Thursday, January 31, 2013

Does Body Language Matter at an Interview?

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Your body, the way you dress it, where you put it, the way you move it, the way you look after it, all give away precious clues to others about your state of mind and how you feel about yourself - you don't even have to speak for others to make assumptions, often surprisingly accurate assumptions about you. This is of course of paramount importance in an interview situation where you are trying to give your best impression in a short space of time.

So let's presume the interview outfit is chosen and is in a colour and a style which makes you look and feel your best - and your grooming is sorted, you are shaved, made-up, hair clean and brushed etc. The first thing to consider is your handshake, having run countless groups on creating the best impression in an interview situation - the main difficulty for people seems to be appearing embarrassed to shake hands and say their own name. It's best to develop a firm (not bone crushing!) handshake, the limp wet lettuce sort where not pressure is applied gives an appalling impression as it says that you are weak and have no backbone. Have your right hand vertical, because if your hand is on top of the handshake you can appear pushy and aggressive and if your hand is on the bottom you will appear subservient to the other person.

Also don't be afraid to say your name with some confidence and volume - something else we are not taught at school - if you say your name as if you are somebody then the listener will think that you are. Don't apologize by your tone for being you or be overloud and give an overbearing impression. And say your full name - not "I'm Sue" or "I'm John" but "I'm Susan Heath" or "I'm John McDonald"

When you're asked to sit down make sure you sit at the back of the chair and on your bottom so that you don't slouch and remain upright and make sure you can see the person or panel interviewing you clearly. I'd always advise refusing the tea or coffee in favour of water. It's difficult to handle a hot drink and answer questions and it doesn't look brilliant if you've asked for it and then leave it - also often firms tend to bring out their cups and saucers for the occasion - so if you take a sip you end up having to hang on to the saucer as well. Hot drinks and a nervous interviewee are generally not a good combination. With a glass of water you have something to lubricate your dry throat if you have one, it's not difficult to handle and it won't matter if you don't drink it all.

Be aware that if you cross your legs and arms this is perceived as closed body language and the interviewer may think you are nervous or hiding something. It's best to maintain an open body posture with your feet on the floor and your hands in your lap. Try not to fiddle with your hair, nails, clothes etc and when you give answers to the questions that are directed at you don't have your hand in front of your mouth or this may again give the interviewer reason to suspect that you are trying to hide something. It's best to avoid hand to face gestures if possible.

Speak as clearly as you can and do your best to keep eye contact with the person asking the questions. If there is a panel include them in your gaze and then look back to the person asking the questions. Don't feel you have to respond immediately, think for a second or two and then answer and if you don't understand the question ask for clarification.

At all times try to be aware of your body, hands and eyes and what you are doing with them. A large proportion of a person's impression of you (38%) depends on your body language and tone of voice.
Good Luck!

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