tend to exhibit questionable body language is key to the greatest success.
According to Rutgers University business relations professor, Jack Aiello, every person has a personal space bubble of about four feet. It expands and shrinks based upon how well you know the person you are communicating with – a theory that was put to the test in his History Channel interview.
A mistake that many interviewees tend to make is breaching the personal bubble in an effort to communicate with the person leading the interview. Doing so is actually completely counterproductive in that it can make the interviewer feel extremely uncomfortable with you. It is good practice to avoid leaning or reaching across personal spaces unless you’re breaching the bubble to give a handshake to your interviewer.
The way in which you situate yourself during an interview can also a speak volumes about how you are feeling about the interview and your general comfort level in new situations. For instance, people that hunch over or slouch too much can seem closed off, uncomfortable, and clumsy. Alternatively, leaning back and stretching out in your chair sends a signal of extreme comfort or power and can be interpreted by the interviewer as arrogant and overconfidence in your abilities.
Finding a good body orientation during an interview can be difficult but it is achievable. Focus on leaning forward slightly when answering questions and nodding your head to show you understand what is being asked of you. In addition, keeping your feet on the floor and not moving around a lot can imply confidence without overdoing it.
Many of us have a nervous tick, or something that we do subconsciously when we are in uncomfortable situations. Often times this takes the form of biting our nails, drumming our fingers, tapping our feet, playing with our hair, or other forms of fidgeting. Becoming aware of these things and finding a way to stop doing them in nervous situations is a big factor in appearing prepared to handle the job should you get hired.
One excellent way in which to avoid fidgeting is to use your hands (within reason) to elaborate your point. Gestures that help to drive home your points are actually helpful in interviews because they help instill the belief that you are a clear, confident speaker and also distracts you from your fidgeting. Speaking with you palms up also sends signals of trust and honesty.
Fighting against your subconscious actions and finding a way to monitor your body language is no easy task, but it is something that can be accomplished with personal awareness. Before you go into the interview for your dream job practice with a friend and see if they can offer any feedback specifically on how you carry yourself. On the day of your interview take a deep breath and go get ‘em.
About the Author: Brittni Brown is a current Masters student at the University of Idaho. In her free time she enjoys a variety of outdoor activities including hiking, biking, and rafting.