Send the right non-verbal messages in your next interview with these key body language tricks.
Your feel the job interview is going well; you're being clear and concise and are delivering the message that you're the best candidate for the position. Yet, you sense the interviewers don't feel the same way.
That could be because your body is delivering a completely different message than what you intend — without your even knowing it. In an interview, presenting positive body language is just as important as using skillful spoken language. To avoid unconscious miscommunication, check out and master these important interview body language tips.
Let your hands say the right thing
There are several important aspects involved in this tip:
Work the handshake: This can be tricky. Experts say a good handshake shouldn't be too soft, which can telegraph weakness and lack of confidence, or too strong, which can make you seem overbearing.
Try to apply the same pressure coming from the interviewer, and let go when you sense the pressure decreasing. Avoid the big up and down motions, which make you seem less professional. Finally, let the interviewer extend their hand first.
Keep hands visible and subtle: If the interviewer can't see your hands, they may assume you're hiding something. On the flip side, overusing hand gestures, including regularly touching your hair or face, can be very distracting to the interviewer.
Amanda Augustine, TopInterview's career advice guru, suggests making a steeple by pressing the fingertips of your hands together. This is interview body language that displays confidence and will tactfully control your hands. Other good rules of thumb are to keep your hands between your collarbone and the top of the table or desk, keep your palms up, and don't chop or point while speaking (as it's aggressive behavior).
Use the mirror technique
Without being too obvious, shift your body position to align with, or mirror, your interviewer. This simple job interview body language technique sends the interviewer a message of agreement and even admiration, making you look like an excellent candidate.
Again, don't be so obvious as to mimic every move the interviewer makes, as they'll probably catch on and make the technique backfire. Instead, be subtle and stay professional.
Watch your body positioning
This body language tip reflects a bit of the advice we heard about our posture as children. The key here is to be relaxed, but not overly relaxed:
Sit up straight: This should start in the waiting area and continue into the interview space. Augustine's advice is to sit as if there was a string connecting your head to the ceiling. This not only sends a message of strength and credibility; it actually resets certain brain chemicals so we feel stronger and more confident when in this position.
Along with good posture, make sure your arms and legs are uncrossed, your feet are on the floor, and you're sitting all the way back in the chair. Anything else tells the interviewer, “I really don't care about this job.”
Sit “right”: We don't mean “correct” here. Behavioral investigator Vanessa Van Edwards suggests trying to sit at a slight angle rather than straight across from the interviewer. “Research has shown that when we sit directly across from someone, we recall less of what was said, we are more negative and feel they are opposing us,” she says. “Simply sitting at a slight angle can change this automatic brain bias.”
“Lean in” with care: Leaning forward in your chair toward the interviewer is interview body language for “I'm really interested and excited about this conversation.” However, leaning too far could feel intrusive to the interviewer. Personal space extends out approximately 20 inches per person, so try not to go past that boundary.
Monitor eye contact, head nods, and facial expressions
These may seem less important, but they can have a big impact on how you come across in the interview:
Balance your eye contact: Yes, you need to make eye contact with your interviewer, but like the handshake, this can be complicated. Too much eye contact can make you look creepy, while no eye contact makes you look disinterested.
Body language expert Dr. Lillian Glass has a good solution: “A more effective way to ensure you look interested and engaged is to look at different parts of someone's face every two seconds, rotating from eyes to nose, to lips, so you're never just drilling into the interviewer's eyes.” She calls this “direct face contact.”
Nod appropriately: Nodding indicates you're in full listening mode, but don't overdo it. An occasional nod will send the right message.
Smile “right”: According to Van Edwards, people who smile too much come across as weak. Here's her timeline for smiling during an interview: when you are introduced and shake the interviewer's hand, when you discuss something you feel strongly about, and as you leave the completed interview. An interesting note for women: Over-smiling doesn't make you look more friendly; it actually makes you look less smart.
If you're someone who doesn't smile readily, you'll need to overcome that for the interview. One trick from Careerealism.com founder J.T. O'Donnell is to put your watch or a ring on your opposite hand so that when you notice it, it can be a reminder to smile during the interview.
Understanding and utilizing interview body language can be summed up in the old adage, “Perception is reality.” As with any non-verbal behavior, body language has a huge impact on how others perceive you, and their perception becomes their truth — even when it isn't who you really are. Studies have shown this is especially true in the work environment.
Utilizing these tips will help interviewers perceive you as the best person for the job and take you another step closer to that coveted job offer.
Not sure if your body language is helping you or hurting you? That's where an expert comes in handy! Learn more about our TopInterview coaches now.