Career Advice

Interview Posture That'll Get You Hired

3
min read
Mikaela Thompson

You may not be aware that you do these, typically in stressful situations or even in the waiting area pre-interview. So, if you’re prone to a twitch or slump (like myself), your body language might just be betraying you to your potential employer. But don’t feel defeated just yet, let us help you straighten up that shaky posture with these expert tips. 

Interview posture should be assessed from the perspectives of the two main stakeholders: the interviewee and the interviewer. So keep in mind what you as the job hunter is signalling and what cues you can take from the interviewer’s body language in order for you to make job offer adjustments.

You’re likely to be feeling the most jittery about your own behaviour potentially undermining your goals, right? So, let’s start with that and what it’s saying to your prospective employer…and colleagues. Yep, as soon as you walk into the interview venue, which is usually also the place of work, all eyes will be critiquing your every gesture and movement even before you’ve opened your mouth. It’s not surprising since, according to statistics, ‘Body language accounts for 55% of the overall message. So, when we’re sitting face-to-face, the nonverbal communication becomes the most powerful mode of communication when conveying feelings or attitudes’. 

Ok then, you say, what does typical interview body language convey?

1) Stand, walk and sit up straight, shoulders down and chin up shows you’re in control of your emotions. Big tick, on your way to interview success.

2) Sagging/slouching suggests you need help and are trying to garner sympathy. Oh dear, not a good look for a competent professional!

3) Crossed legs and/or crossed arms project a sense of building a fortress around yourself. You’re closed off, perhaps defensive. Not attractive signals to send a prospective employer looking for a team player. 

4) Carelessly splaying legs looks like you’re out of control! Employers don’t want lose cannons or troublemakers.

5) Restlessness: fidgeting, table tapping, jiggling legs, hair twirling, knuckle cracking among other nervous habits, are distracting and can convey disinterest. A hiring manager doesn’t want to waste time with someone who seems a bundle of nerves therefore likely to be incompetent and/or not really into the role on offer or simply arrogant.

Great posture displays comfort, confidence, interest and competence. Physical demeanour is as important as what you say. Gesticulate with caution but do as is natural for the situation and your personal style. Natural tendencies tend to take over when you’re anxious. Work consciously to suppress those distracting, undermining nervous habits, so that the hiring manager can focus on what you’re saying. This will make it much more likely you’ll be invited back for the next hiring phase or offered the job. 

Apart from managing undesirable, counterproductive body language, what else can you do to project a positive posture? As aforementioned, your posture and gestures will be taken on board from the time you enter the building, so put on your game face immediately, not just in the interview room. 

Candidate Posture Tips for Interview Success.

1) Do a practice run e.g., it’s hard to assess what your own body language is presenting to others when it’s largely driven by natural tendencies. The reality could be quite different to what we are imagining of others’ responses. Ask a friend, family member, or business associate to watch you doing a mock interview introduction etc., to see if you do any gestures etc that may be misconstrued as inappropriate in the workplace. Listen to their feedback and adjust, as necessary. Or alternatively record yourself and do a self-review.  

2) Get organised in private i.e., in the carpark or before you enter the venue e.g., organise your documents, review your prepped answers and questions, put your phone on silent. Now you’re ready to exude confidence in front of your potential colleagues and managers.

3) Be aware in the waiting room. Greet the receptionist, use names you hear/know, wait patiently, try to sit where you can see people entering so you avoid awkward moments when the interviewer arrives, sit up straight and don’t be tempted to check your emails. It’s not a time to be relaxing in full view. Try to select a straight-backed chair to help you maintain the desired posture, avoid soft-cushioned, plush, deep chairs that encourage you to recline and slouch. This will make you look disengaged and overly casual. Always keep a professional posture and attitude at this point.

4) Shake hands firmly for a second or two. It will probably be your only point of physical contact with the hiring manager during the interview process. Show confidence and ease by also smiling and making eye contact. Don’t go in for a limp or bone crushing handshake which are equally inappropriate and off-putting.

