At Fuel Recruitment we like to make sure that our candidates are fully prepared whenever they go off to interview, by giving them as much information about the company and role as possible. We also give them advice on how to make the best possible first impression through attitude, dress and knowledge. But there’s one area that’s a little trickier to master: body language (or, if you’re feeling particular erudite, ‘nonverbal communication’). This is because most of the signs and signals that we convey through our body language is completely subconscious, and can be hard to modify. Read on for our guide to the most common ‘negative’ signals that people display in an interview situation and how to deal with them.
The eyes have it
It’s very common for interviewers to come to us with the following feedback: ‘Great candidate, but his staring made me feel a bit uneasy’ or ‘Strong experience on his CV, but little eye contact which made me think he wasn’t confident enough’. Good eye contact is a balancing act – it’s a great way to connect with people but just check yourself that you’re not holding their gaze for an uncomfortable amount of time
How you sit in the chair in that interview room can speak volumes about your state of mind without you even realising it. Are you bored? Tired? Disinterested? You might not be, but if you’re slouching in your seat that’s exactly how you will appear. Don’t go too far the other way though, sitting straight up like an ironing board will give the impression that you’re stiff and petrified (in both senses of the word). The safest bet is to sit straight but slightly forward, this will show that you’re interested in what the interviewer is saying.
A handy tip
Hands are a powerful nonverbal communicator. Never sit with your hands in your pocket or behind your back, it looks like you have something to hide. Try and avoid pointing or chopping motions while you’re speaking as you can come across as aggressive. And it’s been said many times, many ways but if you do nothing else on this list, at least make sure that your handshake is firm and confident.
It’s totally natural to have some extra adrenalin before and during an interview (the classic ‘fight or flight’ response) but just be aware of how this nervous energy manifests in your body language. If you’re constantly tapping, fidgeting, swivelling in your chair or nodding, it will make the interviewer think that you’re not concentrating and actually just thinking about when you can get the hell out of there! These twitchy tics can seem hard to overcome, but the old staple of a few deep breaths before you meet your interviewer can help calm your nerves.
Don’t be cross
A body language signal universally recognised as a sign of discomfort and self-protection is crossed arms. A lot of people do it unconsciously or if they’re feeling the cold, but unless that interview room is in a freezer there’s really no excuse to be sat with crossed arms.
You might be thinking, that’s all very helpful but if these behaviours are subconscious then how do I know I’m doing them? Sometimes you have to bite the bullet and ask people ‘do I fidget too much?’ or ‘how’s my handshake?’ A great way to really prepare is to do a mock interview with a friend, then you’ll have the chance to get some honest feedback on how you come across. And a little self-awareness can go a long way, just knowing what signals to look out for can enable you to catch yourself ‘in the act’ and stop bad habits.