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: