According to anthropologist Ray Birdwhistell, who pioneered the original study of nonverbal communication called “kinesics,” face-to-face conversation is less than 35% verbal. In comparison, more than 65% of communication occurs nonverbally. From your facial expressions to your movements, the things that you don’t say can often convey more than the spoken word. And that is never truer than during a job interview. Whether in person or over video, body language can make or break your chances of landing that coveted position. By implementing these body language techniques, you’ll be able to project confidence during your next interview and land your dream job.
Whether in person or over video, slouching is a red flag. It shows a lack of self-confidence and respect for interviewers. Sitting on the edge of your chair and leaning forward is usually positive body language. It will show that you are genuinely interested in what’s being said. Just don’t lean in too close, which could invade the interviewer’s personal space. If you are conducting a virtual interview, have the camera at eye level and position yourself so that you are visible from the waist up. The ability to see your facial expressions and hand gestures will contribute to creating a meaningful human connection.
Nervous movements during an interview can be distracting—even over video. Refrain from fidgeting with your hands, twirling your hair or bouncing your leg. Even if your leg isn’t visible on camera, the rest of your body will be moving, and it will distract the interviewer. Avoid touching your face. Candidates who frequently touch their faces are considered to be dishonest and untrustworthy. Similarly, rubbing your head or neck makes the other person think you are bored or uninterested. Another nervous habit is sneaking a peek at your phone. You wouldn’t do it in a face-to-face interview, so don’t do it during a virtual interview.
A big mistake people make over video is to look at themselves during the interview. Instead, make an effort to look into the camera. You can practice by looking at the camera and pretending it’s a person or get into the habit of hiding your self-view during virtual meetings. That will make a huge difference in how you make a connection with the interviewer. If you are face to face, the same rule applies. Obviously, you don’t want to stare. But an appropriate amount of eye contact shows good manners and makes candidates appear likable and appealing. According to body language expert Susan Constantine, “Good eye contact in an interview means you are interested and appreciative of the employer’s time. Poor eye contact is considered disrespectful and translates into a candidate seeming disinterested in the job, the person conducting the interview or the salary offered, for example.”
One study conducted by Northeastern University’s department of psychology found that smiling can have a negative effect on applicants in a job interview. However, it is particularly harmful to those in fields perceived as more serious, such as reporting, managing and data entry. Smiling was not as disadvantageous for applicants for positions seen as more social such as teaching or sales. That is not to say that you shouldn’t smile at all. Generally, it is appropriate to smile at the beginning and end of a job interview. But if you smile the whole time, it may make you seem less competent.
Active listening is a crucial component to successful interviewing—whether virtually or in person. Listen closely to your interviewer’s tone of voice and keep an eye on his or her facial expressions and body language. During the job interview, remind yourself to focus every time your attention begins to drift. One important active listening technique is using nonverbal cues to show understanding, such as nodding, eye contact and leaning forward. Consider injecting verbal affirmations into the conversation such as, “I see,” “I know,” or “I understand.” Another essential aspect of active listening is having a sense of empathy for the other person. Demonstrate concern for the interviewer and ask specific questions for clarification.
They say that it takes only seven seconds to make a first impression. Practice using effective body language to send the right message. Just a few simple tweaks will go a long way toward increasing your chances of ultimately acing the job interview.