You’ve conducted extensive research on the company. You’ve practised answering potential questions and come up with a thoughtful list of your own. You’ve picked out the perfect “I want this job” outfit. There should be nothing standing in the way of having a successful interview. Right? Wrong.
While what you say during an interview is important, your nonverbal cues can play just as big of a role in whether or not you move forward. According to a new CareerBuilder.ca survey, 51 per cent of employers say they know within the first five minutes of an interview if a candidate is a good fit for a position. Therefore, body language that makes you appear unenthusiastic or uncomfortable can cause the employer to lose interest before you’ve even had a chance to prove yourself as a candidate.
When hiring managers were asked to identify the biggest body language mistakes jobseekers make, these were their top answers:
- Failing to make eye contact (72 per cent)
- Failing to smile (44 per cent)
- Playing with something on the table (38 per cent)
- Fidgeting too much in their seats (38 per cent)
- Crossing their arms over their chests (37 per cent)
- Displaying bad posture (34 per cent)
- Playing with their hair or touching their face (26 per cent)
- Having a weak handshake (19 per cent)
- Using too many hand gestures (9 per cent)
- Having a handshake that is too strong (8 per cent)
To rid your interview of distractions and ensure the employer is focused on your experience and skills only, here are six tips for mastering body language:
- Practise with an audience. If you were presenting to a group of people, you’d most likely practise your presentation beforehand, so why wouldn’t you rehearse prior to an interview? Mark Bania, managing director of CareerBuilder Canada, recommends practising your interview skills ahead of time with friends or family so they can provide feedback on nonverbal cues such as your eye contact, posture and facial expressions. If you’re aware you’re making mistakes, you’ll be more likely to avoid them during the actual interview.
- Play it back. Bania also suggests taking the practise session a step further by recording yourself answering common interview questions. Perhaps you never realized that you relied so heavily on your hands to make points, or you tend to cross your arms when you’re nervous about answering a question. By watching yourself, you’ll quickly catch any of these idiosyncrasies.
- Consider your clothing. You might have a suit that looks professional, but if you’re uncomfortable in it, you’ll end up looking anything but. Make sure you pick an outfit that fits well and doesn’t itch or rub your skin, to avoid fidgeting with it throughout the interview. Also keep your hairstyle in mind; if you have longer hair and are prone to playing with it, slick it back or put it in a ponytail so it won’t be a distraction.
- Come prepared. Bania suggests researching the company beforehand and coming prepared with questions for the interviewer. If you haven’t done your homework, you’ll be more prone to nervousness, which can quickly cause your body language to suffer. By being prepared, it also lets employers know you’re just as interested in them as they are in you.
- Be sensitive of personal space. Sure, leaning forward when listening can give the impression that you’re engaged in the conversation, but be mindful of just how close you get to the interviewer. Invading personal space could make the hiring manager feel uncomfortable and take the focus away from what really matters.
- Don’t forget to breathe. Good breathing techniques can help calm nerves and relax your body. By taking a few deep breaths before the interview, and being aware of your breathing during the conversation, Bania says it can help relieve some of the anxiety that leads to fidgeting or other nervous tics.