What is your body language telling the interviewer?

The interviewing process is perhaps the biggest professional challenge.  After honing your resume, “cleaning” up your social media sites, and applying, you may get an interview! But extensive preparation and the best answers may not help you if your body language contradicts what you are saying. Body language is as crucial to a good interview as having background information on the job you are applying for and being prepared. Candidates often worry about having the right responses to tough interview questions, but blow their chances by their body language. Read on to learn how to avoid these mistakes.

Handshakes are obviously an important first impression that you leave with your interviewer. This is the first step to entering the interview, and in the 10 or less seconds it takes to do, they have already developed an idea of your character and potential. Learn how to have a great handshake here.  However, the handshake is not the only first impression- make sure you pull yourself together before greeting your interviewer. Readjusting your clothing or fixing your hair when you stand up to greet someone can be just as detrimental to your first impression as a bad handshake. So make sure the first glimpse they see of you is a poised, confident candidate. After all, you are being judged even before the actual interview discussion begins!

Eye contact is another crucial aspect of body language that you must be aware of when entering into an interview. Many interviewers believe eye contact allows them to connect with you more easily than words. Good eye contact should last no more than 7 to 10 seconds before glancing away- anything more than that can come across as hostile or nervous. Maintaining good eye contact shows openness and honesty, while avoiding eye contact tends to signify shyness or untrustworthiness. Make sure your eye contact shows your engagement in the interview, rather than a blank stare- practice having your facial features express your feelings as you maintain eye contact. If you are meeting with more than one interviewer at a time, make sure to consistently look at both interviewers, regardless of who is asking the questions. Anyone who is present in an interview can be assumed to have a say in whether or not you are hired.

You also need to make sure that your posture conveys your confidence and engagement in the conversation. Slumping shows a lack of confidence and interest, and is construed as extremely unprofessional and will make you seem unprepared. Being too rigid, on the other hand, implies nervousness and makes it much more difficult to build a personal connection. Show your confidence through being upright but not rigid- be relaxed but sit or stand up straight with your feet firmly planted on the floor. Furthermore, crossing your arms or legs can seem as though you are building a barrier between you and the interviewer, so make sure your posture is open or inviting. Mirroring the body position of your interviewer also shows admiration, agreement, and enthusiasm. The key is to look confident and engaged but not overly rigid. Learn more about professional posture here.

The tone of your voice is another important aspect of interviewing you should review before the big day. How you say something is often more important than what you are actually saying, so make sure to monitor your tone when responding to make sure you are conveying what you want. You want to sound confident and relaxed, rather than hesitant and trying to use overly complex answers that end up garbled and confusing. You need to rehearse your answers ahead of time to control your speed, tone, pitch, and inflection of your words. Talk too fast and you appear nervous, while if you never change your tone you appear monotone and boring. Take a deep breath before your interview to control nervousness and relax your voice. And most importantly, make your posture match your speaking style so your movements are in sync with your words without looking rehearsed. This will help you come across as a more polished candidate without looking fake.

Agreement with your interviewer is obviously crucial, but avoid continuously bobbing your head as your interviewer talks. It can be a distraction and will look like you are agreeing with everything- this can make you lose credibility. Show your enthusiasm by nodding occasionally, but not after every comment that the interviewer makes. Tilting your head to the side and keeping an interested expression are another way to convey interest without looking like a bobblehead.

People have a lot of habits that can convey boredom, worry, or nervousness that they are not even aware of. Tapping or shaking your legs is a big habit that people do not realize that can be very distracting for an interviewer and can seem as though you have trouble focusing. Many people also tend to touch their face when they are nervous, which can also signify an untrustworthy candidate. Make sure you are controlling your movements in a way that will add, not detract or distract, to what you are saying. Have people observe you in your daily activities, or videotape a practice interview to learn if you have any idiosyncracies that could be distracting during an interview.

Lastly, make sure you are giving your interviewer enough personal space. Sitting too far away makes you seem afraid and unfriendly, but sitting too close to seem open and sincere can make them uncomfortable. Move yourself to reflect the interviewer, and match your body language with theirs. Lean forward a little, but keep at least 20 inches between the two of you as a general rule. With a good amount of space between you and the interviewer(s) you can more easily say what you mean, both verbally and physically. Practice interviews give you a great chance to rehearse not only your answers to tough questions, but also give you a chance to really think what your body is saying. Important things to keep in mind when you go in to the big interview!