Skip to main content

Interview body language tips to improve chances of success

People often say that we should not judge a book by its cover but unfortunately, that’s what the human mind is designed to do. The human mind tends to make as many decisions as it can based on minimal information. This happens in almost all human interactions including a job interview.

In a job interview, the goal of the interviewer is to not only assess your skills and qualifications but also to decode your personality and attitude. So an interviewer’s mind is scanning you for clues from the very moment you enter the room. Your body language and other non-verbal signals will undoubtedly create an impression in the interviewer’s mind that can influence their decision to hire you or not.

Body posture and walking style

Ideally, you should have an erect posture most of the time. A straight back indicates alertness and attentiveness. You don’t want to walk into the room with your shoulders hunched and feeling tired. If you had to travel a long distance to appear for the interview and a are a bit tired, relax and take a tea or a coffee break before you appear for the interview- anything to freshen you up. The problem is that your tiredness may be perceived as a lack of interest and that's the last thing you want.

Your walking style should neither be too slow nor too fast. Walking slowly may be perceived as laziness and unwillingness, and walking too fast may signal nervousness or desperateness. Under no circumstances do you want your interviewer to think that you’re desperate for the job. That would make them think that you’re unskilled and incompetent.

Sitting in the chair

Being mindful of your body language whilst sitting in the chair and interacting with your interviewer can go a long way in enabling you to send positive messages. Ideally, you want to display all the gestures that you can which indicate openness, alertness, interest and attentiveness and avoid all the gestures that signal the opposite.

For instance, avoid slouching back in your chair as it is a strong indicator of a lack of interest and laziness. Also, you don’t want to lean forward too much as this would 'close' you up for the interviewer. Ideally, you want an erect posture with a slight forward lean that signals interest. 

Avoid body language gestures that close you up such as crossing the arms and legs. Avoid erecting a barrier between you and the interviewer by placing a mug, book, laptop, etc. on the table between you and the interviewer.

What you do with your hands can also create an impression in the interviewer’s mind. When people are nervous, anxious or in a hurry, they tend to vigorously tap their fingers, and sometimes feet. Nervousness, anxiety and hurry are signals you don’t want to send so avoid all vigorous tapping and shaking. Also, avoid using your hands to form a barrier between you and the interviewer. 

Scratching your face, neck and head should also be avoided because they usually send negative signals. Do it only if have an itch that you badly want to get rid of. Try using the steeple gesture of the hands when you’re talking to give the impression that you’re confident and know what you’re talking about.

When it comes to eye contact, the more the better. Aim for maintaining eye contact 70% of the time. You don’t want to continuously stare into the eyes of your interviewer as this makes people feel uncomfortable and you don’t want to shift your eyes away as soon as you make eye contact because this makes feel people unimportant. Find that balance by holding eye contact for some time and then shifting your eyes away and then back again. This makes the other person feel that you’re comfortable talking to them and are talking naturally without any pressure to gain their approval or a fear of rejection.

avoid interview body language
The seated figure 4 gesture assumed by the man on the left should be avoided in formal situations like interviews.

Establishing rapport

Another way to get comfortable with your interviewer is by establishing rapport using techniques such as mirroring. This is done by observing what gestures the interviewer makes and then copying them. However, it needs to be done slowly and carefully or you might freak out the interviewer. 

For example, if you notice that your interviewer has clasped their hands, you can copy this gesture by first bringing your hands together so that they're barely touching each other. Then you can start clasping them partially and after some time, fully. You don’t have to copy each and every gesture of your interviewer. Focus on the gesture that they’ve made for a while. When they undo the gesture, you undo it too but again, slowly, so as not to make it apparent.

Customize your body language

While there are traits that almost all the interviewers are looking for in job candidates such as leadership, confidence, openness, diligence, etc., it’s possible that a certain job may require more of a certain trait. 

For example, a customer service job requires the candidate to be a good listener and communicator. If you’re applying for this type of job, you can customize your body language to send signals that convince the interviewer that you have these skills. For instance, nodding more often and rephrasing some of the sentences of your interviewer (along the lines of "So you’re saying…") will give the impression that you’re a good listener.

Final words

You should not only be mindful of your own body language but also be cognizant of your interviewer’s body language. You have to make sure you understand as much as you can about the emotions and attitudes of your interviewer and respond to them accordingly. 

Say the interviewer asks you about a hobby and you go on talking about it. If, during this time, you notice any negative body language signal (such as boredom indicated by resting chin on the hand) then you should cut the topic short and move on to another topic. When you’re talking about the things that generate interest (leaning forward) in your interviewer, elaborate on the topic as much as you desire. 

New to body language? Learn what the different gestures and expressions mean: Reading body language and facial expressions

Follow latest posts by Email

Popular posts

Body language: Gestures of the head and neck

The head nod
Nodding the head almost everywhere in the world means ‘Yes’ and shaking the head from side to side means ‘No’. A slight head nod is used as a greeting gesture, especially when two people greet each other from a distance. It sends the message, ‘Yes, I acknowledge you’.

Body language: The truth of the pointing foot

When we communicate with others, our attention is focused mainly on the words they speak and the facial expressions they make. We pay little, if any, attention to gestures of the body and when it comes to the feet, we almost never look at them.

Body language: Clenching and clasping of the hands

Clenching hands in front of the body
This gesture has three main positions: hands clenched in front of the face, hands clenched resting on the desk or lap and, while standing, hands clenched over the lower abdomen.

Body language: Hands touching the head

Scratching the hair
When we scratch our hair using one or more fingers anywhere on top, back or side of the head, it signals the emotional state of confusion. Watch any student trying to solve a difficult problem and you are likely to observe this gesture. There isn't a better place to observe this gesture than an exam hall, where students often have no idea what the question paper is trying to say!

Body language: Crossing the arms

Crossing the arms across the chest is a classic gesture of defensiveness. This defensiveness usually manifests as uneasiness, shynessor insecurity.

What makes a person stubborn

Stubbornness is a personality trait in which a person refuses to change his opinion about a situation or refuses to change his mind about the action that he has decided to take.

Body language: Hands touching the neck

Rubbing the back of the neck
Ever seen two furry animals, like dogs, in a fight? If you have then you might have noticed that when they are about to attack each other, the fur over their neck stands on its end and makes the animals appear bigger. The bigger the animals appear the more they are able to intimidate each other.

How our past experiences shape our behavior and personality

Our beliefs and needs are the strongest factors that govern our behavior. Ultimately, it all comes down to beliefs because a need is also a belief- a belief that we lack something.

Body language: The crotch displays of men

When it comes to attraction, males and females use different signals to display their attractive qualities. 

Body language: Crossing the legs

Crossing the legs, like crossing the arms, indicates a defensive attitude. While arm-crossing is a subconscious attempt by a person to protect his vital organs- the heart and the lungs, crossing the legs is an attempt to protect the genitals.