An interview is, in effect, a sales meeting in which you are selling the product — ‘you’ — to a purchaser — ‘the interviewer’. Creating the right kind of chemistry with the interviewer through body language could clinch the interview for you.
As soon as you are seen walking through the door, you are making an impression, so make sure it is the right one. Slowing down or dipping your head as you enter will look anxious and tentative. Rushing in can also seems nervous. Keeping an erect posture with your head held high in contrast looks confident. Pause at the door, smile at the interviewer and walk through decisively. You are aiming to appear personable and warm, as well as business-like. Transfer any coat, briefcase or handbag into your left hand to leave your right hand free ready to shake hands confidently with the interviewer.
Be aware of your handshake. Avoid bone crusher or limp/dead-fish handshakes. If you have a tendency to sweat or have cold hands, make sure you have wiped your hands or warmed them up before you enter the room. Use a firm handshake. Hold out your hand horizontally so that your palm meets the other person’s at the same angle. Remember that a handshake can give you a lot of information about someone. Notice how the interviewer offers their hand. When they clasp it, do they turn your hand so that their palm is facing down, putting themselves in the dominant position? Do you both walk towards each other into each other’s personal space equally or do they pull you towards them? Do they release your hand first and push it away? Are they relaxed or nervous? Is their hand warm, cold, dry or damp? Is their arm fully extended or relaxed? Do they touch you with their other hand?
Make eye contact with your interviewer(s) when listening. If there is more than one interviewer, make sure you make equal eye contact with both. Remember that too much eye contact can seem aggressive, so scan the upper triangle of the face (from the eyes to the forehead), rather than stare directly into the other person’s eyes without interruption. Break your eye contact when you are thinking of an answer. It looks natural.
Keep your posture confident and relaxed. A good trick is to take a deep breath when you sit down and lower your shoulders. It will make the interviewer response positively to you. Make sure you do not slump down in your chair or lean back away from the interviewer. It will look as if you are not interested. Instead, sit back into the chair so that you are well supported and, if you can, rest your elbows on the chair arms.
Open body language
Avoid leg and arm barriers and closed body language — you will just look defensive or submissive. Keep your gestures open and relaxed. If there is a desk between you and the interviewer, sit back slightly so you have room to move freely. If you want to emphasize a point, keep your palms open and towards the interviewer to look friendly. At the same time, be aware of how relaxed or formal their interviewer is. Stay in tune with them and let them set the tone for the interview. If you relax too much and are far more laid-back than they are, you will appear either sloppy or overconfident. If, on the other hand, you are too formal, they will find it hard to relate to you.
Watch while you speak
Be aware not only of your own body language but also the body language of the interviewer. Let their body language signals be your guide as to the level of their interest. Are they bored? Interested? Defensive? In agreement? Disagreement? When you make a point or give an answer, how do they respond? Notice if their body language suddenly changes. Interviewees frequently speak for too long, so be aware if the interviewer starts to nod more rapidly or tap their fingers. They may want to interrupt you.
Vary your facial expressions to show enthusiasm and interest. When they speak, lean forwards, nod, or rest your forefinger to your chin to show your full attention. Lower your eyebrows, even frown slightly, to show concentration. Part your lips slightly. Also, make sure you avoid arm barriers when you are listening, as well as when you are speaking.
When you say goodbye, allow the interviewer to instigate a handshake. Return it with a firm handshake and then be aware that they will probably usher you from the room, as they are the dominant person in the situation. Finally, make sure you end the interview with a smile and eye contact.