During a job interview, you could be saying everything right. Every answer coming out of your mouth is music to the interviewer's ears—except for one thing—your interview body language doesn't match up with your words.
This is a surefire way to lose an opportunity for future employment with the organization.
For the 2013 Forbes article, Real Hiring Managers Spill 7 Reasons You Didn't Get the Job, Forbes interviewed hiring managers to find out why candidates weren't hired after a job interview. Reason number five on that list was "neglecting your body language." COO of AALCO Distributing at the time shared, “You look at body language, the way they speak and the way they present themselves to show the whole picture. If they say, ‘I’m open to new ideas,’ but then sit with their arms and legs crossed, it’s questionable. If they say they have management skills but don’t carry themselves like leaders, it’s hard to trust that assertion. The details make the difference.”
I agree. If your interview body language isn't in alignment with your words, and vice versa, then you most likely will not be brought in for a second interview or receive a job offer. Stats shared on Business2Community.com further confirm this. Hiring managers gave the following reasons for a job candidate not receiving a job offer:
67 percent said it was due to failure to make eye contact,
33 percent said it was due to bad posture,
21 percent said it was for crossing their arms,
26 percent said it was due to a weak handshake,
38 percent said it was due to overall confidence, lack of smile and quality of voice.
Below I've shared some tips to consider about what your interview body language is saying about you—from the point of parking your car to the point of pulling out of the parking lot—so you can avoid falling into this dark hole of statistics.
Before you enter the building.
Your interview starts before you get out of your car. You never know who's watching, so your body language awareness needs to begin before you exit your car. If you look rushed or frantic, then it might give the wrong impression if the right person happens to waltz past while you're in the parking lot or parking garage. As soon as you park your car (and do so safely), take a deep breath if you're feeling rushed or stressed, and calm down. Then, grab your briefcase and get out of the car with confidence and ease, as if you already have a job there.
As you enter the building, again, do so without drawing attention to yourself (even if you're about to fall over with nerves or are concerned about being a minute too late!). This reflects professionalism, preparedness, and calm.
As you patiently wait.
Be courteous to the gate-keeper (aka receptionist or administrative assistant) and make them feel comfortable. When you walk through the doors and go to the receptionist or administrative assistant, continue in a similar fashion as to when you entered the building from your car. Be gracious, and when you take a seat to wait, do so with your profile facing the receptionist. A profile view helps make others more comfortable around you, which means they're more likely to say good things about you (and hiring managers do rely on the opinions of their administrative assistants!).
Keep your space organized and clear as you sit and wait. As you wait, keep your lap free and have your briefcase or purse sitting next to you. When you have a lot of stuff on your lap, it can make you appear clumsy and unorganized, especially when you have to clear it all from your lap before you stand.
Avoid appearing too confident or relaxed. Appear confident and calm without appearing too relaxed (leaning back or slouching down too much) or overly confident (with your head high too high and chin in the air).
Face the direction from which the interviewer will approach. If you can, find out what direction the interviewer will be coming from and face that direction. This will allow for a more graceful introduction when you get up and move towards the interviewer to shake his or her hand.
When the interviewer enters.
Don't break the interviewer's hand. When you shake hands, you want to have a firm handshake, but don't break the interviewer's hand. A handshake that's too strong is as much of a turn off as a handshake that's too weak. You can practice your handshake with a friend to get it right. Be sure to practice with your right hand, as this is the most common way to shake hands (right hand to right hand).
Your hand should be on the bottom of the shake. You want your hand to be on the bottom of the handshake, indicating the interviewer's status compared to yours. Don't put your free hand on top of the handshake, either, unless you want to indicate that you're superior or attempting to be condescending to the interviewer.
The interview is a time you should follow vs. lead. As you walk with the interviewer, you want to be the follower, showing that you understand the protocol and status—you're the interviewee, and he or she is the interviewer.
During the interview.
Be open vs. closed off. When sitting, avoid leaning forwards. When you do, you can appear closed off. You also want to avoid crossing your arms for the same reason. It's best to sit upright with your neck, chest and stomach showing. This type of positioning shows that you're open and receptive.
Your hands should be in the "truth plane." Keep your hands above your waistline and below your collarbone to appear more calm and centered. If you have them anywhere else, you might appear frantic or nervous to the interviewer. Per the Job Board site Monster, Mark Bowden, author of Winning Body Language, advises keeping your hands in what he calls the "truth plane"—an area that fans out 180 degrees from your navel. "Gesturing from here communicates that you're centered, controlled and calm and that you want to help," he says.
Don't put a barrier between you and the interviewer(s). You can have a slim folder or a couple of sheets of paper—if they're relevant to the interview—on the desk in front of you if a desk is available, or in your lap, if there isn't a desk in front of you. Otherwise, the desk and your lap should be free of anything else. If they're not, it will appear you're putting a barrier up between you and the interviewer. Place your briefcase or purse on the seat or floor next to you.
Make eye contact. Nothing screams suspicion like a person who won't make eye contact during a job interview. Make eye contact when you're listening and speaking.
Making an exit.
Make a graceful exit from the interview room. Once the interview has concluded, gracefully gather your items and stand. Be sure to make eye contact with the interviewer(s) and shake hands with at least the lead interviewer or hiring manager. If possible, shake hands with everyone who interviewed you if it's not too awkward or inconvenient. Smile and thank them one final time before leaving, and gracefully exit the room with confidence.
Your interview doesn't end until you've pulled out of the parking lot. You might choose to say goodbye to the Administrative Assistant if it's not awkward to do so (and if he or she isn't on the phone, etc.), and then leave the building the same way you came in. Again, you never know who's watching. Wait to make that exciting phone call to share how the interview went until after you get in your car to leave.
Take the time to tune into your body language to understand how you present yourself. The more aware you are of what your body language is saying about you, the more prepared you'll be to make the right first impression to land a second interview or job offer.