While first impressions mean everything, sometimes what you don’t say can make as much difference as the words you speak.
Body language can help you ensure you are viewed positively by the people you interact with. It even impacts your own confidence and state of mind! So, here’s our head-to-toe guide to how body language works and how to make it work for you.
Language Is More Than Words
The way people communicate with each other involves much more than just the words we say. For one thing, there are the words we don’t say, but imply. Then there’s eye contact and facial expression, of course. But many people don’t realize that our entire bodies are involved in the act of communication.
People tend to talk face to face, which means facial expressions are one of the most important forms of body language. They seem straightforward, but microexpressions complicate things. These are tiny unconscious expressions that can betray our true emotional state even if we’re trying to convey something quite different. Our eyes also play an important role: the type and amount of eye contact we give capable of displaying everything from submissiveness to friendliness to aggression. The way you hold your head, whether straight and poised or slumping down, also says a lot.
The posture of your torso speaks volumes. Generally, an upright, comfortable posture indicates ease and confidence, while slumping telegraphs low self-esteem. Crossed arms can make you look grumpy while arms spread out and taking up space say ‘confident’ or even ‘arrogant.
Watch the way you sit in a job interview, as tightly crossed legs can make you seem closed off, while splayed legs convey relaxation to the point of ‘ready for a nap’. Likewise, compulsive tapping of feet can convey anxiety or excitability. Toe tapping while standing can indicate annoyance or impatience and your stride while walking can show confidence or timidity.
Body Language Tips
So that’s the basic breakdown of body language, but how should you use it in a job interview? Here are some essential tips:
- Sit in the right place: You want to face your interviewer head on, not hide away to the side. So, for one-on-one sit directly across from them; in a group interview, sit facing the person in the center so you can easily engage all interviewers.
- Eye contact: Maintain good eye contact, but without turning the interview into a staring contest. In a group interview, you should initially maintain eye contact with whoever is asking you a question. But in the course of responding, be sure to make eye contact with each interviewer.
- Be careful about smiling: Genuine smiles are a big plus in an interview, so don’t hold back from showing you’re good mood or responding to a joke. But never try on a fake smile to win points. Unless you’re Idris Elba or Meryl Streep, people will see right through it and fake smiling is a red flag for employers.
- Don’t fidget: Squirming in your seat or not knowing what to do with your hands makes you seem indecisive and nervous. It can also be very distracting! Plant your feet firmly on the ground and, if you’re not sure where to put your hands rest them in your lap, gently crossed. However, if moving your hands while speaking comes naturally to you, go with it! This will show your enthusiasm and passion.
- Open, upright posture: Be sure not to slouch in an interview, but you should also avoid military stiffness. Find an upright, relaxed posture and focus on maintaining it. Never cross your arms. At best, you’ll look closed off – at worst, angry and confrontational.
As well as sending messages outwards, your body language can actually send messages inwards to your brain, which can affect your state of mind for better worse. Studies have shown that simply embodying power poses can have real effects on your levels of testosterone and cortisol, enhancing confidence and dominance and reducing stress. So, before an interview make a habit of striking poses such as the superman pose, or find a comfortable cafe and take up a lot of space while you sip your latté. You might just find yourself a more confident person as you walk into the interview.
Do you have a special ways you like to use body language to give yourself confidence? Tell us about it in your Facebook group Career Spotlight with CCI Training.