During an interview, your nonverbal communication can be just as strong as what you actually say. That’s because your body language can speak volumes about you—and you want to make sure that what is on the inside matches what is on the outside. But even if you’re nervous during your interview (and many people are), you want to come across as confident, passionate and positive. Here’s what you can do.
Six ways to take control of your body language
You can take charge of your nonverbal cues—and possibly the outcome of the interview—by paying close attention to the following:
- Your entrance. You never know who might be watching from the window or the lobby when you arrive. Walk with confidence into the office, and always be polite to the receptionist. Then, while you wait, sit facing the door the interviewer will be coming from. This will make for a more graceful greeting when they arrive for you.
- Your greeting. Always smile and greet the interviewer with a great hand shake. You’ll want something in between a flimsy, “fish-like” grip and a “death grip.” Both can be off-putting to the person interviewing you.
- Your posture. While you’re walking or sitting, hold your head high, your back straight and your chest open; you’ll seem more confident and assertive this way. When you take your seat at the interview, you can place a small planner on the desk, if you’ll need to share its contents. But any briefcase or purse should go on the floor next to you, rather than on your lap. Holding it can make you seem uptight or closed off.
- Your hand gestures. Gesturing can be good to add emphasis to what you’re saying and help you show your passion for what you are talking about; some people are simply unable to hold a conversation without using their hands—and that’s OK. But you should aim to keep your hand gestures above your waist but below your chin. Anything higher than chin-level can make you seem frantic.
- Your demeanor. Though it can be difficult, you should try to avoid any fidgeting, such as foot or finger tapping, hair twisting, pulling at your clothes or chewing on your lips. A nervous demeanor can create the impression of being insincere. Try to keep a natural amount of eye contact as you speak, while you deliver your words at a reasonable pace and volume, as calmly as possible.
- Your closing. As you leave to go, say “thank you,” and rise slowly and calmly as you collect your belongings. Nod your head and shake hands with the interviewer and anyone else in the room, if possible. And always remember to say goodbye to the receptionist as you depart.
Practice makes perfect—so does deep breathing
Practicing your body language skills beforehand can help you through your interview. Ask a friend to practice with you, taking note of any behaviors you may need to work on (as they might not be obvious to you). While you wait in the reception area for your interviewer, practice deep breathing to help calm any last-minute nerves—take a deep breath for a count of four, hold it in for a count of eight, and breath out for a count of eight. This will help to calm your nerves so you’ll be ready to deliver a confident interview.
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