When interviewing, there are plenty of things for job candidates to worry about, such as arriving on time, dressing professionally, and providing impressive answers to the interviewer’s questions. It seems the checklist of proper interview practices and etiquette is endless. However, while many do manage to round all their bases with interview prep, not enough seem to focus on a major factor the interviewer is often assessing: their body language within the interview itself.
Body language is, however, worth noting while preparing for an interview. You could be saying one thing to the interviewer (“I’m confident in my abilities,” for example), but communicating the opposite through your body language (like shaking your foot, which translates to insecurity and nervousness). Next time you have an interview lined up, be aware of your body language—and make sure you aren’t incorporating any of the following into it:
- Slouching or leaning forward too far. Slouching communicates disinterest, whereas leaning too far into the interviewer’s space can be perceived as aggressive or over-eager. Instead, sit up comfortably straight so that you appear confident but not too intense.
- Lack of eye contact. You may just be a bit nervous or interviewing with a particularly intimidating hiring manager. But if you’re avoiding eye contact, especially while answering questions, the interviewer will likely think that you’re being dishonest. Make sure to hold eye contact in an engaged manner with the occasional break, but don’t let your eyes wander around the room or, the opposite, stare too uncomfortably long.
- Fidgeting. Like excessively shaking your foot as mentioned above, playing with your clothes or hair, picking at your nails, etc. all signal to the interviewer that you’re nervous or insecure. It’s natural to be nervous for an interview, and most interviewers will expect that you be a little on edge, but it’s best not to be visibly fretting. One of the things an interviewer is likely to be assessing is how you handle high-pressure situations, and fidgeting is not the response they’re looking for.
- Crossing your arms. By folding your arms over your chest or stomach, you’re creating a divider between you and the interviewer. You could also be coming off as arrogant or defensive. Instead, leave your arms open to your sides and maybe fold your hands over your lap, or on the table. You want to seem open and receptive to the conversation and your interviewer—not actively blocking them off.
- Yawning. We all get hit with the occasional desire to yawn, and when one gets started, it’s definitely difficult to ward off. However, yawning excessively could indicate that you’re bored, that you feel the interview is a waste of your time, or that you’re not preparing well enough for your meeting by getting enough rest. This body language issue is mostly prevented by proactively getting enough sleep, but if you happen to be surprised by a yawn anyway, simply cover your mouth and offer a polite apology.
Of course, while it’s best to be aware of your body language during an interview, you don’t want to be so focused on avoiding certain bad habits that you aren’t paying attention to the interview itself. So what can you do?
One great way to curb bad body language is to practice interviewing before attending the real deal. Record yourself to see what your biggest body language faux pas are, and focus on preventing them (while still giving the interview your attention) through a few practice rounds. To make sure you don’t become rehearsed, pick different sets of questions for each practice round and ask a friend to help by playing the part of the interviewer. With a few of these under your belt, you should be well on your way to better interview posture and habits that communicate your best features.