An interviewer gets a first impression of you the second you walk in the door. By the time you've shaken hands and taken your seat, the interviewer may already have decided whether she's interested in hiring you or not, and that's before she's even asked a single question. What's helping her make up her mind so fast? It's your body language. What you do with your body and face sends all sorts of messages to an interviewer, for better or for worse. Take a look at some of the messages you may be sending inadvertently.
When you lean back too far or slouch to one side during an interview, you're sending a hidden message that you're not a hard worker. Instead, imagine a string is attached to the top of your head and pulling you up to the ceiling to sit up straight and look attentive, but relaxed. Sit with your feet grounded on the floor, and try to avoid crossing your legs.
You're Nervous or Defensive
These message both come from how you're sitting. If you sit right on the edge of your chair, you look as if you really don't want to be in the room. If you sit absolutely stiff, you come across as nervous. If you cross your arms and legs as you speak, you block yourself off from the interviewer, sending a subtextual message that you're not comfortable. Practice sitting ahead of time until a straight, relaxed posture comes naturally to you.
Your hands can also send messages of nerves. Don't clench your fists or bite your nails, both of which send subconscious nervousness vibes into the room. Fidgeting in general is a bad idea, as it distracts the interviewer. Avoid jiggling your legs, tapping on the arm of a chair or playing with your jewelry.
Performing sharp, pointed motions with your hands makes you seem overly aggressive. Don't chop the air in front of you while you're talking, and never point directly at your interviewer or anyone or else in the room.
Avoid rubbing your head, neck or eyes during an interview. These actions make you seem disinterested in what's going on.
You're Not Trustworthy
Playing with your hair sends a message that you're not trustworthy. Some people think that the gesture of rubbing your nose also sends a dishonest message. In general, it's best to keep your hands away from your face and head in any interview.
You're Overly Eager to Please
If you have the habit of nodding automatically as other people talk, try to take control of it. Excessive nodding is distracting. It also makes it look as if you're a "yes man" who agrees with everything that a person in authority says. It's okay to nod once in a while to indicate that you're listening. Tilting your head to one side a bit also sends this positive message, and it may help to control excessive head nodding.
Fortunately, your body language can send some positive messages as well during an interview. Take a look at these upbeat messages that your face and body can send.
You're Paying Attention
One of the main ways you send this message is through alert eye contact. Don't stare blankly at the interviewer, but keep meeting her eyes repeatedly as you talk. If you are being interviewed by more than one person, don't ignore anyone in favor of the senior person in the room. Spread your eye contact around, always returning to the person who asked you the most recent question. Eye contact is especially important when you shake hands with your interviewer; hold the contact just a little longer at this moment to make a good impression.
If you sit with your hands palm up in your lap, you're sending a message that you're honest and open to new ideas. It's okay to use your hands to gesture as you speak, but do it naturally and be careful not to overdo.
You're Pleasant to Be Around
Not surprisingly, smiling indicates that you are a positive, upbeat person. Enter the room smiling, and keep a smile on your face as you answer questions. Doing so helps you enjoy the interview more, which makes you come across as relaxed and approachable. Feel free to laugh, especially when your interviewer does.
Control your body language during interviews to send positive messages. Practice the way you enter a room, sit and pay attention to help eliminate unintended negative messages and let your interviewer know you're worth paying attention to.
Photo Courtesy of bm_adverts at Flickr.com