It not just about WHAT you say during an interview, but HOW you say it.
Hiring managers and interviewers have already screened your resume for hard skills and work experience. Instead of focusing on these, you should spend your interview showing that you have the confidence, intelligence, and character to take on any challenge and grow within your role—and body language is an essential way of communicating this.
Body language conveys confidence, which is linked to competence and leadership skills; it conveys openness, which is associated with honesty and integrity; and it conveys friendliness, which is directly related to your ability to work well in a team.
The very first step when you meet your interviewer is to shake their hand. Handshakes are an intrinsic part of a first impression. In one study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology researchers showed that people with firm handshakes were described as more positive, outgoing, and less socially anxious. Another study from the University of Iowa found that HR professionals gave stronger hire recommendations for interviewees with firmer handshakes.
Three Rules for a Better Handshake
- Stand up. If you are sitting when your interviewer enters the room, stand up before extending your hand.
- Aim for a firm grip. If you loosely place your hand in theirs, it communicates fragility and dependence—NOT traits employers look for in their workforce. Conversely, don’t crush their hand by squeezing it with all your strength.
- Maintain eye contact. Maintain eye contact and smile for the duration of the handshake. This shows you are open and honest.
The fastest way to fail your interview is to slouch in your seat, avoid eye contact, and fidget with every object you touch.
Remember that the human brain is wired to pick up on body language cues. Even if you’re saying all the right things, you might make a poor impression if your posture is communicating something different.
What NOT to Do
What it means
Avoid eye contact
Disinterest or discomfort
Maintain CONSTANT eye contact
Cross your arms over your chest
Disapproval or dishonesty
Fidget with objects
Boredom or anxiousness
Lean back in your chair
What to Do
What it means
Maintain NATURAL eye contact
Uncrossed arms and legs
Open to new ideas
Keep hands on the table
Honesty and openness
Sit and stand straight
Power and confidence
Mirroring body language
Bonding and receptivity
The most important thing you can do, however, is to take a deep breath before your interview and relax. Just being aware of your body language goes a long way in ensuring you have good posture and appropriate gestures, so you’re already ahead of the game. Above all, focus on striking the right balance between friendly and professional.