Some experts say that ninety percent of what we communicate is expressed through body language. Body language is a two-way street between the candidate and the interviewers as well as among the interviewers. An effective candidate must be aware of, and try to control his or her own body language. You should also try to observe, interpret, and respond to the body language of the interviewers.
I learned the importance of my body language the hard way. I was interviewed by a small group of search firm consultants. They seemed friendly and nodded their approval to my responses throughout the interview. I recall feeling relaxed and confident, sitting back in my seat, crossing my legs (which are a little long), and balancing my knee on the edge of the table. I left with a sense of self-assurance that I had aced the interview and would be called back. That didn’t happen.
I reported my rejection to my mentor with a sense of defeat and reviewed the highlights of the interview. My mentor could not diagnose any deficiencies. However, he did know the search consultants and promised to get their feedback the next time he saw them. Several months passed by.
“Guess who I just saw? You’re not going to believe the feedback,” he reported. “They loved your answers. But one of them said that you were too relaxed. She said you sat back and put your knee on the table. You appeared cocky.”
About a year passed. There I was again interviewing with the same group of search consultants for a new position. Needless to say, I leaned forward this time. No sitting back for me, this time. They moved me on in the process, and I landed the job!
Just your posture and manner in which you walk into the room has significance. Stride with an air of confidence and smile at your audience. Your posture should reflect self-assurance, not arrogance. Your smile should reflect that you’re pleased to be there. Your first impression means everything. You must get off to a good start. Most people begin forming an impression of you within the first thirty seconds
My advice concerning body language over the course of your interview is to lean forward in your seat. Slowly scan the faces and eyes of the interviewers as you speak. If they like what you are saying, they will tend to nod and smile subtly. Nod back even more subtly. Focus a bit more on the people who are not sending off non-verbal feedback. Watch to see if they exchange knowing looks to one another. Often, you might say something that resonates with an issue they may have previously considered. A glance, a smile, a wink, a frown, a nod, a negative shake of the head between interviewers means you may have confirmed or disagreed with something of interest to them. A negative shake of the head probably means that you have stepped on a potentially explosive issue. Quickly backtrack and clarify your statement, if you can, to neutralize the potential damage.
Your ability to mimic other people’s gestures and postures also indicates you are in sync with them. If someone leans forward, lean towards him or her. If someone smiles and nods, then smile and nod back. Practice mimicking at meetings and social gatherings. You’ll find it really works.
Larry Aronstein provides one-on-one coaching in preparing candidates for interviews and in resume preparation. Visit his website at http://www.larryaronstein.com