By: Samuel Garcia, Workshop Facilitator
Two important elements at job interviews, as in any interaction with an employer, are information management and image management. Both must present a clear and consistent message: I can do the job. I fit in.
Employers expect clear, targeted information delivered concisely and confidently. A warm pleasant smile, for example, can immediately break the ice and facilitate a positive connection. Posture, eye contact, facial expressions, and hand gestures are just a few of the ways we transmit messages to others about ourselves.
Most people we meet instinctively try to establish eye contact. However, breaking eye contact too quickly, especially in a job interview situation, could be interpreted as trying to hide something or dishonesty. Holding eye contact too long could be considered rude, aggressive or disrespectful behavior.
There is some correlation between eye contact and intimacy. Generally, the stronger the personal relationship, the longer one can comfortably maintain eye contact. There is no established rule on eye contact except that we must read the other person carefully and respectfully for clues as to how long to hold the eye contact before looking away.
Slouching on a chair will quickly earn disfavor. Leaning back could be interpreted as is tired, lazy or, perhaps, arrogant. Leaning too far forward could be seen as aggressive. It is best to maintain good posture by sitting upright in a neutral position or leaning slightly forward to demonstrate interest and attentiveness.
What to do with the hands! Fold them? Place one on top of the other? Hide them under the table? Perhaps resting your hands on the table in a relaxed position may be a good solution. A few slight hand gestures could be effective in emphasizing points of verbal communication. It is, probably, best to avoid fast or exaggerated hand movements such as pointing, or waving with your arms, which could be seen as distracting or aggressive.
Crossing the Arms
People tend to interpret crossed arms as indicating the person is closed or unapproachable, while the arms opened at one’s sides tend to say you are open and approachable. It’s probably best not to cross one’s arms while speaking with an employer or at a job interview.
Looking around the room while someone is talking to you could cause a disconnect or give the impression your are disinterested in what the other person is saying. Excessive nodding can also be distracting. One nod, or perhaps two, showing agreement should be adequate as would also be the case when shaking the head in slight disagreement.
Nervous fidgeting can be interpreted in many ways: Unfortunately, none of them very positive. Fidgeting is distracting and makes one appear unprepared or lacking confidence. Don’t fidget! Some folks try to conceal nervous fidgeting by hiding their hands behind their backs. It doesn’t work. Besides, it places ones body in an awkward posture which appears unnatural and less than flattering.
Mismatched Facial Expressions
Slapstick comedy and satire often use mismatched facial expressions and tone of voice/ words for added effect. It doesn’t work at job interviews. Saying you are passionate about something in a dry, monotone voice could send mixed messages, for example.
Mock interviewing is a great way to practice and receive constructive feedback. Do it often, stay sharp and focused and you will be better prepared to ace that job interview.
These are just some of the major non-verbal cues that are widely addressed. What other body language signals did we miss? Do you have any stories about how body language affect your perception of the person? Tell us in the comments below!