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Job Interview Body Language: Master Your Mannerisms to Find Success

woman in a job interview By Tony lee

In a job interview, it's likely that your body language will have more of a positive impact on your success than anything you say. Consider the following scenarios: As you're waiting to be called in for a job interview, do you patiently check emails on your phone, or do you nervously practice answers to tough questions? When introduced to your interviewer, do you make strong eye contact and offer a firm handshake? And as the meeting begins, do you speak passionately and expressively, or are your responses rehearsed and carefully controlled?

In each of these examples, your body language is giving off important signals about what kind of employee you would be. In fact, studies indicate that body language accounts for a full 55% of any response, while what you actually say accounts for just 7%. The remaining 38% is taken up by "paralanguage," or the intonation, pauses and sighs you give off when answering a question. In other words, even if your spoken answers convey intelligence and confidence, your body language during job interviews may be saying exactly the opposite.

"Our nonverbal messages often contradict what we say in words," says Arlene Hirsch, a Chicago career consultant. "When we send mixed messages, or our verbal messages don't agree with our body language, our credibility can crumble because most smart interviewers will believe the nonverbal over the verbal."

Unemployed job seekers, for example, are often so traumatized by their long and difficult job hunts that they appear downcast, even when discussing their strengths. Tough questions can throw them off balance, and their anxiety may cause them to fidget or become overly rigid. Since nonverbal communication is considered more accurate than verbal communication, this kind of behavior reveals your inner confidence, say career counselors. The words that you say during an interview can be deceiving – sometimes people don't mean what they say or say what they mean – but your job interview body language is subconscious, and thus more spontaneous and less controlled.

Still, many people discount the importance of job interview body language because they've been trained to place more emphasis on spoken words instead. To become more adept at interpreting and using body language, career advisers suggest that you heighten your awareness of nonverbal signals and learn to trust your "gut" instinct.

Once you've learned to harness your body's nonverbal forms of communication, use the following tips to accentuate your job interview body language so that you appear more professional and self-assured:

  • Project Confidence From the Start

    In a job interview, you're being judged even before the discussion gets underway. When entering your interviewer's office, act as though you belong. Knocking gingerly first implies a lack of confidence, just when your body language should be conveying self-assurance. Instead, greet your interviewer with direct eye contact and a firm, sincere handshake.

    Don't start talking immediately or dive into a chair. If you aren't invited to sit, choose a chair across from or beside the interviewer's desk. Avoid plush couches that can prevent you from rising easily.

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  • How Close is Too Close?

    Like anyone, interviewers become uncomfortable if their personal space is invaded. Adjust where you sit based on your interviewer's seating arrangements. Sitting too far away makes you look afraid, but trying to seem "friendly" by getting right in your interviewer's face is likely to make them uncomfortable.

    Project sincerity and confidence by leaning forward, maintaining eye contact and using expressive gestures. Leaning back and looking down may be interpreted as a lack of confidence, and interviewers are less likely to engage with someone who has a "closed" appearance.

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  • Speak Naturally, and Get to The Point

    When trying to project good job interview body language, how you say something often is more important than what you say. Monitor your speaking voice to ensure you're conveying the right message. When in doubt, don't deviate from your regular speaking style.

    Secure applicants have relaxed voices and are comfortable speaking directly. Conversely, insecure candidates can't control their voice pitch and volume. They sound hesitant, clear their throats, use "uhs" and "ums" excessively, or use over-complex sentences and have trouble getting to the point.

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  • Maintain Eye Contact and Don't Be "Wooden"

    Relaxed, confident people alter their facial expressions to match what they’re saying, and maintain good eye contact to help signify openness and honesty. Less-assured candidates, on the other hand, don't maintain eye contact and tend to be very rigid, which can make them appear shy or even untrustworthy.

    Don't overdo eye contact with interviewers, however. A gaze that lasts longer than seven to 10 seconds can cause discomfort. You may be trying to connect, but it only increases the tension.

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  • Monitor Your Posture and Gestures

    Even when you're trying to remain motionless, your posture gives important body language signals. Confident applicants have relaxed, balanced postures. They hold their bodies upright and take determined strides. Less-assured candidates have rigid or stooped postures.

    Strive for posture that's as free and natural as your speaking style, but don't be too controlled or rehearsed, says Ms. Hirsch. When your movements are in sync with your words, your job interview body language will appear confident and controlled.

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  • Pick Up On Your Interviewer's Body Language, Too

    Hiring managers also use gestures to convey specific messages during a job interview. Nodding signifies approval, while leaning forward shows they're interested. Thumb twiddling, finger drumming or other fidgeting means they aren't paying attention.

    One caveat: Don't imagine a hidden meaning in every gesture. If an interviewer rubs their nose, they may just have an itch. Try to gauge the situation – a group of gestures may be significant, but random ones aren't likely to have any real meaning.

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tony lee Tony Lee is the Publisher of and

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