5) Sitting style during the interview. As well as sitting up straight, sit/stand with your palms open while talking in a natural manner. Open-upward-facing palms show you’ve nothing to hide and have confidence in what you’re saying.   On the other hand, avoid crossing your arms and legs, or placing personal items on your lap, except for note paper and pen, if you’re wanting to take notes. Put your briefcase/purse on the ground on the left side of your chair so you can grab them easily while still shaking hands with the interviewer at the end of the interview. If you’re being interviewed by a panel, make sure you choose a chair, if there’s a choice, where you can interact and make eye contact easily with all of them. 

6) Ladies, wear heels wisely. Height-challenged women may prefer to wear heels so’s to be able to look the hiring manager in the eye on equal ground. However, there are risks with this choice. If you’re not used to, or confident, wearing heels you’re going to be prone to self-consciously wobbling into the venue or, at worst, threatening to topple off your heels wrecking your ankles and ending up in ER rather than the interview room. You are better off to choose a more stable pair of court shoes or mid-heel clean, professional footwear. The rule of thumb is if the shoes are uncomfortable to wear or difficult to walk in, then choose another option.

7) Walk with the interviewer. You may need to move between rooms or along corridors to get to the interview room. Keep pace, don’t lag behind. However, be sure not to step on their heels either! 

8) Stand strong. Stand on two flat feet keeping legs, feet and waist in line (too close together, you’ll teeter; too far apart you’ll want to counterbalance with folded arms (an overconfident or closed off stance), avoid rocking on your heels (distracting nervous behaviour) and don’t lean on one hip (too casual). If nerves get the better of you, before the interview in privacy in front of a mirror, practice the ‘superhero’ stance (www.psychologytoday.com). This is a power pose, opposite to a nervous posture, whereby you stand tall with hands on hips, elbows jutting out, breathe deeply for a few breaths and visualize you’re in charge of the world. There’s nothing to lose and it may prove effective for you.

9) Be responsive, show emotion. That doesn’t mean insincere, over-the-top emotional behaviour. More subtle, like, nodding and smiling to show you’re engaged, listening, understanding and agreeing with the interviewer. Change it up when you’re recounting an anecdote like you’re reliving the moment and help the hiring manager relive it with you. Maintain eye contact as appropriate.

From another perspective, what can you learn about the interviewer’s body language during your interview? Understanding the interviewer’s posture could help you save yourself from a job rejection, if you can make the appropriate adjustments. How to read his/her body language to reveal what s/he’s feeling, or thinking is a matter of focusing on his/her head, face and eyes. Yes, the lower part of the body can convey messages too, but feet and legs are often hidden by a desk/table.

Hiring Manager’s Posture Cues for the Candidate During the Interview.

1) Direct eye contact. As already mentioned, this indicates trust, confidence and interest. Looking away or over his/her shoulder shows preoccupation, impatience, or disinterest. In this case, assess whether you’re rambling on and adjust to be concisely on point.

2) A slightly tilted head. Shows interest and empathy.

3) A sincere smile. To gauge this, look at the corner of the eyes for crinkles as a sign of genuine interest. If it’s a smile from the mouth only, s/he’s being polite but really isn’t interested.

4) Hands. Many people talk with their hands. This is an easy, obvious way to assess how the H.R is feeling: Look for arms which are extended wide open, displaying s/he’s relaxed and open to your ideas; crossed arms, s/he’s closed off to you; jazz hands or big expansive gestures convey passion, but this can be positive or negative depending on the context.

5) Sitting up straight. S/he’s feeling at ease and confident; a hunched torso, conversely means, s/he’s defensive and/or tired of the interview. 

6) Legs and feet. If you can see these, they’re also good indicators of how the HR’s responding to you: E.g., feet pointing at you suggests interest and openness to connection; foot pointed out/away conveys a desire to leave; shifting weight between legs or leg twitching displays anxiety/stress; and we already know crossed legs/arms are a bad sign for you, so you’d best up your game and be more personable! 

Note: Everyone is different. The actual intent of body language always lies within the context, as well as, considering personal quirks. E.g., crossed arms can indicate disinterest but it could simply be the interviewer is cold; eye ticks could be a nervous response or a neurological issue and so on. 

As a candidate seeing these behaviours, try to mirror the H.R’s body language appropriately to show an alignment of ideas, comfort and connection. 

If you’re keen to brush up on some more interview tips to help you land your next job, check out our latest blog here! 

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